Teen talent on the pitch

She is the youngest member of the West Indies Women’s team, but one would never guess, given Hayley Matthews’ performance since she started her international career two years ago. And in the World T20 Final in April, she reminded selectors why she deserves a spot on the squad.

Matthews scored 66, becoming the youngest player to score 50 in the tournament, and the second player on her team –– after captain Stafanie Taylor –– to make a half-century in the final. Their partnership earned West Indies Women 120 runs that led to their victory over Australia. 

“I just knew it was a big game we had ahead of us, and if we could win this game that would be something big not only for us, but for the whole region. And once the captain, Stafanie, and I put our heads down at the top of the innings, I mean that would give us the best possible opportunity that we could have to win the game,” Matthews told Barbados TODAY

The 18-year-old batswoman started playing cricket from age eight, following in the footsteps of her father and brother, both members of Pickwick Club.

“I actually started playing with Wanderers, and I just moved straight into playing with the Barbados ladies. I also played in primary school from the time I was in Class 3, and then going to Harrison College, I played Under-13, Under-15 and Under-19, and I also captained the Under-13 team in my last year of Under-13 cricket,” Matthews said. 

Cricket, therefore, seemed like a natural career choice, even though Matthews was a promising track and field athlete who won a gold medal in the Under-18 girls’ javelin in the CARIFTA Games. 

In addition to her commitments to West Indies, Matthews secured a professional contract in the inaugural 2015-2016 Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, playing for Hobart Hurricanes. 

Given her hectic schedule, she was forced to take a break from studies at Harrison College to pursue her passion. 

“We had so many tours going on since last year, all up to this year, that it was going to be hard to juggle both, so I decided to pursue [cricket] and see where it takes me really,” she explained.

“I want to finish my career, so as I get the opportunity and as I get the time, I want to go back to school and finish my work.”

While cricket is her first career choice at the moment, Matthews is keeping her options open.

“I do like accounting, so that’s something I want to look into; or become an entrepreneur and start my own business,” she said.

Joining an elite team could be quite a daunting experience for a 16-year-old, but for Matthews the transition was made easier with the support of the senior players. 

“The closest to me is Shaquana [Quintyne]. I think she’s about 20; no one else is near my age. I’m the baby of the team and a lot of the girls really check up on me and look after me, and . . . that’s something really good –– to know you have people on your team that you can depend on when you really need them. 

“It’s a great bunch that we have . . . . Even though we’re all from different countries, we get along so well! And being among them, it just feels we’re all one big family sometimes. So that’s really good to have as a team,” she said. 

Matthews is looking forward to flying the West Indies flag with her teammates for several more years, as the women continue to stamp their authority on a traditionally male dominated sport.

“Women’s cricket is something that is still growing. I find it’s grown a lot in the past couple years . . . and hopefully it will get a lot better,” she said.

For now, Matthews is content to let her bat do the talking, and show the world “how good women’s cricket really is”. (MCW)

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