The Pakistan women’s cricket team arrived in Saint Lucia on Sunday, 11 October, for its International Cricket Council Women’s World Championship Series against the West Indies. The Pakistanis were greeted with a motorcade making its way from Vieux Fort to Gros Islet.
It was a fine welcome for the visiting team, but the home team says there will be no hospitality for their guests once both groups of ladies step onto the field of play.
The West Indies women are lying in third in the World Championship standings, with the possibility of moving into second and hot on the heels of first-place Australia.
Shakera Selman, vice-captain of the the West Indies team, says even though there is not a lot of intelligence regarding the composition of the Pakistani team, its strengths and weaknesses, the Caribbean side is entering this series with a great deal of confidence.
“If we win, and when we win, should I say – when we win all of these games we will move up to number two. I think once we put our best foot forward we should defeat Pakistan, move up to number two, hopefully stay there and maybe even move up to number one if Australia slip up.
“We’ve played them before, in the last World Cup. But they have quite a few new players that we’re not familiar with. We still know the captain, we still know a few girls, and there is one girl who has been coring a lot of runs recently, so we know of her, and we are definitely planning for her.”
Selman, a 26-year-old allrounder from Barbados, is set to play her 60th match in Saint Lucia, when the series gets underway from 2pm on Friday, 16 October at the Beausejour Stadium. There will be three further matches on 18, 21 and 24 October at the same venue. And Selman says the home team is in high spirits.
“It is really good. We have a really good unit, where the girls are working really well together. We have a few new players, we have [Karishma] Ramharack who only played regionals for the first time this year, and she was called up to the squad. But most of the girls have been playing regionals, so we are familiar with each other. Hayley [Matthews] has been around since age 12 or something; so only a year for West Indies but she has been around the cricket since age 12. So we are quite familiar so we are getting along really well.”
With the squad now cut from 18 to 13, Ramharack has been let go, and Matthews retained, in a squad with a great deal of experience, but several key players with just one or two year of experience. The Windies women are also working under coach Vasbert Drakes, in charge of his first home series after replacing Sherwin Campbell for the tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year.
That situation developed after disciplinary action was taken against Campbell, similarly to what is now taking place with the men’s team and head coach Phil Simmons, who has been suspended, coincidentally ahead of a tour of Sri Lanka. But for the women, the transition was seamless.
“So far as I’ve seen, the girls have been working really well with him. We still have Ezra Moseley who was there for a while before, and Mr Drakes was working with the Barbados team back home before he became part of the West Indies setup so most of the girls are familiar with him.”
The Windies vice-captain opines that in the Caribbean, St Kitts-Nevis has had the biggest crowds to date for women’s cricket, but she is hoping that Saint Lucia will top that. But she points out that the Caribbean has a ways to go to match the likes of England, Australia and India, where the crowd numbers several thousand.
“I beleive it is getting better, but we still think there is more than can be done. Obviously, we need more support from the boards, and more encouragement for our younger girls to take part. It is growing, and I think the Windwards team this year wasn’t too bad, and I think it was a good incentive from the West Indies Cricket Board to join the teams together. They actually bowled out the Barbados team who eventually win the thing, so that is a plus for the team.
“We’ve seen some young upcoming talent. We have some of the Saint Lucian girls taking part. We have Nerissa and Qiana, Quiana is only 15, and she took two crucial wickets in the practice game. So it is getting better, but we need support from the board and the fans around the Caribbean.”
When Pakistan women last visited the Caribbean in 2011, they were beaten in three of four matches at Arnos Vale in St Vincent and the Grenadines. They also twice trounced the ladies from the sub-continent that same year in the World Cup qualifying tournament in Bangladesh, which West Indies won. The regional team beat Pakistan as well in a one-off T20I at Loughborough in England in 2012.