Crisis expert Kycia Knight key to flamboyant Barbados’ many successes

Kycia Knight © Getty Images

As Barbados scripted history by becoming only the second Caribbean nation to play an international women’s cricket match, Kycia knight would have felt an immense sense of pride.

Speaking to Women’s CricZone before the tournament, she had said, “It’s going to be a very good feeling to be heading out to England to represent Barbados at the Commonwealth Games. It is very good for the women’s game. There are already a lot of men’s tournaments around the world. This will give women’s cricket a push in other countries, not just in West Indies. Australia are well established but countries like Sri Lanka will benefit as this will push the cricket to a higher level.

It will also give teams in West Indies a great incentive to win the regional tournament and then represent their country on the international stage.”

Barbados’ start in international cricket was full of action as Deandra Dottin smashed two fours before perishing in an attempt to hit a third. That brought Barbados’ wicketkeeper-batter to the crease in the very first over.

It’s a role that she (Kycia) has performed multiple times for Barbados and West indies. She has batted all across the top eight but it’s while opening the innings that she has had the most success and also the role she likes playing most.

“I’ll definitely be wicketkeeping and batting in the top order for Barbados,” she had said about the role she plays for Barbados.

“I like playing in the top order. I can play the role of a finisher but I like to bat at the top.” Having gotten her wish, the going was far from straightforward for her against Pakistan on Friday. 13 off the first 15 balls she faced were dots as Anam Amin and Diana Baig bowled tight lines in the Powerplay.

She got boundaries off the other two balls, an edged four to the third boundary and another one that was better timed.

For West Indies, Kycia often is a supporting act to Dottin, Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor but for Barbados she’s one of the leaders and a key batter as it is a team that has a much more stronger bowling unit.

With Dottin dismissed cheaply, Barbados needed their two other most experienced batters to bat the majority of the remaining overs. It’s also a goal Kycia had set for herself before the tournament.

“I want to stay as fit as possible and manage myself as well as possible. A lot of cricket is coming up, so definitely looking forward to some international cricket. Also looking to push on from starts, it’s something that Robert Samuels (West Indies’ batting coach) always talks to us about in team meetings.

Other than that, just taking more catches and getting more runs under my belt. I am just looking to develop my game some more and take it to the next level,” she had said before the tournament.

Kycia and her twin sister Kyshona are one of the two sets of twins in Barbados’ squad at the Commonwealth Games. Growing up with a twin who also exceled at the game brought its own set of unique advantages.

“My sister and I were the only two girls growing up. All the other people our age were boys, my brother and cousins. Out step father used to play cricket, so we used to play cricket with him on the weekends. We used to play with men at the age of 8-9 with a hard ball and were not scared, so he knew that we were going to play cricket for a very long time.

Kycia also had other Barbados greats who helped her when she was first trying to find her footing in the game. “Pamela Lavine used to always take us to the cricket. She played for West Indies as well as Barbados. Richard Clark and Ezra Moseley were also key to us taking the game more seriously.”

Both the sisters were prolific run getters growing up but they never saw each other as competition. “It was very friendly. We used to always push each other to improve. It was good to always have someone to fall back on for advice or to discuss what were you doing wrong.

It was good to have someone to talk to about the game with and also watch the game with when we were home. She has helped me a lot to improve my game and also sometimes told me tough things that you don’t want to hear. Having someone by your side is very important when you’re playing at the highest level,” Kycia said.

Kyshona is also among her biggest sources of feedback and support, including sometimes relaying tough messages. “A lot of times I got starts and did not carry on and she would always tell me that you got past the hardest point but did not carry on after being settled. So those kinds of things, even if you realise them, it is always good to have someone point out those little things to you.”

That criticism is fully valid as Kycia has only scored one fifty in 64 T20I matches for West Indies. For Barbados, though, she scored a fifty in her very first match and also went on to make it her career-best while remaining unbeaten at the end.

Kycia has been Barbados’ wicket keeper for a long time and her ability with the gloves has also seen her play as a wicketkeeper-batter for West Indies too. It was not something that came naturally to her though, she picked wicketkeeping up ‘as a second string’.

“I used to bowl off spin when I first started playing cricket. One day we did not have anyone to keep and I just stepped up and fell in love with it and never looked back. I take it very seriously and watch the other keepers very closely, especially the Australian keepers because their general movement is very good and also their movement up to the stumps. I used to look up to Alyssa Healy and Sarah Taylor while making my way up the ranks.”

Kycia Knight

Kycia Knight top scored for Barbados in their opening match © Getty Images

Kycia has been on the international circuit for over a decade and having played in England before, she knows the ways to doing well there.

“It’s going to be a little tough, especially with the conditions, but hopefully we get some good sunny days like we do in the Caribbean. We don’t want it to be very cold because that definitely affects us. We’ll just look to be positive. We know that coach Corey Collymore will set a few goals for us as we reach there a few days in advance. We know that the ball will swing a lot more over there.

With the excessive swing, it’s important to watch the ball for a lot longer as a keeper. We have a very good group and will be looking to put on a show and be very competitive. I know we go in as the underdogs but I’m really hoping that we cause an upset or two,” she had said before the tournament.

Cause an upset they did in their very first match and Kycia was at the heart of that upset along with her good friend Matthews.

