I have no problem doing a thing that is best for my team: Hayley Matthews
Hayley Matthews came into 2022 having played a decent amount of cricket in 2021. But it was not all happy sailing. She started the year with a century but then her form dropped suddenly. She was dropped to no. 5 and got some runs in the middle order. Heading into the 2022 World Cup, she was supposed to reprise her role. However, Rashada Williams’ concussion before the opening game, saw her elevated to the opening slot once again.
At the time of writing this, the 24-year-old allrounder has 225 runs in five matches while also having taken ten wickets with the ball. Her performances have kept her side in good stead and in the race for the semi-finals. Ahead of the 2022 World Cup, she spoke to Women’s CricZone about her form in 2021, preparations for the World Cup and how she fits into the jigsaw puzzle of her side.
2021 was quite a good year for you in the ODI format. You were also nominated for the ODI Player of the Year award. You also got your second ODI century. Having not played the format in 2020 at all, was it challenging and how would you look back at it now having found success?
I think looking back you know, with COVID coming in and not a lot of tours happening, I personally wanted to get back to ODI cricket with so much T20 cricket around to be honest. So in 2021, my focus was back on ODI cricket and getting some good performances. I reckon I had a couple of technical flaws which I had to work on and I guess I got some time late in 2020 to work on them. So coming into 2021, I was a bit more prepared and I guess ready for that contest. And then, the results showed.
You had to change your role in the batting unit coming down from opening to No. 5. Was it challenging and what transpired that move?
It was probably about finding a proper balance to the side. We have Deandra Dottin, who’s quite a dangerous player, wherever she is batting. So, to have her in the powerplay was important. And it shows because she has done well since opening the batting. As a team, it gave us a bit more structure in the middle order, with myself and Stafanie Taylor. Shemaine Campbelle coming back as well at no. 6, created a very good structure right through our batting order.
At first, I was a bit hesitant going down the order. But I trust the coaching staff around here. If they believed it was the best for the team at the time, I had all the faith in them. That was the case. I was ready to apply myself to a new role and try to do it as best as I possibly could. I guess I did a really good job adapting.
Do you enjoy batting in the middle order more now that you have seen yourself do well at that position or we might see Hayley Matthews the opener back soon?
I do enjoy batting at no. 5 in the ODI format. It has given me a very good opportunity. Especially with the big role I have taken for the team with the ball. Now, I have been bowling 7 or 8 overs every game. So, batting lower down the order has given me a bit of rest early on in the game. See what’s happening, see what the bowlers are doing a bit more. Look, at the end of the day, if it comes down to the team asking me to go back to the opening slot, I have a pretty open mind and I have no problem and I guess for now things seem to be settled out in the middle and I am pretty happy with how things are going.
You are just 23 now, but you are already quite an experienced player and in some ways we can say you’re the future of the West Indies team. Does being a senior member put pressure on you? Also, how do you plan to carry the mantle of this side?
I wouldn’t necessarily say pressure. I guess it is just more of an added responsibility. But I know I have been in the team for a while. So I have no problem taking on the responsibility along with the other senior players around. We all have a job to do. We just wanna do the best we possibly can.
Let’s shift the discussion to the World Cup. By the time your team touches down in New Zealand, you guys would have played South Africa home and away and Pakistan home and away. Would you say your team would have liked facing a couple of more top teams such as Australia or India or England heading into this big event?
I don’t think so necessarily. At the same time, it was really good to get some games and some good confidence along with that. Obviously, we were able to do that last year. This year, I guess South Africa is quite a worthy opponent. They have got some of the best stars in the game. I think that’s going to be perfect preparation going into the World Cup.
You have traveled a bit. Last year you played in The Hundred. How would you describe the experience gained by playing in franchise cricket?
It’s obviously massive. Playing in those franchise tournaments, experiencing different cultures, different structure and different levels of the game. It’s been really helpful. It helps in having the experience you have, being able to adapt to different situations. You know when it comes to where I bat in the order, franchise cricket is probably the first time when I was able to adapt in that manner. It played a role in me having to come and play that role in Cricket West Indies as well, which was really good as I had a jump on that.
You play alongside two of the best all-rounders in the game, Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin. How would you describe the camaraderie between the three of you? What do you guys discuss as a trio which potentially could benefit the team?
It is important for the three of us to try and feed off each other. We realise that all three of us will always have an individually good day. But I think because there are three of us who are capable allrounders, it is important that we can lean on each other when we are not having the best day. I think myself opening the batting with Deandra (Dottin) a lot of time in T20Is, as I said she is a dangerous player, so when at times I am not having the best day, I can go to the other end and admire what she is doing. It takes the pressure out of me and it works for all of us.
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You and Dottin, as you said, have opened a lot of times in T20Is. But not much in the ODI format. Could that combination work out heading into the World Cup or is it something that the team management could consider?
I don’t know, but maybe (chuckles). I have no problem doing a thing that is best for my team I guess. That can be opening or batting at no. 5. Me and Deandra always bat pretty well together but at the end of the day, it has to be the best for the team. It might happen or it might not happen. But, if it does, we will be quite ready for this.
There are four off-spinners in the West Indies team at this point. And there could be a situation where all four play together at the World Cup. Despite the similarities between you four, what do you think will give you an edge?
Even though we have some similarities, we still differ in more ways than one. I guess even looking at the spin trio like myself, Taylor and Anisa Mohammed, we are three completely different off-spinners. Stef (Stafanie) bowls drifters sometimes, now she has been turning the ball a bit more (smiles). I, myself, am a little quicker than Anisa (Mohammed) per say. So, we bring different things to the table. That makes things a little better for Stef, to be able to look at conditions and decide who is the best for the day.
How do you think spin will play a role in New Zealand because the conditions there are a bit more favorable for seamers?
I guess we have to wait and see. I don’t have too much experience playing in New Zealand myself. But watching a bit of cricket down there, it has been pretty helpful for the pacers. At the same time as a unit, we probably just have to try different bowling styles and see what works the best. The first few games will be important for us. Even the practice games because we can figure out what will be the best combination.
Looking back at the 2017 WC in England, West Indies did have a slightly disappointing tournament after the 2013 runners-up finish. Was there any discussion regarding that when the preparations for this upcoming WC began? If so, what were the mistakes, which you guys plan not to repeat this time around?
If I am honestly speaking, around say 2017, our ODI cricket was not up to the par as it needed to be. I do feel we are a lot prepared now. It is going to be a pretty tough tournament and that is what all World Cups are about. If you go there, you have to play your best cricket. We had a good 2021 and we have to take that form into the World Cup and get some good performances. As the senior players, we have to step up regularly. At the same time, when we go into the tournament as underdogs, it is helpful for us, eases a bit of pressure from our shoulders. And, hopefully, we can create a lot of surprises.
You recently spoke about the influence of Courtney Walsh as the head coach. Could you share some insights into being coached by someone who in every sense was one of the top cricketers in the world during his time? What value does he add to your team?
He is a massive part of the team. A legend of the game himself. Going to training everyday, and to be able to find Courtney Walsh as the head coach is just fantastic to have. He brings so much experience and so much knowledge to the table. The support staff around him as well, we have Robert Samuels and Corey Collymore, who have played for the West Indies. Yeah, we have a lot of knowledge around us. Especially, I, as a player, try to pick their brain as much as I can and to be able to keep learning from them everyday.