The number of times cricketing pundits, self-labeled experts prevailing on social media, nostalgic fans, and the unabashedly hopefuls have said world cricket needs a strong West Indies side is perhaps equal to the number of stars in the galaxy.
Though, it comes from a space of hope and is backed by reason.
The West Indies are a team, regardless of the men’s or women’s game, that bring boundless entertainment to all. Few teams, over the years, have been as admired as they’ve been loved.
Back in the Seventies, they were the lot that was feared. In the eighties, where their attacking prowess didn’t diminish one bit, they were seen as world-beaters. The Nineties gave birth to an era of flair and ebullience amid the sinking in of a harsh reality that some of that unbeatable power was declining.
Then came the downward spiral starting the late nineties, a truth that became bitter with the arrival of the 2000s.
Today, with the past few years having birthed one talent after another, the attention from bashing the once-mighty team has turned to being excited about a huge turnaround in Caribbean cricket, which seems possible given players like Nicholas Pooran, Shamilia Connell, Shai Hope, Chinelle Henry, Shimron Hetmyer, Hayley Matthews are around.
A fresh narrative, it’s not hard to see, is being woven-and rightly so- around a team that’s showing spurts of brilliance and unparalleled talent, albeit marred by inconsistency.
Though, in an era where fitness, excellence, adaptability to different formats are all equally important, are these the only names that fill the Caribbean hearts with gladness that a turnaround is expected?
Truth be told, in Cherry-Ann Fraser, who just turned 22, the Windies Women’s side have found amid their ranks a massively-talented fast bowler who has both keenness to go the long distance and importantly, a desire to learn from those around her.
In this age of DIY (do it yourself) videos, where you can instantly become a cricketing guru- or so some think- there are a few who take time out to ‘listen’. Even fewer, who have the willingness to go out of their way to hear and talk selectively. Exactly a year and a half back, when asked (Windies Cricket video) what’s the one thing she looks up to from within the Windies Women’s camp, the charming fast bowler exclaimed, “How to improve on being a better fast bowler and working on areas to work on my all-round game.”
And one reckons, that’s exactly what one needs, especially in the Windies women’s side.
This is a closely-knit unit, marked by unity, a definitive factor of the side, as well as amazing spin talent.
Perhaps many would’ve noted, perhaps many wouldn’t have that between themselves, the trio of Afy Fletcher, Stafanie Taylor, and Anisa Mohammed, there’s a collection of 633 wickets.
Read that again. 633 international wickets (including T20Is, ODIs).
But where the fast-bowling cauldron is concerned, then together the trinity of Shakera Salman, Chinelle Henry and Shamilia Connell have 187 international wickets.
It isn’t about dearth of talent, but about the addition of more.
A brand new face that can fit in and deliver the goods that can lend more firepower to a key strength of the team, which happens to be bowling.
For the batting has looked as good as it’s ever been with Stafanie Taylor being in top form, Hayley Matthews having recently fired her second ODI ton, with the dangerous Deandra Dottin (2 T20I centuries) already in the line-up.
A more stronger bowling attack can place the Windies Women on a pedestal of reckoning that can give them the added strength to make lightwork of ruthless opponents, like England, Australia and the Proteas.
And while the spinners have been the ones providing important breakthroughs, the hugely-talented (plus experienced) and keen-to-succeed duo of Selman and Connell, it appears, will find more potent strength should they combine powers with Cherry-Ann Fraser.
She was all of ten when she took to Cricket and would soon go on to prove her mettle in her teen years when taking a 3 for 9 against the Windward Islands side, Cherry-Ann Fraser made headlines around the Caribbean.
A fun character blessed with a beautiful smile and the willingness to work hard, this agile athlete, who stands among the tallest in the Women’s game, is on the cusp of starting her international career, having represented the Maroon power in just one T20 international, during the tour to England prior to the COVID-pandemic.
Though, a call up to the Women’s T20, 2020 World Cup was her first assignment for the country.
All of this suggests that with age and fitness both on her side, Cherry-Ann Fraser, who represented the St Agnes Primary School back in the day, is here for the long run.
Due to the massive competition the sport experiences where we are seeing the likes of Fawad Alam debuting well past the thirties, where the likes of Fidel Edwards, now 39, making a comeback, the world’s an oyster for the 22-year-old West Indian.
A seasoned Guyanese player, Cherry-Ann Fraser was a dominant talent at the Under-19 level and ever since her ascendence into the senior level, has shown tremendous potential.
In the days to follow, what should help her cement her place in a side that features smiling faces and ecstatic performances, would be being mentored by none other than Courtney Walsh, an all-time fast bowling legend.
Someone who regards the roots and the days leading up to climb up to the senior level, Cherry-Ann Fraser regards the support Guyanese Cricket Board extended when in 2018, they facilitated the Under-19 talents to play against the senior females.
That early burst of exposure filled her with hope and an immensity of opportunity to showcase her skill- the genuine love for fast bowling.
For someone who admires the Universe Boss Chris Gayle and seeks inspiration from Suzie Bates, with whom she’s yet to compete at the international level, the future holds bright promise for the girl who’s even played against the menfolk all thanks to her association with a team called Eco Champs.
An easy-going, lively person, the West Indians would think of it as their fortune that the girl who excels just as well in Volleyball, took to Cricket where she’s now expected to don the roll of a prominent fast bowler who must aim at the stumps and disturb them.
And that’s precisely what the smiling force behind the tidy run up and hit-the-deck-hard medium pacer will do for there there’s little doubting the potential of one of Guyana’s best exports to the national side.
In fact, it’s hardly ironic that sweet like her name, Cherry-Ann Fraser, who’ll hopefully make headlines around the globe for her bowling prowess, hails from Demerara, the place of sugar and sweetness. May the challenges that confront her yield sweet and memorable results for the times to come.