Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 2nd 2016 Contents A43
Monday, May 2, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Taylor-made for cricket
Before the Women's World T20 final,
Dwayne Bravo had a message for Stafanie
Taylor. He complained that Taylor's West
Indies Women side were not doing the
"champion dance" enough. She vowed to
put that right.
Jamaica schools cricket is a notoriously
macho environment. Fast bowling and fast
pitches dominate. The best girl cricketers are
often intimidated to join in. "Females are reluc-
tant to get into cricket," says Leon Campbell,
a long-time youth coach in Jamaica.
Taylor was different. When Campbell spot-
ted her as a nine-year-old, initially it was the
easy athleticism of her fielding that attracted
him. "I realised that she could catch. I drafted
her in the team based on that."
She soon showed that she could do much
else besides. In her early years Taylor considered
herself a fast bowler, but it was her calmness
and technique with the bat, allied to her quick
learning and an insatiable appetite for self-
improvement, that impressed Campbell. "From
day one I was telling her, 'You are going to be
the No. 1 female cricketer in the world,'" he
Campbell emphasised one thing. "I advised
her, 'Do not get out.' In any team if you get
out, they will want to blame you." Especially
a player who was the only girl in the side. Out
of this foundation, Campbell consciously tried
to model Taylor upon former West Indies
batsman Lawrence Rowe, between whom and
Taylor he detects some resemblance. Straight
hitting became a particular forte: "I told her
that you can't put a fielder behind the bowler."
Taylor did not ask for any quarter from
opponents on account of her gender, and nor
did she receive it. "They bowled just as fast
to her as anyone else," Campbell recalls. Fast
bowlers were only riled into more bouncers
by the indignity of being hit for four by a girl,
but Taylor's bravery was unwavering. "I told
her the ball is five and a half ounces. It doesn't
matter who has it."
At the age of 11, Taylor even played in a
match against bowlers in their 20s who were
"attacking her seriously", and were visibly
aggrieved when she survived an lbw appeal.
At Eltham High School, Taylor became an
indispensable member of the first team, even
keeping wicket for a stint. In an Under-16
match, as the only girl on either side, she hit
"I was the only female playing with the
boys---it changes the way you go about your
game, it makes you more mature," Taylor
reflects. "Playing with boys you have split sec-
onds; girls have a little more time. I was far
ahead because of playing with boys."
As she dominated girls' cricket, there was
only one roadblock to Taylor becoming an
international cricketer---her aptitude for other
sports. "Everyone thought I would excel more
in football because I was so good at it," she
says. Taylor was also a promising netball play-
er.But cricket had one thing going for it that
the other sports did not. Coaches told Taylor
how much international players travelled. "I
thought it was a good idea to see the world,
because I'm an adventurous person." Suddenly,
football had less allure.
On her first tour with West Indies, as a 17-
year-old in Europe in 2008, Taylor relished
the cricketer's lot. "You go around playing
cricket, meeting different people, seeing all
the places. That's when I thought to myself,
'Yeah, I could definitely do this.' I dropped
everything else and stuck to cricket."
Even more than fierce straight hitting, unwa-
vering self-belief has always defined Taylor
with bat in hand. "Everyone thought I was so
good that I could take it up another notch
and play in the big league," she says. On that
maiden tour, only a few days after turning 17,
Taylor bludgeoned 90 from 49 balls against
Ireland on T20 debut, channelling the spirit
of her hero, Chris Gayle.
"She was fully grown and very strong---tall
with long levers, a good reach, and a good,
basic technique. Stafanie had that absolute
confidence in her talent and ability at that
age. She has kept that supreme confidence,"
says Ireland's Cecelia Joyce, who bowled to
Taylor during her T20I debut.
In a sense there has been something inex-
orable about Taylor's journey ever since those
first heady days in international cricket. A
year later she scored her maiden ODI century,
against South Africa. Two years after that she
was named ICC Women's Cricketer of the
Year; the Women's ODI Cricketer of the Year
and T20I Cricketer of the Year have since fol-
lowed. Last September, Taylor was appointed
captain, at the age of 24.
