INTERVIEW: Stafanie Taylor On West Indies Women’s Cricket And (Finally) Winning A World Cup

What does it feel like to win a World Cup? Stafanie Taylor knows. “I was speechless,” she told us when we interviewed her over the summer, during her time playing for Western Storm in the inaugural KSL. “I couldn’t sleep at night! Every time I closed my eyes I kept thinking ‘we actually won the World Cup!’ And there were just so many messages from people back home, how they are very proud of us. It was really good to have that kind of support.”

For Taylor, who was named Player of the Tournament, her side’s victory in the Women’s World Twenty20 earlier this year has been a long time coming – the culmination of many ups and downs since she made her debut for West Indies back in 2008, aged 17. “Back then we were a fairly young team. Now I think we have evolved.”

“Over the last few years we’ve been playing against top teams and beating top teams [they’ve defeated England and India in ODI and T20 series’ since 2009]. Two times [in 2010 and 2012] we’d been in the semi-final, so I would say we’d had enough of that!”

Losing to Australia in the 2013 50-over World Cup final, she says, also spurred her team on all the more in April’s tournament final: “[In 2013] a lot of the players cried. We wanted to play Australia – it was so good to meet them in the final and come out victorious.”

It’s interesting to hear Taylor reflect on what she sees as the crucial steps on the road to the rise of Caribbean women’s cricket as a force to be reckoned with. The awarding of the first ever paid contracts to women players by the West Indies Cricket Board back in 2010, she says, was probably the most important factor:

“That was a huge step. A lot of us had been going to school and working, now we could see something coming in. It might not be much but at the end of the day we could go out and train and then after we could have a good meal.”

“Before the contracts I was going to school [university] – when you are trying to get schoolwork done and train it’s never easy.”

Better access to top-quality coaching has also been key. Taylor acknowledges that quality coaching in the women’s game was hard to obtain when she was first entering the game, but says her own development owes a lot to the appointment of ex-international Sherwin Campbell as national women’s coach between 2008 and 2015:

“He’s a wonderful guy, he knows the game inside out. He is very passionate about what he does. I remember one time when we lost a game at a World Cup his eyes filled with water. At that time when you have a coach like that you definitely want to keep them.”

And of course the Women’s Big Bash League played a role. Taylor – who represented eventual champions Sydney Thunder in the inaugural WBBL, hitting 372 runs and taking 10 wickets – laughs as she recalls the moment she found out she would be playing in the tournament:

“I got a call from Nick Cummins [Thunder General Manager]. I was actually in the bathroom! And I wasn’t going to answer the phone but I actually did! And he was like, ‘it’s Nick Cummins from Sydney Thunder. Would you be interested to come over and play?’ And I was like, “um, could you give me 10 minutes and I’ll ring you back?!” And then I called him back and we had a chat.”

Playing in Australia, she says, “has toughened me up. The way they play their cricket is a lot different to how we play it in the Caribbean. They are really tough.”

One positive outcome of the World Cup victory has been the shift in attitudes towards women’s cricket in the Caribbean. When Taylor was named the Jamaican Cricket Association’s Cricketer of the Year in 2009, having achieved the ranking of number 5 on the ICC’s list of female all-rounders within 12 months of making her international debut, there were many disgruntled voices at the time who claimed that a mere woman was undeserving of the honour. Taylor says her team’s World Cup victory has made a difference to these kind of attitudes. “For us as the older ones, we were like the pioneers. Things have changed now.”

What of the future? Taylor is excited. “This is just the start,” she says. “We have the Big Bash and the Super League, it is really good for the game, really good for female sport. And we hope that soon we will have a female CPL [Caribbean Premier League].”

For the time being, her focus will be on ensuring that West Indies win their ODI series decider against England, to be played later today. With Taylor at the helm – she made 85 and took 3-22 in the last game on Sunday – you wouldn’t bet against it.