Graeme West: It’s exciting! There is so much on offer for the girls in cricket
A year ago, if you mentioned to Trishan Holder, Djenba Joseph and Zaida James that they would be members of the West Indies team at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup – playing alongside their favorite stars and sharing the same dressing room – they might have called you “crazy”.
What a huge difference a year can make!
Actually, it has been less than a year since the three teenagers were picked for the West Indies Rising Stars Under 19s. Throughout the year they grew in stature and demonstrated their ability and adaptability. Joseph and Holder were selected for the senior team for the white-ball series against England and James forced her way into the squad as well following the ICC Women’s U19 T20 World Cup in January. All three were selected for the ICC Women’s World Cup in South Africa last month – and impressed with their skills, dynamism and energy.
Like others in the Rising Stars Under-19 programme and the wider women’s game, the trio have been the beneficiaries of major investment, as Cricket West Indies (CWI) has strategic investment into women’s cricket and the development of women’s cricket. As part of its strategic plan, CWI’s has committed resources to improve women’s cricket at every level.
This plan aims to provide the resources, pathways and opportunities for girls and women to be involved in the region’s premier sport. By doing so, it will contribute to producing world-class players and winning teams, increasing the number of people involved in the sport – as well as the number of people watching and following West Indies cricket.
The plan to invest in all aspects of women’s cricket started in 2019 however the COVID-19 pandemic not only prevented momentum for development, it prevented much women’s cricket activity for over 18 months across the region.
In September 2020, in the height of the COVID-19, West Indies Women toured England where they played a white-ball series at the County Ground in Derby in a bio-secure environment. The challenges presented by the onset of the pandemic meant regional competitions were on hold and necessitated a change in approach.
CWI therefore staged several camps in the first half of 2021. Under the guidance of Head Coach Courtney Walsh, the pool of players had activities and support across technical, tactical, physical, mental and personal development areas with individualized programmes following each player’s involvement.
This meant they were fully geared up to take to the field for the next assignment. CWI and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) agreed to a full series and visiting players came to face the West Indies Senior Women’s team and the West Indies ‘A’ team in matches at Coolidge Cricket Ground and the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. This was a hugely successful return-to-play series and was followed by a tour by the South Africa Women – which culminated with a Super-Over finish in the final T20 International.
“The players spent a good amount of time in Antigua, in the camps, and it wasn’t until the second half of the year that we were able to get competitive cricket. Pakistan came to Antigua with 25 players, and we played the ‘A Team’ as well as the Senior team. It was the first time we played female ‘A Team’ cricket and it was a good opportunity for the players to get some competitive cricket and that was followed by a series against South Africa,” elaborated West.
The West Indies Women’s Rising Stars Under-19 tournament was played in Trinidad in July 2022 and thereafter a squad was selected for a series against the USA Women’s Under-19 team in Fort Lauderdale. From there, the players had their first trip to India where they played against India ‘A’, India ‘B’, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. This was followed by another camp in Antigua at the Coolidge Cricket Ground as part of the preparation for the ICC U19 Women’s T20 World Cup.
Graeme West, CWI’s High-Performance Manager, outlined the need for the developmental programme and its value. He also spoke about the senior women’s programme which was “on pause” during the COVID-19 pandemic, but which CWI reintroduced in the first half of 2021.
“2022 was a very big year for us in terms of the development of women’s and girls’ cricket. We had the first cohort of Under 19s that prepared and then went to the ICC T20 World Cup following the return of the regional tournament in July. Within six months, we were able to give those players a tour to the USA, a tour of India and then a trip to South Africa. So, we had three overseas assignments within six months which certainly created lots of opportunities and lots of learning for the players,” West said.
“Additionally, they also came to Antigua in December for a training camp as part of their preparation for the World Cup, so we had players that featured in those series and we started to see the growth and development. “We saw three players earn selection for the World Cup and the experience they gained is invaluable and we’re proud to see what is happening … 2023 is very much focused around as much cricket as we can create for them. We hope that the Under 19s will all play in the senior regional tournament for their various teams, and they are still eligible for this year’s Under 19 regional tournaments as well,” West said.
“We are asking a lot of our players in terms of training and preparation for international cricket. It is important that the players are seeing the benefits of the investment that is going into their programmes, into their training and into their preparation. “2022 was certainly getting closer to what we became accustomed to, with the two series at the backend of the year against New Zealand and England. Certainly, the New Zealand series was very well contested, with very close results in the matches which could have gone either way in almost every single game across both formats. What it did was get the players back into the grove of playing often, every couple of months and they were again fully involved in all aspects.
“It’s exciting. There is the potential not just for girls and women to love playing this wonderful game to make a real career in cricket but also in coaching, umpiring, management and playing. The potential for earning, (for) more exposure on the international stage and (for) their profile is tremendous. We are trying to move things forward on the basis that there is so much on offer for the girls in cricket, across the whole range and we are trying to incorporate as many (of them) as we can.”