Women's Cricket

Meet Merissa Aguilleira, the Windies cricketer committed to getting young lives back on track

The 30-year-old is a key member of the West Indies women’s team and is passionate about giving troubled youngsters in her country new opportunities.

After being whitewashed 0-3 by India in the One-Day International series, the West Indies women’s cricket team roared back in the Twenty 20 series against India, taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series at the Mulapadu stadium on Sunday.

West Indies were limited to only 137 but they bundled India out for only 106 to win by 31 runs. Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin had contributions with the bat but it was Hayley Mathews who stole the show with a miserly spell of 2/15 in her four overs.

Later, content with a 23-ball 21 in that match, Merissa Aguilleira was a contended self. That was a much-needed win for the West Indies team to restore the team’s faith in themselves, and Aguilleira’s contribution goes beyond the runs she scored. She is a born counselor, helping everyone with her positive vibes, inspiring, motivating, and resolving the grave issues that had helped reinvigorate the team.

The former West Indies skipper and wicket-keeping batter, Merissa Ria Aguilleira, is a person who literally lights up a room when she enters it. Poised and graceful, she smites the people around her with her habitually charming smile. At 30, she is looking at ways in which she can spread this happiness to light up the lives of the many youngsters in her country who are victims of drug abuse, violence and trafficking.

“I want to change that, I really do. Our youngsters are not all rotten or spoilt, they need support, they need work, they need encouragement, and they should understand their worth. And I want to work towards that after I retire from international cricket,” she said passionately.

Aguilleira made her ODI debut against the Netherlands at Utrecht in July 2008. Appearing lower in the batting order, so far, she has played 86 innings in 96 ODIs and collected 1,544 runs at an average of 71. In 80 T20Is, her tally of runs stand at 604. Until September 2015, when Stafanie Taylor took over the responsibility of the Windies women, Aguilleira managed the captaincy with élan. But it was time to select a new captain for the forthcoming World Cup Championship in women’s cricket.

Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
Image credit: Swati Sanyal Tarafdar

In a candid conversation with Scroll.in, the 30-year-old from Trinidad revealed that she was trying to enjoy Indian cuisine, although she was not particularly fond of spicy food, that she found the weather in Vijayawada very conducive to the game, and that she was really scared to go out on the streets because the traffic seemed unruly and unlike her country where the traffic stops when they try to cross the road at the crossings.

Excerpts from the interview:

You have played in India earlier and you have good memories of that. What do you find challenging here this time.

Well, we have just finished our run with England and now we are away from home, and that’s a challenge in itself because of the time differences. But the pitch is good, it is a batting wicket and it is slowly getting better, it is definitely getting better. We are lot more comfortable now. We also have some great memories and it is time for us to remember that and act accordingly.

How has the World Twenty20 win changed things around women’s cricket back home?

Oh, it has definitely helped us in a big way because people came to know about our team that plays cricket, the matches were shown on the television, our performances were highlighted on the television, and that has drawn attention of the people in general and it has become easier to find more girls coming to play.

I think that is the most important thing that has happened with the World Twenty20 that it has encouraged more people to join the game and it has also helped us cut some deals when it came to sponsorship and contracts. We have now to make sure that it gets as big as the men’s and for that we have to make sure that we market that win properly and there is still more to come out of it.

How are your audiences reacting to your performances – has there been an increase in their size?

The size of our audience has definitely expanded and they notice our games, they track how we are doing and when we will go back to our countries, they will come to discuss and take photographs with us. The good thing is that they are responding to our games and sharing on social media – we get to hear some nice things from our countries and from the Indians too who are following the games.

..and here at Mulapadu?

Here the stands are not at all empty like previous times; they are noisy. And that is what I love about Indian cricket that they are so passionate about cricket. And they are not only cheering for India, they are cheering when we are playing well too which is motivating.

Why is there a stark difference between the West Indies ODI team and the West Indies Twenty20 team?

Well, I wish we had the answer to it. You know there was a time when our 50-over side was better than our Twenty20 team and somehow we have managed to turn that around. I think we are yet to understand that these two are different formats of the game and then do justice to both of these formats. Yes, we are at the wrong for a very long time but we are learning from our experiences.

We are in introspection mode right now, and we have to know what the problem is and then we have to know how to get beneath it. The main thing is to find a solution to the problem. And I believe every problem has a solution and we’ll find ours. And I also believe that everything goes through a bad patch sometimes and I believe in the team that we have and I believe that very soon India will find themselves in trouble.

What do you feel after the change in captaincy in 2015? Do you have teammates discussing their problems with you still?

Always! My doors are open for them all the time. In my earlier days, I have also had disappointing times, and I have found inspiration in random sources. And I have learned that if I am able to inspire others, even if I am demotivated, it does me a world of good because while motivating others, I too get rejuvenated and inspired. We all maintain the relationship that we had shared earlier and some of them are not so cool like the others but that does not really matter for me. I am also a people’s person, I like to help people, but if somebody says, “That’s ok, I don’t need your help”, it is fine with me because it’s your opinion and that doesn’t change what I think about you.

As a senior person in the team, it is not just about me and I like to help and advise others and although I am just a wicketkeeper bat, I am also responsible for the team’s performance and I am happy when they win. So I will continue to play my role in the team as much as I could to help people in m team and lead them towards success.

Would you tell us a little about the trials and tribulations that you faced in your country growing up?

They are still there, right now as we speak. The young people in my country are going through so many hardships. They are into crimes, abuse, violence, drugs. I like to see people moving on the right track. The people in my country need guidance. We are all stressed, we know we have so many issues, but it is also important for us to share our experiences to tell people that I too have been through various trials and have been through tribulations, and I have been there and came out. So you just need to let them know so that they also get the confidence, the good vibes to fight their situation.

People are losing faith and older people call them names. But I am one of those people from the younger generation and I do not want any of us being called names. So I want to stand face to face and say that you are not right, I want to be one of these peoples who can stand and defend young people because we are the future, because if there is no us, there is no future. So this is what I talk about when I go to visit schools and clubs and other places as ambassador for my sponsors. And I want to do it in a bigger way later on.

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