But when she arrived at Eden Gardens for
the World T20 final, Taylor had still never
won an ICC world event. Nor had West Indies
Women. They had to chase 149: if it was con-
siderably less than the 170 Taylor feared, it
was still a record for a World T20 final - and
it was against Australia, who were primed for
a fourth consecutive triumph.
As she came out to open eyeing history,
Taylor was accompanied by Hayley Matthews.
Not yet 18 when the tournament began,
Matthews had given the impression of being
a little overawed. "The coaches were saying
that now is the time for Hayley to come to
the party," Taylor says.
The team management discussed how to
get more from Matthews. They decided on a
pre-match meeting between player and cap-
tain, until Taylor thought better of it, wanting
to leave Matthews' singular talent unencum-
bered by excessive analysis. "I decided to cancel
the meeting, just to let her be free and not
be too caught up because it was the final. In
a final, players tend to get nervous."
Matthews and Taylor did not. Only three
runs came from the first two overs of their
chase, but neither was perturbed. "We knew
we had the batters who could get us over that
line. Hayley and I spoke about not losing early
wickets. For me it was very crucial to bat 15
overs, so Hayley had to take over."
She did. Matthews played with a thrillingly
uninhibited spirit in striking 66 from 45 balls:
her three sixes were more than what the entire
Australia team managed. Seldom has a can-
celled meeting achieved more.
At every turn, Taylor ensured that Matthews
remained impervious to the strains of playing
in a final beamed to millions. "Sometimes,
not to get too caught up or too pressured, we
would change the topic, maybe joke about
something." Between overs the two gave the
impression of friends making hay in a casual
club game, not a pair sharing one of the most
significant partnerships in the history of
For all Matthews' bravado, their alliance of
120 in 15.4 overs brimmed with nous too. West
Indies actually hit six fewer runs in boundaries
than Australia but it did not matter because,
led by Taylor, they excelled in averting dot
balls: they failed to score from just 36 balls,
compared to Australia's 44, thanks to the
openers' dexterous running.
Taylor was capable of matching Matthews
hit for hit, but just did not need to. "The team
and I know that I could play both ways - I
could be attacking but I don't have to be. I
could manage a game, everything else around
me could go at it.
That was the responsibility that the team
gave me." How she embraced it - her 59 made
her the leading run scorer in the tournament,
44 ahead of the next best. The only shame
was that she fell five runs before West Indies
overhauled their target in the final, but it did
not matter. Taylor was soon back on the pitch
amid the bedlam of West Indies' triumph.
Caribbean jubilation at ICC world events
has become familiar in 2016. First there was
the U-19 World Cup win, then the women's
WT20 triumph, and then, a few hours later,
the men's glory on the same turf. Yet in many
ways the women's success was the most sig-
nificant of the lot.
The sight of Deandra Dottin and Britney
Cooper scrambling the overthrow they needed
to secure West Indies' victory was a seminal
moment for the entire women's game, a two-
fingered salute to those who berate the paucity
of depth in women's cricket. For the first time
in 15 ICC global events, there was a champion
from beyond Australia, England or New
It was a result that resonated in the
Caribbean too. Taylor hopes that the joint tri-
umph with the men, rated as a 150-1 chance
before the tournament, "could spark some fire
back into West Indies cricket".
The women have found the celebrations at
home "mind-blowing" and "overwhelming".
And there is now an opportunity to secure
something even more lasting than the 2016
World T20 crown, by transforming the status
of women's cricket in the West Indies. "It has
gained a lot of popularity after our win. It's
good for us that people are recognising us and
the game is expanding, just like we want it
to. We just hope that it doesn't stop here."
Stafanie Taylor...wants T20 success to advance cause of women's cricket in Caribbean.
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