Courtney Walsh knows that time is running out ahead of West Indies Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign, but he is hoping to squeeze in a subcontinental tour beforehand to help his team prepare.
Walsh, who took over as head coach immediately after West Indies’ 5-0 T20I series defeat in England last September, has revealed talks are underway to try and organise a series in Bangladesh or India before the qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka in July, where the top three teams will go through to next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
“We haven’t got a lot of time on our hands,” Walsh said via Zoom. “The qualifiers are, right now, the main item on the agenda. We have to go to the qualifiers ready and we need to do whatever we can. We are hoping to go and play a tour. Possibility could be Bangladesh, possibility could be India. Nothing is confirmed as yet but there’s talks and Bangladesh has indicated that they’re interested.
“We are very, very hopeful that we can get a tour, preferably on the subcontinent as the qualifiers are going to be in Sri Lanka, which will be ideal for us. Once we get confirmation of that, then we can fix our camp and everything to suit because obviously going out to play competitive cricket, I view that as priority. Before the qualifiers I’m hoping that we can get that done. If you don’t get a tour then we’re going to have to have a camp.”
A squad of 24 players entered a three-week training camp in Antigua on Sunday. It was one of the first things Walsh said he wanted to do when he was appointed and it has been a logistical feat to create a biosecure bubble involving participants from around the Caribbean amid strict Covid-19 prevention protocols.
A key focus has been fitness, along with bringing a number of uncapped youngsters into the system to press for places in the first team.
Since being crowned T20 World Cup champions in 2016, West Indies have slipped to sixth in the ICC world rankings in both white-ball formats, a fact Walsh is acutely aware of and determined to turn around.
“A lot of work is going to be required to get us back to where we can be,” he said. “In terms of ability and talent, we have it. But our work ethic has to step up, our fitness level has to step up, so we have to look all around. Our entire approach to the game has to be changed because everybody has gone a leap above us so we have got to now play catch up.
“This camp is setting the tone, not just for the World Cup qualifiers, but for the next two to three years of West Indies cricket. We will be very honest with each other, we’ll be open, we’ll look at the facts and the figures, the stats and data don’t lie. Then we’ll have a look at that and discuss it and decide how we’re going to tackle it.
“We have actually started one aspect of it already, and that is the fitness. Everybody knows that the team’s fitness levels are a little bit questionable. We’re putting measures in place to ensure that there’s a certain level of consistency as far as the fitness is concerned, so once you’re fit and ready to play then we can work on the skills after.”
Walsh said the senior players within the squad had welcomed the younger ones into the camp and he was hoping to draft a few more into the West Indies set-up, some as young as 14 and 16 years old, if not during the current camp, in the near future.
A key feature of West Indies’ most recent international performance in England was their over-reliance on just a couple of experienced stars, namely captain Stafanie Taylor and allrounder Deandra Dottin, who is still making her way back from a serious shoulder injury that required surgery 18 months ago. Walsh was pleased with Dottin’s progress since managing to bowl just eight overs in the entire series against England, taking two wickets.
“Deandra is getting there, she is back to close to regular fitness,” he said. “I would like to have her fully fit for the qualifiers, bowling back to normal. So that’s one of the things we’re looking at but in terms of her batting and fielding she’s a lot better.
“She’s ready and she’s eager to play, which is very, very good, so once we tailor her workload from this camp I want to give her a three-month plan to get ready to bowl. She’s in a good space, she’s working, she’s always a hard worker. I said to her, if we have her bowling the way she can for the qualifiers that, will give us a big boost, so we’re working at that.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo