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Hayley Matthews turns 26 with a sense of customary focus and passion for West Indies cricket

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There was a time when the greatest thing about the West Indies women’s cricket was Deandra Dottin. Bold and brave, Dottin made runs for fun and made hitting centuries and fifty plus scores an inveterate habit. 

You could bring on the best of spinners or call on the choicest of medium pace to rattle her, but you’d fail. 

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Then, there was a time where Stafanie Taylor represented unabashed excellence in Caribbean women’s cricket. 

The prestigious first ever winner of the ICC Award for the T20I cricketer of the year (2015) took less than a year later, her team to its greatest moment yet in the briefest format of the game. 

Center of attention

The West Indies women’s side were led by Taylor when they hunted the Aussies of all teams on way to clinching their maiden T20 world title crown in India. 

But while the incredible Dottin is a former Windies national player and the courageous Stafanie is quietly marching along lending support to several talented players in the unit, the focus of attention in the women’s national team is a certain Hayley Matthews. 

The number #1 player in the women’s unit is the one who comes up top the order and leads by an example. 

A giant with the bat

With her tall height and lanky frame, Matthews, who’s just turned 26, is bright, big and brave. 

Whether it is clearing the ropes with ease or building an inning by playing the dominant hand, Hayley Matthews is scripting what could be called the next, hopefully exciting era of West Indian cricket. 

As a batter, Matthews has, as on date, faced some of the most potent exponents of both pace and spin and looked comfortable in her skin. Utterly unafraid to take chances and on other occasions, playing the run gatherer who hunts for runs cleverly, Hayley Matthews brings an element of thinking cricket to a team that can often be brash. 

Having faced them all

She’s faced them all, be it Devine, Bates, Kerr, Jhulan, Shikha, Mir, Baig, Ecclestone, Glenn, Prendergast, Deepti and company and even after 168 international caps for the West Indies, seems to have hardly broken sweat.  

It’s often said that captaincy brings out the best in some exquisite talents, but quite frankly, it isn’t possible unless and until one pushes herself to do it, to go beyond the call of duty to serve one’s nation. 

Last year, Matthews emerged as a rock for her West Indies women playing the part of a cheerful trier who almost single handedly outplayed Australia. 

When Hayley became a storm that struck Oz

In the first of the three T20I series, with the game played at the North Sydney Oval, Hayley Matthews tore apart a Perry, Sutherland, McGrath, Gardner and Jonassen powered Aussie attack on way to a whirlwind 99 that came off just 74 deliveries. 

72 of her 99 runs came only by way of hits to the fence. However, victory remained elusive for the Windies. 

But she saved her best for the very next contest held at the same venue, a match that it must be argued, hardly garnered the massive headlines and media hype that it so deserved. 

Scoring a match winning, massive fireball of a T20I hundred, Matthews clobbered the Aussies on way to a 64-ball-132. 

A scorer who accelerates 

With 5 sixes and 20 boundaries, Matthews maximised pressure on the Aussies and carried the team rather inspiringly on her shoulders on way to a series-levelling victory. 

Anyone who adores Smriti Mandhana, is inspired by Harmanpreet Kaur and can’t do without Alyssa Healy, which is so understandable, would’ve sensed in Matthews’ batting the very purposefulness and power that each of these big names in bring to a contest. 

Even as it’s weird and perhaps unbecoming to compare women’s game with that of its male counterparts’, since the former doesn’t need any crutches on which to live, one can’t help but address a similarity between Hayley Matthews and Brian Lara. 

Both have often become a victim of their respective team’s bowling insufficiencies but refused to feel bogged down or let down. 

While Lara often attacked alone only to find his brilliance outdone by mediocre bowling of his teammates, Matthews, despite having someone like Karishma Ramharack, Chinelle Henry and Shamilia Connell, often finds ordinary bowling on the part of her team undoing all her batting brilliance. 

Which is precisely where her opponents, who arguably play more like a well-rounded and consistent unit, excel.  

The cost of often batting alone

To a team that often craves a sense of purpose and balance, there’s Hayley Matthews, the wicket taking, partnership-breaking tireless off spinner who adds a sense of nuance to the big hitting batter’s brand of cricket. 

With 185 international wickets to her name already, Matthews is fast rising as a prominent all round exponent in the great game of cricket. 

In here likes something rather telling and yet again, an attribute of Hayley Matthews’s cricketing genius that deserves greater recognition than given. 

We so often admire the Barbadian girl’s talent of hitting sixes at free will, but so rare is the talk about her bowling economy in a format that’s so much about the dominance of the willow over the white ball. 

In T20I cricket, Hayley Matthews boasts of an economy of well under 6 an over. 

At 5.87, her economy despite playing no fewer than 88 T20I’s is admirable. Envy inspiring in fact! 

And yet, there’s much talk with regard to her approaching 50 T20 international sixes and not her bowling economy and strike rate. 

For someone who’s all of 26 but has already collected 16 fifties in addition to 6 centuries in the game (both formats included), Hayley Matthews is all that’s correct about the West Indies women’s cricket at present. 

She represents power and panache and may yet seem a tad bit simpler than what you’d expected of a frontline attacking big T20 player whose name is today associated with premier leagues such as the WPL. 

Over 2000 of her white ball international runs have come only by way of boundaries. 

But there again, there are inadequacies in her current game such as the ability to read the away seam delivery or of playing handily versus spin where Hayley Matthews would feel she can improve. And must. 

For after all, to rally around Hayley Matthews- confident run getter, fire starter with the bat- means to rally around the West Indies. 

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Dev Tyagi
Dev Tyagi
Dravid believer, admirer of - the square drive, Drew Barrymore, Germany, Finland, Electric Mobility, simplicity and the power of the written word! Absolutely admire contributing to KyroSports

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