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Can West Indies beat the odds?

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Is West Indies cricket in the midst of a crisis? Perhaps an administrative crisis, but certainly not on-field, in the limited over formats. Their U19 boys side won the U-19 World Cup only 2 months ago, and now both their senior men's and women's teams have played themselves into the respective final of the T20 World Cup. The women accounted for the in-form side of the tournament, New Zealand, with ease on Thursday and have set up a rematch of the 2013 50-over World Cup final, as they take on Australia, the Southern Stars, at Eden Gardens on Sunday.

ICC_T20_World_Cup_2016_India_WorldT20_cricketThe West Indies women's style of play is similar to their male counterparts, bringing excitement and an air of uncertainty to the game. When in full flight, this Caribbean side can beat any team in their way, as shown day before yesterday. But they haven't yet found consistency, meaning we are still unsure on any given day if they will bring their "A game".

Their newly appointed captain, Stafanie Taylor, has certainly led from the front, especially with the bat. It seems that her time in the Women's Big Bash League with the Sydney Thunder has assisted her consistency at the top level. To knock off the Southern Stars she will need some other key contributors to fire as well.

Deandra Dottin is one who will need to fire. She certainly has the ability to explode and tear a bowling attack apart and win games off her own bat. Unfortunately, in recent times she has been relatively inconsistent and unable to regularly produce big innings with the bat. From afar, Dottin seems to be wrestling with herself mentally about the best way to go about her batting. In this tournament, though, she has had an important impact with the ball, with her change of pace and death bowling standing out.

Over recent years, as the Caribbean women have regularly made it to the final stages of tournaments, other nations have felt that if you could dismiss Taylor and Dottin, the batting will fall away easily, making it harder for the Windies to add a trophy to their cabinet. This is why Britney Cooper's performance in their last game was significant as well as sensational.

After a slow start to the tournament with three low scores (1, 9 & 1), she was dropped in the crucial match against India, but was reinstated for the semi final. She repaid the selectors in spades, as she scored her maiden half century in this format and demonstrated that she too can clear the boundary with ease. It was her 61 runs off 48 deliveries that took the game away from the White Ferns. If she can maintain this form and either Taylor and Dottin can fire along with her, the West Indies could easily post a 140+ score, or chase anything down.  

The West Indies bowling attack is very likeable and balanced. With Shamilia Connell you have the kind of pace and bounce that isn't always prevalent in the women's game. In addition, their spinners of Anisa Mohammed, Shaquana Quintyne and Afy Fletcher provide the necessary spin on sub continental turning tracks. That being said, my question about their spinners is whether they have enough variations, or plans B or C, to cope with a flying Australian side.

 

The greatest asset of this West Indies side is their power and athleticism, and what this adds to their overall performance. Their running between wickets, which sees ones turning into twos and twos into threes, sets them apart from all of the other teams. Add to that their speed across the ground when fielding and they could keep the third umpire very busy on Sunday… as the Kiwi's discovered on Thursday.

While it will be West Indies’ first T20 World Cup final, it will be Australia's fourth consecutive final, and they will be going for a remarkable fourth consecutive title. This is quite astonishing in the modern era, as many of the other nations receive more funding and more support from their home boards.

The Southern Stars have been improving their performances throughout the tournament. However, my sense is that they have not yet produced a balanced game that they would be happy with. As true champs do, they have found a way to win when it has mattered. The question is, will it all come together in the final?

The pleasing aspect, from an Australian fan’s perspective, is that their top order seems to have familiarised themselves with the conditions and are scoring more freely. If Alyssa Healy and Elyse Villani can give the Stars another great platform after the first six overs, as they did against England, I expect Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry will capitalise on the start.

Jess Jonassen still hasn't shown us her best with both bat and ball, and the final might just be the stage, as it has been for her in previous T20 World Cup finals. In 2012, she picked up crucial wickets in the dying stages of the game, and in 2014 she opened the batting and set the tone for the match.

Rene Farrell and Megan Schutt will provide Lanning with important bowling variation options, both possessing effective slower balls and yorkers in their bag of tricks. Plus the speed and agility of the Southern Stars in the field will be a strength they will rely on, as shown by Schutt in the semi-final, where her outfield work played a significant part in England’s defeat.

Finally, let us not forget Perry herself, and her incredible ability to produce magic at key moments in big games, best illustrated by the 2013 World Cup final when, with a fractured foot, she managed to pick up the wickets of three top order batters and take the game away from the West Indies.

Eden Gardens certainly will not have the same bounce and carry that we saw in the Mumbai pitch, which might play more favourably into the Southern Stars' strengths. Irrespective of the conditions on the day, I believe that the depth of the Southern Stars in both their batting and bowling departments, and the fact that this group of Australian players have been there and done it all before, may just be too much for the West Indies to take home the trophy.

Though as we all know, you never discount a West Indies side, especially if they win the toss and bat first.  



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An all-rounder who retired from International Cricket in 2013, Lisa made her debut for Australia in...

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