Most West Indies teams look like they are a melting pot of talent and athleticism. They look lively, fun loving, as if they’d dance with the opposition even after they lost (or even take selfies with them). They have a persona, an aura, an atmosphere that goes beyond the sensational skills and world-beating potential they possess. Their sound bites, like their shots, can swing from awesome to awful.
Most Australian sound bites, on the other hand, toe well-constructed lines: polite, professional, to the process. The players are the result of a system that is designed to harness and protect talent, the result of repetition of the formula that works. Their players are mostly bankable, consistent, and winners. Australia is a winner-producing machine.
This is a generalised but fair reflection of the two teams that will play Sunday’s Women’s World T20 final. West Indies, maiden finalists in this format and the surprise package, will take on Australia who are gunning for their fourth consecutive title.
Southern Stars skipper Meg Lanning had another take on this though. “I have always said we are not here to defend the title, we are here to win the 2016 event. Tomorrow is a new day and we need to start from scratch. What has happened before does not matter.”
The two sides have met in a world event final before. Back in the Women’s ODI World Cup in 2013, also in India, the West Indies beat both New Zealand and Australia on their way to the final, before falling to Australia when it mattered. They have also made the semi-finals of the WT20 for the last three editions, losing all of them. This time, they were expected to lose in semi-finals to pre-tournament favourites New Zealand as well. But they upset many a calculation and in doing so, became the first team besides Australia, New Zealand and England to play a final.
Australia will come into the final with oodles of experience, and with players who know how to close out big games. Nine of their playing XI from the 2014 victory featured in their semi-final win against England.
The captains of both teams have had stellar tournaments. Australia’s Meg Lanning has scored 149 runs so far, with two fifties. And while Stafanie Taylor has not scored a half century, she has been more consistent with 187 runs from five games, and eight wickets with her off spin, including three at the back end of a close semi-final. Different players have performed at different stages for both teams, but the early wickets of the two captains will be crucial to success in the final.
Besides that, both teams also feature the highest and second-highest wicket-takers in women’s T20Is. West Indies spinner Anisa Mohammed is the only woman to take 100 T20I wickets and will be hoping to put a quiet tournament behind her. Ellyse Perry (76 wickets), Australia’s star all-rounder, has had a good tournament with both bat and ball.
Australia will also be wary of the all-round prowess of Deandra Dottin. The batter is known more for her big hitting, but has shown commendable situational restraint in the tournament and kept the scoreboard ticking. She has also been the team’s go-to option with the ball while defending totals. Having been entrusted with bowling the last over in four pressure games, she has been successful three times.
While women’s cricket in Australia is on a high, after the success of the WBBL and Ashes win last year, a win would mean perhaps even more to the West Indies. “I don’t think it’s that popular,” said Taylor of women’s cricket in the region. “If you look at Australia, they have that foundation which we’re trying to build in the West Indies. After being in the final and I hope that we win, it might change everything”.
Despite having everything on the line, the West Indies will relish the tag of underdogs. “They have won three titles, we have nothing to lose. We need to be positive and relaxed,” said Taylor of the impending competition.
A talented and exciting side will take on a well-drilled, experienced unit that has been at the forefront of professionalism in women’s cricket. It will be a case of the mixed bag versus the automaton, mercury versus the machine. David versus Goliath, if you will. And as Darren Sammy pointed out before his team knocked India out to put a second Windies team in the final, David won.