Merissa Aguilleira, the woman who led the Windies out of the doldrums

By Ricardo Chambers June 24, 2020
Merissa Aguilleira Merissa Aguilleira

Merissa Aguilleira made her international debut for the West Indies in 2008 at the age of 22.

This was a time when the West Indies women had no real international pedigree.

Outside of a few names like Nadine George, the only West Indies female player to score a Test century, women’s cricket in the Caribbean was at best struggling for recognition.

The West Indies women played in 12 Tests between 1976 and 2004. The only women who play Test cricket today are Australia and England who still participate in the Women’s Ashes.

The Trinidadian had an inauspicious start to her career, run out for a duck in her first innings against the Netherlands in Utrecht.

She did, however, take two catches behind the stumps as the regional side won the match comfortably.

Ironically, regular captain, George had been forced to sit out that match due to injury and Jamaican Chadean Nation took charge.

By the time the 2009 World Cup came around in March, the St Lucian George had retired at 40 years old.

It meant a permanent captain had to be selected and although a newcomer to the side, the leadership qualities of Aguilleira could not be ignored.

She was already captain of Trinidad and Tobago and her mature demeanour, passion for the game and motivational skills made her a suitable, even if not obvious, candidate for the job.

At the time, she had played just 15 ODIs and by the time she made her T20 international debut against South Africa in June 2009, she was captain in both formats.

Her first major assignment was the 2009 50-over World Cup.

West Indies finished 6th, one place lower than they did four years earlier but the experience would prove invaluable for Merissa and her largely young team.

Under her leadership, the Caribbean women grew and improved.

She took them to the final of the 2013 50-over World Cup.

It was a monumental achievement even with a heavy defeat to Australia in the final.

Around that she led the team to three World T20 semi-finals; 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Aguilleira was never the best player in the West Indies side but she held her own with the bat scoring 1752 ODI runs at an average of 20.61 and 768 T20 runs at 14.49.

She never scored an international century, but in her substantive role as a wicketkeeper she racked up an impressive resume.

Her 70 dismissals from 95 T20 internationals ranks her 4th best of all-time. She is 5th best in the 50-over game with 102 dismissals from 112 matches.

In the shortest format, she has the second most matches as captain (73) and the 5th most in ODIs (74)

She sits top of the tree for most matches as a wicketkeeper-captain, 71 in ODIs and 65 in T20Is.

Her 78 wins from 147 international matches as captain ranks her 7th all-time and by far the best by a West Indian.

West Indies women cricket is stronger because of the role Aguilleira played in leading them from being an unknown quantity to regular tournament contenders.

And even though she had been stripped of the captaincy when the West Indies won the 2016 ICC Women’s T20, a solid foundation had been set for Stafanie Taylor to follow through.

Now with Aguilleira retired and West Indies women’s cricket floundering, another Aguilleira-like figure is needed to motivate a return to the pinnacle.

Stafanie has her work cut out but maybe there is a role for Merissa within the set-up, this time, calling the shots from the dressing room.

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