Hunted West Indies upbeat for title defence
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC):
Title-holders West Indies will take the first step in their anxiously anticipated defence of the ICC Women's Twenty20 World Cup when they clash with Bangladesh tonight.
The hosts have already been installed as heavy favourites to beat the minnows in the Group A contest, the headline match of a triple-header at the Guyana National Stadium.
New Zealand clash with India in the opening match at 10 a.m, three-time champions Australia do battle with Pakistan at 3 p.m. before West Indies take centre stage in the 7 p.m. marquÈe encounter.
Captain Stafanie Taylor told reporters yesterday that her charges were taking nothing for granted, especially with the Windies expected to be the hunted side in the tournament.
"[It's] not just [the fact that we're] playing at home or being defending champions, I just believe as West Indies and what we bring to the table we do get that - people coming after us - because people have the West Indies as one of the teams to beat," Taylor said.
"So take away the fact that we're at the World Cup, if we go anywhere, West Indies are always one of the teams to beat.
"So yes, there's a bit of pressure, a bit of expectation. I think it's just how we manage that, and I'm trying to manage that within the group and just think about our game and how we want to play and just go out there and play our style of cricket."
The event is a historic one as it marks the first ICC women's stand-alone T20 World Cup after the previous tournaments were staged alongside the men's.
West Indies have been installed in Group A alongside the likes of England, South Africa, and Sri Lanka, while Group B comprises Australia, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Ireland.
The Caribbean side won their maiden title in India two years ago when they stunned the Aussies, the final in Kolkata, and Taylor said that a successful title defence would be strengthened by the fact that the Windies possessed home advantage.
"I think it does matter. When we're playing at home, we know the conditions very, very well, and I think that does give us an edge over all the teams," Taylor contended.
"But saying that, everyone is here to win that trophy and I know everyone will play hard just like how we're going to play."
She added: "Providence (stadium) is fairly new, and what we would have seen last night (in the warm-up match) is pretty much what we expect, and I don't believe it will change so much.
"We're playing in the night, so when you think about the conditions, [it will be] dew for both teams, but I think the team that will bowl last might be the worse [off], but we just have to go out there and try to do what we can and play what we see."
Since their T20 World Cup conquest, the Windies have had a bit of a mixed bag, winning eight of 16 matches. They whitewashed India 3-0 away and Sri Lanka at home before suffering their own whitewash when they were clobbered 4-0 in New Zealand.
They were held to a 2-2 draw in a five-match series by the Proteas last September - a series many thought they should have won - but Taylor said that there had been a few positives despite the result.
"The fact that Hayley Matthews scored a hundred, I think that was a big plus in the group. She's a big talent coming through, and it was good boosting her confidence," she pointed out.
"I'm pretty much happy with our fitness level. I think as a team we may have been struggling in that aspect, so I believe that has been good."
West Indies have retained the core of their 2016 title-winning squad for their title defence with the likes of Taylor, Matthews, all-rounder Deandra Dottin, former captain Merissa Aguilleira, off-spinner Anisa Mohammed, and fast bowler Shamilia Connell all expected to feature.
WEST INDIES - Stafanie Taylor (captain), Merissa Aguilleira, Shemaine Campbelle, Shamilia Connell, Britney Cooper, Deandra Dottin, Afy Fletcher, Qiana Joseph, Chinelle Henry, Kycia Knight, Hayley Matthews, Natasha McLean, Anisa Mohammed, Chedean Nation, Shakera Selman.