The rollercoaster World Cup journey of West Indies
In February 2013, the Merissa Aguilleira-led West Indies side made it to the final of the ODI World Cup against Australia in India. Three years later, Stafanie Taylor led the team from the Caribbean, as they beat Australia to lift their first T20 World Cup. It looked like West Indies had finally found a way to break the dominance of top-ranked teams at the ICC events. It all came crashing in the 2017 ODI World Cup, as they could only win two out of their seven group stage matches. In the second ICC ODI Championship that followed, which decided the qualification for the World Cup in New Zealand, West Indies could only win six out of 21 matches. From the glory of 2016, West Indies had to trudge off to Zimbabwe in November 2021 for the World Cup Qualifiers.
The COVID-19 outbreak forced the ICC to call off the World Cup Qualifiers, and West Indies were handed a ticket to New Zealand as a better-ranked ODI side. West Indies all-rounder Hayley Mattews summed up her team’s journey perfectly. “Just to get to this World Cup alone, we had to go through the World Cup qualifiers. Just as that started, there was the problem with COVID. And everyone had to try and get out to Zimbabwe as quickly as possible. over the last eight months, we’ve been through so much as a team,” she told media in the post-match press conference after West Indies’ loss to Australia in the semi-final.
How they fared
West Indies defied all the expectations when they beat the hosts New Zealand in the opening match at the Bay Oval. They proved their win against New Zealand was not a fluke as they shocked defending champions England next. After defending a total in these two matches, they were invited to chase against India. They couldn’t stop the counter-attack led by Smriti Mandhana and Harmanpreet Kaur as India amassed 317 in the first innings. Dottin and Matthews provided a strong base, but West Indies collapsed after an opening partnership of 100 runs.
After a loss against the dominant Australia side at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, the Stafanie Taylor-led side held the nerve to beat Bangladesh in a final over thriller. A rain-curtailed match against Pakistan saw them slip away from a spot in the knockouts. Rain played the spoilsport yet again as their final league game against South Africa was abandoned. West Indies had to wait till the final ball of the league stage for their spot in the semi-final. South Africa’s thrilling victory over India in the league match paved the way for West Indies’ knockouts qualification.
West Indies were no match against the no.1 ranked Australian side in the semi-final. Alyssa Healy and Rachael Haynes’ record-breaking opening stand of 216 runs sunk their hopes of making it to the World Cup final after nine years. The all-round bowling display from the experienced Australian unit bowled them out for 148 as West Indies bowed out of the World Cup in Wellington.
What went right
Before the tournament started, West Indies were considered the dark horse of the tournament. They kept their calm against New Zealand and England to secure memorable wins. Dottin and Matthews attacked the hosts from the first ball of the tournament. Matthews found a way to attack the Kiwi bowlers even when the wickets were falling around her. Chinelle Henry’s spell in the death overs also made a massive difference as she removed the opposition captain, Sophie Devine, at a crucial stage in the match.
If Matthews was the star of the opening game, a patient partnership of 123 runs between Shemaine Campbelle and Chedean Nation kept West Indies in the contest against the defending champions. Henry and Shakera Selman went wicketless in the match, but they were able to contain the English batting line-up. To put a commendable team display against the best teams in the competition was certainly an achievement for the team. Even in the heavy defeat against India, the opening pair showed their class with a century partnership.
West Indies showed they are not far behind in terms of skills and temperament compared to other countries. They just need more experience of the high-pressure encounters to be one of the best sides in the world. Given their journey leading into the tournament, West Indies were probably the most improved side in terms of making an impact with bat and ball. If they continue to show the spirit they showed in the World Cup, they will be one of the most consistent teams in the world.
What went wrong
Throughout the tournament, West Indies had to deal with numerous injury and health concerns. Rashada Williams was ruled out of the opening match of the World Cup due to a concussion. Deandra Dottin struggled with niggles, but played a crucial role in her team’s fightback against India. Shamilia Connell had a health scare during a match against Bangladesh, while Afy Fletcher was ruled out of the semi-final due to COVID-19. Henry and Anisa Mohammed could not bat in the semi-final against Australia due to injuries in the first innings.
Apart from a few early games, it looked like injuries were following the West Indies team. The unavailability of players also impacted the match-ups against the teams like Bangladesh and Pakistan. West Indies paid a heavy cost for it, especially in the latter stages of the tournament.
Along with injury concerns, West Indies were plagued with dependency issues in the batting unit. Apart from Matthews, none of the batters were able to cross 200 runs in the tournament. There were only four half-centuries scored by the West Indies batters compared to 11 scored by World Cup champions, Australia. Even though they managed to win two low-scoring matches, dependency on a few batters became their undoing in the later stages.
Hayley Matthews was undoubtedly the star of the West Indies campaign. She topped the batting charts with 260 runs at an average of 37.14 and a strike rate of 80. The off-spinner was also the highest wicket-taker for her team, with 10 wickets at an average of 26.80 and an economy of 4.33. Her brilliance in the field was highlighted with six catches across eight innings, the joint highest for West Indies.
The 24-year-old got the opportunity to open the batting in the first match against New Zealand and she repaid the trust with a century. Throughout the tournament, she also proved that she is one of the most improved off-spinners in the world with her bowling performance. It was evident in the group stage match against Australia when she dismissed Alyssa Healy for just three runs. Her spell of 8-2-31-1 was one of the most threatening spells against the dominant side.
Throughout the tournament, Matthews showed that she has matured leaps and bound since her debut in 2014. She was one of the top performers for the West Indies side when they won the T20I World Cup in 2016. She found her groove in the World Cup in New Zealand as well. Matthews has lit up the stage for various leagues like The Hundred and Women’s Big Bash League, and to see her replicate that dominance for the national side was amazing.