ST JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – Stroke-maker Britney Cooper has been recalled for West Indies’ defence of their ICC Twenty20 Women’s World Cup title, in a 15-member squad announced yesterday.
The experienced right-hander has been joined by 23-year-old batsman Chinelle Henry who has returned following three years in the wilderness, while the uncapped off-spinner Sheneta Grimmond keeps her place in the squad after being called up for the just-concluded five-match series against South Africa.
Selectors have dropped left-arm pacer Qiana Joseph and uncapped slow medium Karishma Ramharack, both of whom were included for the South Africa series but did not feature.
As expected, the squad retains the core of the championship side from 2016, with former captain Merissa Aguilleira, Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews headlining the unit which will be led again by Stafanie Taylor.
Cooper, a key member of that World Cup-winning side, has been selected no doubt for her experience, that has seen her play 54 T20 Internationals since her debut nine years ago.
She endured a nightmare tour of New Zealand earlier this year with just 33 runs in five outings and was subsequently left out against South Africa.
But as she proved with a half-century against New Zealand in the semi-finals of the 2016 championship, she possesses the temperament in big matches and this could prove vital in the November 9-24 tournament scheduled for Guyana, St Lucia and Antigua.
Henry, meanwhile, played the last of her seven T20Is back in 2015, and boasts an unflattering record of just 29 runs from those matches.
Chief selector Courtney Browne believes both Cooper and Henry will be assets to the side.
“We welcome the return of Britney Cooper who was part of the 2016 winning World Cup squad and Chinelle Henry who is dynamic in the field and her all-round ability adds variety to the squad,” he said.
“The team is highly experienced and this should aid them in the defense of their World T20 title.”
West Indies will do battle in Group A alongside powerful England, South Africa, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka while Group B comprises 2016 losing finalists Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and minnows Ireland.
The hosts will raise the curtain on the tournament with a clash against Bangladesh and Taylor said defending the title on home soil would be a special occasion for her side.
“It will obviously be a great feeling to lead the team at home, but one has to also live up to expectations of being defending champions,” said the veteran batsman.
“We have a great squad with several potential match winners but we will have to be at our best in each and every match if we want to lift the trophy again.”
She added: “The announcement of the squad makes me realize that the tournament is almost upon us. The opposition squads are really impressive and this promises to be a highly competitive tournament. I really hope that Windies fans can come out and support us as we strive to defend our title on home soil.”
West Indies have been in constant preparation over the last 12 months, with several training camps to fine-tune players for the event.
In fact, they will enter their fourth training camp of the year shortly, which will be the final one before the start of the championship, and head coach Hendy Springer said it was critical players made the most of it.
“We want to create an environment that enables the players to continue their hard work on improving their skills and fitness, while providing real focus on the key roles of each player for us be successful,” he explained.
“We are aiming for consistency and we think with the work we have put in, the ladies will peak at the right time.”
West Indies play official warm-up matches against India on November 4 and New Zealand three days later, before opening their preliminary round campaign.
SQUAD – Stafanie Taylor (captain), Afy Fletcher, Anisa Mohammed, Britney Cooper, Chedean Nation, Chinelle Henry, Deandra Dottin, Hayley Matthews, Kycia Knight, Merissa Aguilleira, Natasha McLean, Shakera Selman, Shamilia Connell, Shemaine Campbelle, Sheneta Grimmond.