Batting Strong

She is currently rated among the top performers on the West Indies women’s cricket team but Deandra Dottin initially had no plans of taking up the sport, far less becoming one of the regional side’s star players.

Instead, her heart was set on pursuing a career in athletics, preferably the field events. It wasn’t, however, until a former player encouraged her to join the national team that she decided to take a shot at the bat and ball.

“I never really took cricket seriously, I was more into athletics, like field events. I just used to play cricket anywhere for fun with my brothers and the guys and stuff,” Dottin recalled in a Barbados TODAY interview. “Pamela Levine, a former West Indies player, she introduced me to national cricket, playing for the Barbados team, like training and stuff and I just started off playing cricket from there.” Dottin made her debut for the West Indies in 2008 against Ireland.

It wasn’t long before she showed her prowess with the bat, hitting the fastest 50 in Twenty20 history against England in the 2009 T20 World Cup. The 24-year-old all-rounder would subsequently go on to make history again the following year in St Kitts, when she became the first female cricketer to score an international T20 century. She scored 100 off 38 balls, eventually hitting an unbeaten 112 against South Africa during that year’s World T20 tournament. Those two milestones, she said, represent some of her proudest moments on the field. Still, she is concentrating on improving her form.

“I have a lot of challenges in terms of working on my fitness, sticking to the basics and making sure I get everything. There is a little bit of margin for error when it comes to performing for the team and winning,” she told Barbados TODAY. And they have been winning. West Indies women have stamped their authority on the cricket field at home in the Caribbean and on the international stage at a time when the performance of their male counterparts, once world champions of the gentlemen’s game, leaves much to be desired. On their current tour of South Africa, West Indies women have scored a 2-1 One Day International series victory over their hosts, and will play their final T20 International in Cape Town tomorrow (March 9) before heading to India for the ICC Women’s World Twenty20.

Their latest victory earned them the second spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women’s Championships – the main qualifier for the ICC Women’s World Cup scheduled for next year in England. In contrast, recent years have seen their male counterparts languishing at the bottom of the ICC Test and ODI rankings. The women’s victories in last year’s home series against Pakistan represented another feather in their cap, after winning the four-match ODI series 3-1 and sweeping the three-match T2 series. Despite their achievements, the ladies feel they are not being taken seriously enough by the public, and Dottin would like to see her teammates receive the same recognition as the men. “The girls take the cricket very very seriously, you know?

They have the love and the passion for the game,” she remarked. “But there are plenty spectators and people that don’t feel we should be playing cricket and don’t give us the support that we need. So we as ladies … and as a team, we try to prove them wrong every time we step on the field to play for the West Indies.” It’s an all too familiar feeling for team captain, Stafanie Taylor, who said being a female cricketer can be a huge challenge in itself.

“Some people didn’t know that females actually play the game and some people think that females shouldn’t be playing the game because it’s known to be a man’s sport. So I think from that angle, it’s kind of challenging. I enjoy doing what I do and I love what I do so I just keep doing it,” she told Barbados TODAY, just before leaving for the South Africa tour. Like Dottin, cricket was not Taylor’s first choice either. It therefore came as a complete surprise to those closest to her when she decided to pursue cricket professionally. “It’s not just my family, I think people around the community.

22431872372_bfebf22e7c_zWhereas I used to play netball and football, and I was so good at football, people thought that’s the sport I would actually excel in. So when I actually made the transition to playing cricket, everyone was shocked because no one really expected it, not even my family. “My dad knew I was talented but he didn’t actually know that I would actually reach this far in cricket,” the three-time ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year said. Another player who may not have been aware of her talent initially is Taylor’s predecessor, Merissa Aguilleira. She confessed to being “more of the lady-like type” before discovering her passion for the game.

“I used to score for my uncles and I looked at them and used to enjoy seeing how they used to adjust to different situations in the game. The pads and the gloves excited me,” she said. The wicketkeeper and batswoman made her debut in 2008. Aguilleira admitted, however, that before she could secure her spot on the team, she had to overcome her fear of playing hard ball cricket.

“When the coaches sent the ball in the air for me to catch, I used to run in the opposite direction. Seriously! And I think that was a big obstacle for me, you know, really getting over the fear from the ball itself. Eventually, I stepped closer and closer until I started catching it, and I just enjoyed doing it.”

She too shares the disappointment of her teammates over the lack of recognition for their efforts, and would like equal credit given to both sets of players. “When I started, there was a huge difference but still there’s a huge gap between the male and female department when it comes to cricket because you mostly find people having that faith in the guys to come out and give them a show,” she said.

“I really need the public to understand that the women can give them that as well because we have it within us and, most of the time, we come together and provide a really exciting match. And we want the people to have that faith in us and come out and support us.” The ladies are determined to play their part in advancing women’s participation in Caribbean cricket. “I think female sport [on the whole] now is expanding. We do get the recognition now so I think eventually it will get there,”

Taylor said. “I do see myself as a role model for the young ones coming up and I always believe that if you set your mind to do something, you’ll be able to do it so …If you enjoy playing the game, I think you should go ahead and play it,” she added. As for Dottin, she is not too worried about the current perception of female cricketers. “I wouldn’t say anything. I would let the results of the cricket say all,” she said.

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