Mohammed hopes to have a “ball”
Mumbai, India – The girls in maroon will take to the field on Thursday as the ICC Women’s World Cup bowls off in Mumbai.
The West Indies have been described as a “dangerous” team, but the girls from the Caribbean see themselves as more than that. They believe they are serious title contenders and will be going all out to lift the cup when the final is played on February 17.
Since placing fifth in the tournament four years ago, the Windies have been the most improved team in the world – having played unbeaten to win the ICC World Cup qualifying tournament in 2011 and reaching the semi-finals of the ICC World T20 Champions in 2010 and again last year.
One of the main players in that rapid rise is Anisa Mohammed, the most experienced player in the team, who started back in 2003 at the tender age of 14. The off-spinner from Trinidad is one of the most successful players in women’s cricket history and the all-time leading wicket-taker for West Indies.
At first glance, there is little to suggest that there could be anything fearsome about Mohammed. Her lithe and bubbly exterior, not to mention the ever present smile, add to her affable disposition rather than give away even the slightest hint of her ability to evoke dread in an opponent.
There are few batswomen in the world, however, who would disagree with the notion that the spinner is indeed the wiliest exponent of her art going around presently in international women’s cricket today. She has the numbers to prove that tall claim too with 89 wickets – the highest for a West Indian – at an incredible average of 15.30 in 59 ODIs. In T20s, her stats read: 64 wickets in 49 matches at an average of 13 runs per wicket.
Despite still being at an age when most cricketers are just about getting their feet wet on the international stage, Mohammed has been part of the West Indian dressing-room for a long while, like she herself admits.
“This is my 11th year at this level. I’m no longer the baby of the side. In fact, I’m part of the very senior bunch now,” she told WICB Media.
The upcoming ICC Women’s World Cup will be Mohammed’s third overall, and apart from accepting her role as the team’s bowling lynchpin, she almost admits to feeling more confident than ever before regarding West Indies’ chances. Her first tournament was in 2005 in Pretoria, South Africa and she was also in the squad four years ago in New South Wales, Australia.
“We’re a far more experienced team this time around. We have beaten all the teams participating here, except Australia. I know we can win this World Cup. This is the first World Cup where I'm getting that feeling that we could go all the way,” explained Mohammed.
“We have a lot of experienced batters and, to be honest, most of the members of our team can bowl. Most of us are allrounders. I have a lot of responsibility, but a lot of the other bowlers too are stepping up. The team is playing well together. We have the belief in each other,” she added.
On Thursday, the West Indies take on hosts India at the historic Brabourne Stadium at the Cricket Club of India (CCI). The day/night match will be broadcast live on television. First ball is 2:30 pm (5 am Eastern Caribbean Time/4 am Jamaica Time).
And Mohammed, who played a crucial role in the West Indian girls’ ODI series triumph last year, is confident of continuing her good run against the Indians.
“India are playing at home, they have home advantage. [However] we have beaten them in the past here, as well as at home, and we are just going to come out and play at our best,” she insisted.
Mohammed also feels that with the likes of Deandra Dottin and Stefanie Taylor in the mix, there is no reason for the West Indies to be overawed by the prospect of facing defending champions England in the group stages either. And in conditions that will favour spin bowling, she believes the two teams will be on par when they face each other next week.
Having made her debut a decade ago, the youngster who hails from eastern Trinidad has hardly experienced a lean run. She proved her ability to run through batting line-ups back in November 2011 during the World Cup qualifiers, by recording figures of 7-14 – the third best ODI figures of all time – against Pakistan.
She has also made a habit of entering the record books and is the highest wicket-taker overall in international women’s T20s.
“My job in ODI cricket is to be economical because that way I'm helping my team add pressure on the opposition. The wickets simply follow,” she added.
She has also inspired a whole new generation of young spinners back in the Caribbean as well. The present West Indies squad in Mumbai have in the ranks a number of spinners in addition to Mohammed, be it allrounder Taylor, left-armer Shanel Daley or 17-year-old Shaquana Quintyne. Mohammed was also among the first recipients of the WICB’s move to award central retainer contracts to a select few women cricketers back in 2010.
“I do feel a lot more secure now. Knowing that we are playing more cricket now, it's very difficult to get jobs back home because you are on leave every other month. So whatever we get from the contract is great to pay our bills and adds to our security,” she said. “After 10-11 years, now I've started feeling like a professional cricketer,” she added.
Cricket has always played an integral role in the Mohammed household, with twin sister Alisa too having represented the Trinidad women’s senior team. But it was a chance visit to a nearby playground to pit her cricketing skills against the neighbourhood boys that opened the doors for young Anisa 11 years ago.
“It so happened that one of the national women's players was there at the ground and she invited me and my sister for the trials. Everything fell into place from there,” she recalled.
Mohammed’s decision to take up off-spin too involved a considerable case of serendipity. She started her career as a left-arm medium-pacer, but a freak injury forced her to make the shift.
Though the West Indian girls are yet to make the semi-finals of a 50-over World Cup, Mohammed still has fond memories about her maiden appearance on the grandest stage fondly. She revealed that the dramatic scenes following Darren Sammy’s team lifting the World T20 trophy in Sri Lanka last year are etched in memory, and she can’t wait to replicate the monumental successes achieved by her male counterparts.
“People at home are looking forward to this World Cup. The World T20 win has ensured that the entire Caribbean is more interested in West Indies cricket in general now,” Mohammed said.