Women's Cricket

'I really wanted to sit in a plane': West Indies' Stafanie Taylor on why she became a cricketer

The captain of the World Twenty20 champions talks about her love for travelling and the current state of women's cricket.

A breezy half-century from just 46 balls from Veda Krishnamurthy and a captain’s knock from Harmanpreet Kaur (68) could not prevent the West Indies from snatching their first win on Indian soil in this tour. The World Twenty20 champions played like champions at the Mulapadu stadium off Vijayawada on Friday where Stafanie Taylor notched up her second-highest T20I score, hitting 90 off 51 balls to give her team a six-wicket win in the first T20I.

Taylor had made her debut in international cricket in June 2008, at the age of 17, against Ireland where she scored 90 out of 49 balls. It was a gritty knock where she demonstrated that she was not intimidated by the big stage. On Friday, amidst all the clamour about her team’s poor form and batting failures, Taylor finally announced that West Indies may be down but were not out.

The 25-year-old Stafanie Roxann Taylor bats right-handed and is the leading scorer of the West Indies team, apart from being an off-spinner as well. With 114 wickets in 98 One-Day Internationals and 67 wickets in 74 T20Is, she is possibly the best all-rounder in the game currently.

In 2011, Taylor was adjudged the International Cricket Council Women’s Cricketer of the Year. Then, in 2013, she became the only player ever to become the No. 1 in the ODI rankings for batters and bowlers, a feat that has not been achieved by a male cricketer till now.

As the captain of the West Indies Women’s team, she is, as one in her position should be – confident, clear with what she is dealing with, sure about her priorities, intelligent, brilliant on the field, and soft-spoken yet fun. A student of forensics, Taylor plans to move into sports management in the near future in her quest to make a great career for herself even after retirement, which should be a good seven to eight years away.

“I love football more than cricket but I chose cricket because it will allow me to travel the world and I am very excited about travelling. I am an adventurous person and want to go on safaris although we do not get to do all of those when we really travel for cricket,” she said disarmingly. She rightfully went for her first cricket tour when she was 10 years.

Excerpts from a candid and casual conversation with Scroll before the first T20I:

You say you loved football, how did you come into cricket?

Well, I started out playing football and netball, those two sports were actually my main games, and I actually loved football more than cricket. And my trainer introduced cricket to me. One day, he showed me a bat and I asked what it is and he said this is a bat. I then asked what sport it is and he said its cricket and then he asked me if I wanted to try. I picked up the bat and you know it led me here...

Your bowling average is brilliant. So when did you pick up the ball as well?

I think, just around the same time, I was trying to see what interests me. And from the moment, I picked up the bat and started practicing, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I think bowling was just to fill the gap, you know, just to do something else really. I knew from that time that I am more interested in the batting. I was still about eight to nine years old, so I was pretty young then (chuckles).

You played three sports but finally picked cricket. How come?

I had to juggle three sports then and that was hard, especially after attending classes in school. My trainer said to me that it was time to pick one. He also told me that there is a female West Indies team and they travel the world.

When I heard about travelling, I got excited because I always wanted to travel, I always wanted to sit in a plane, though I was very scared the first time, and I cried. But it was a dream of mine to travel and so always wanted to do that.

Stafanie Taylor. Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
Stafanie Taylor. Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar

So are you still afraid to sit in a plane?

Oh no, but I do get a bit nervous when the plane rumbles though, but not afraid anymore!

Coming back to cricket, how would you sum up your performances in 2016, especially after the losses in the ODI series against India?

I am appreciative of what we have achieved over the last year, it was good to see where we stood in Australia’s Big Bash and it helped me as a player to move forward as there you play against the top players. I think as a player I have developed and I still think that I have more to do.

But when you are part of a team that has been losing in recent matches, you tend to think that you are not the best, but I think that is part of the game. You win some and lose some. I have always enjoyed my game and I try my best to do so.

Also, as a few of my teammates were also in the Big Bash, I think, as individuals, they actually do gain because there you are playing against the top bowlers and the top batters. I think it is more in the head, you know, because that helps you to develop more in order to excel in your performance. They say, to simplify for the sake of the game, because it is always played in the head. You play against the best and think that you are in the league with the best.

Tell us a little about the situation of cricket back home. Is there anything you would like to change?

One thing I would love to see is more young girls coming up. I think that is where we are lacking. If you look at it, we are recycling players and as much as we want to do that, at the same time, you still want to look at the fact that while playing more games we also would need to develop new players. It is not that difficult. Australia is doing it and it is not too late.

We definitely can fill the system where we can get young players for the teams and so it does not look like you basically recycling players. We need to start looking at some young players.

In Jamaica, we do have kids playing cricket and the society and the system is supporting it really nicely. After winning the World Twenty20, it was brilliant to see more interest and more girls coming in. But we don’t yet have the system to filter in and develop more talented girls which is much required now.

I have been to England and I see good players going into the schools and they have chance to get into academies. These academies have 30–50 girls coming out which is really good.

Also, although we do have regional competitions, at home, we do not get to play much cricket. Like from Jamaica, from where I come from, we have only three weeks of competition in a year, and that is very little. You need to play more to develop and that is what I want to see.

Growing up, who were your role models in cricket?

(She gets really excited) When I was growing up, I did not really have many role models but as time went by and I grew more passionate about the game and started playing international cricket, I have started to watch others more closely. I really have a liking for Brian Lara and I like the way Chris Gilbert and Steven Smith play and AB de Villiers.

Taylor with the West Indies team manager. Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
Taylor with the West Indies team manager. Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar

How is the situation when it comes to contracts and payment when it comes to women’s cricket in the Caribbean?

We are definitely not where we would want to be, but a starting point has been made. Some of us have the support of sponsors and contracts and that definitely makes our lives easier as many of us are playing full-time cricket. Some of us are also studying or would want to go back to study again soon.

So yes, although, it is not what it could be or anything at all in comparison to men’s cricket, we are getting better.

How prepared do you feel you are for the World Cup in June 2017

I do not think we are in the best of form now but you all know how aggressive we can be when we play our best. And sometimes it happens that it takes a little time to find ourselves. Once we do, that there will be no stopping us. There is still a reasonable time before the World Cup and we will definitely work hard and work around everything that is bothering us and will be as prepared as we should be before the World Cup.

And final thoughts ahead of the Twenty20 series?

I trust and believe my players. Even if we lose, people can say we are not good and lose faith in us, but when we win, they say we are the champions. And we should remember that we are the champions and sooner or later, we will be back in the game.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
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