Against Pakistan, there was not just swing but also high quality spin and inconsistent bounce. Those challenges meant that Kycia struggled to rotate the strike freely, a problem that has plagued her over the course of her international career. She was on 23 off 34 balls at the end of the 12th over.

From there though, she increased the scoring rate by using her feet to the spinners and hitting over the top freely, scoring 39 off the last 22 deliveries she faced to end with an unbeaten 62 off 56 balls that held the innings together.

With the conditions in West Indies not always being batting friendly, Kycia has had her fair share of challenges over the years. One of Kycia’s strengths though is being phlegmatic.

“Everything is not going to be easy or straightforward. As athletes, we always get a hard time because everyone is watching us and expecting us to do well all the time. What helps is taking things one day at a time. Sometimes you’re going through a rough patch and you have to just see it through that period and when you’re having a good time, make sure you capitalise and enjoy your cricket as much as possible,” Kycia said.

The World Cup earlier this year saw Kycia struggle a fair bit as she scored 24 runs in seven matches.

“For me, the World Cup was really tough. I was coming off a high after a good tour of South Africa but I was not overconfident, it was just not happening for me. It was important for me to acknowledge that and not get frustrated or flustered and overthink things. I am happy with where I am at right now again and hoping that continues in the Commonwealth Games,” she had said when asked about her form before the tournament.

Kycia was the second-highest run getter in the Super 50 Cup and she was also Barbados’s second-highest run getter in the T20 Blaze. Speaking about her recent run of form, she says, “Preparations have been very good, happy that the regional tournament was held for us to get some cricket.

We had a tournament against Trinidad too before the regional tournament and a lot of our players are out on scholarships in Canada and Hayley and a couple of other seniors were also playing abroad, so it was a good chance to give the youngsters a taste of the competition. I think we are shaping up well and the training has been very good. Kensington Oval’s wickets were well prepared, quick and firing to get us ready for the conditions in England somewhat.

I am happy with where I am right now. Just trying to take it one game at a time and not be overconfident. I’m really looking forward to getting to England and getting used to the conditions there as quickly as possible.”

Kycia and Matthews have almost played all their top-level cricket together and Matthews is also the new West Indies captain. Kycia has also played the majority of her West Indies career under the leadership of Stafanie Taylor. She says Matthews will have her own unique style of leading.

“I think their styles are very different. Stafanie is the more quiet, reserved character. She was very open to ideas and she has a lot of strengths. Hayley will be a fun captain but she will take the job very seriously. She will be very proactive and she thinks a lot about the game. She does not second guess herself and she really goes after what she believes in.

Her plans come off most of the time and even when they don’t, she’s not too hard on herself. She just wants the team to give their best and try their utmost to execute the plans. I am really happy for her. It’s not an easy job to captain Barbados or West Indies and I wish her the best in her new role.”

Barbados are one of the powerhouses in West Indies and while bowling is their big strength, Kycia feels that it is their ability to play as a team that has helped them achieve a lot of success.

“I think we play well as a team and we back each other. There are three aspects to cricket: batting, bowling and fielding. So if our batters have a bad day, we know the bowlers will pull their weight on that day. Even if the batters come off, we still know that the bowlers will do their best and try to win us the game.

I think we have a good mix of youth and experience. We have four or five players who have played for the West Indies in the batting and bowling departments, so the senior players will be very crucial to how we fare in England.

Anything can happen on the day in the game of cricket and we’re going to have to believe in ourselves with everyone pulling their weight. For example, a senior player might not always be in the position to take a pressure catch, so even the juniors will be stepping up.”

The seniors did the heavy lifting for Barbados in their opener but Kycia also tips their youngsters to shine at the tournament. “Aaliyah Williams and Alisa Scantlebury. Aaliyah is very high energy, extremely good in the field and a very determined character. Alisa is a young player who is very aggressive and she was on scholarship in England as well. I’m looking forward to them giving a good show of themselves.”

Barbados will be up against Australia in their next match, the favourites for the title. “Australia are the team to beat. They are the world champions, have a lot of great players and they never take it easy. It is a game we are looking forward to because the younger players will get an opportunity to play against the best in the world when they play Australia,’ Kycia said.

Kycia Knight

Kycia Knight and Hayley Matthews are close friends © Getty Images

She will, however, have a couple of past memories to dig into: the 2013 ODI World Cup final, West Indies’ first ever global final appearance and their title win at the 2016 T20 World Cup. Both those matches came against Australia.

Speaking of those memories, she says, “Being in that 2013 final was a special moment, especially the way we got to the final. It was very exciting as we were all in the hotel, just waiting for another team to beat England. I think making it to the finals for the first time was a very good feeling.

No one expected us to be in the finals but we played some good cricket to be there. The 2016 title definitely stands out and the 2018 World Cup in the Caribbean was also a highlight as the vibe and energy from the fans was electric. We couldn’t make it to the final but we played well.”

Kycia did not play in the final (2016 T20 World Cup) but that doesn’t make the win any less special. “That feeling is still unmatched to this day. We won that tournament and the guys also won that tournament, so that really puts it up there for me.

After that, a lot has happened for women’s cricket in the West Indies, though there is a lot more that can be done. It made a lot of girls in the Caribbean who were watching that match want to experience that feeling. It made a lot of young girls want to play cricket.”

If Barbados are to go all the way, Kycia would be key in that one drop position and as a leader behind the wickets.