Tony Becca | Still a lot to do for Windies Women's growth
It is now a couple of weeks since the ICC Women's World Twenty20 (T20), and congratulations are in order for Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron, tournament director Jennifer Nero, and the supporting crew for making it a memorable affair.
For over two weeks, the top female cricketers in the world gathered in the West Indies to battle for the championship of the world, and what a revelation it was.
The crowds were huge, most times, and happy all the time, even when the home team was not in action or was not in the final to defend the title.
No one, for example, will ever forget the fielding, especially that of the Windies; the bowling, especially the pace of Shabnim Ismail; the accuracy of left-arm spinner Kirstie Gordon; the teasing flight of right-arm leg-spinner Poonam Yadav, and the batting of Alyssa Healey and Hermanpreet Kaur, among others.
While congratulations are also in order for winners Australia, there must be, and has to be, a little sympathy for the Windies.
In 2016, the Windies played out of their skins to beat Australia in the final of the World T20, and after the disappointment in last year's World Cup when they performed embarrassingly, they prepared wonderfully for this year's World T20.
Despite the success of 2016, however, it was limited. Rome was not built in a day.
Depending on one's talent, or one's natural ability, success may come, but it will only come, as it did in 2016, now and again, and only occasionally.
Despite some of the players being involved in competitions in Barbados and Trinidad, with two or three playing in Australia and England, however, to expect regular success, or continued success, without regular training, practising, and competition is simply only hoping and praying.
West Indies cricket is certainly not as blessed with funding like that of England or Australia, and it certainly cannot afford to do the things that they do in order to develop their cricket and their cricketers.
The West Indies, however, and certainly Jamaica, need to do more than they are doing now in order to fully develop the ladies, especially if West Indians expect them to beat teams like Australia and England regularly.
Regular training and practice build technique while regular competition helps one to deal with pressure - crowd pressure, scoreboard pressure; how to play in different conditions and on different pitches; how to bowl to different batters; how to set fields; and how to deal with the toss, et cetera.
West Indies young women need to play cricket regularly, especially when it is remembered that a habit is a habit, and everywhere you go, you have it.
Young Hayley Matthews spoke about the importance of practice games. "The West Indies has been trying to improve things. You can't get things worked out overnight," she said. "Getting more regional cricket on - just playing some more games and playing more often can help us.
"Sometimes we end up having only a 50-over regional tournament or one 20-over competition a year. If we could play both in a year and, maybe, also a three-day game, that could be good for our ODI (One-Day International) performances."
Captain Stafanie Taylor stressed the need for a greater selection pool. "It's kind of hard to choose seven or eight players separately for ODI and T20 cricket because we don't have a substantial pool of players," she said.
"It's not good. Every year, we come together for a tournament that lasts for about three weeks. That's definitely not good enough to try and build international players or for young players coming through.
"We need to structure our cricket better. Our regional side is not so good, so a set-up needs to be put in place to create a pool of youngsters."
Former captain Merissa Aguilleira shared similar sentiments. "The non-uniformity of cricketing engagements across the Caribbean is detrimental to the regional side's growth," she said. "The depth of cricket in the different islands is not the same. In Trinidad and Tobago, there's cricket throughout the year. When you think about the level of domestic cricket being played elsewhere, it's not something that could compare with the Australian and the English set-up."
ATTRACT MORE GIRLS
The authorities in the region and CWI need to look at the situation and find ways to attract more girls into the game and to play the game regularly.
Cricket needs a structure that includes training and practising in school, club, and regional competitions. It needs a structure that will attract players to the game to ensure its continuity, by bringing players into the game and one which will fully develop the players.
The present women have served the Windies well, but as good as they have been, they, basically, did it on their own, and they have not really shone for the region, except on a few occasions, and certainly not to the extent that their talent suggests.
Taylor, Deandra Dottin, and Aguilleira are champions. Matthews and a few others are rising stars.
Apart from the fact that they could have been better, however, the West Indies need more like them, and young girls need to be encouraged to be like them.
On top of that, the West Indies need girls to follow in the footsteps of players like Taylor, Dottin, Aguillera, and Matthews.
The crowds in the West Indies, especially in Guyana, St Lucia, and in Antigua recently expect it and are waiting for it.
Finally, team member Britney Cooper said after the tournament that the Windies probably would have done better had they played as many matches a year as the more fancied teams like England, Australia, and India.
"We need the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) or corporate sponsors to back us and give us the push. We can't do it all by ourselves," was her plea.