Buoyant and formidable West Indies stands in the way as Australia bids to win a fourth successive ICC World Women’s Twenty20 title when the final is played at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Sunday.
The has Southern Stars won all three finals it has featured in during the 2010, 2012 and 2014 editions, while the West Indies has made it to its first-ever title round after being knocked out in the semi-finals on the last three occasions.
Stafanie Taylor’s Caribbean stars have already assured themselves a place in history as the first team other than Australia, England and New Zealand to qualify for a women’s World T20 final.
If records alone mattered, Australia would be the overwhelming favorite to win on Sunday, having beaten the West Indies in all their eight previous T20 Internationals.
During a warm-up match in Chennai last month – the most recent meeting between the two –Australia cruised to a 43-run win by scoring 139 for three and then bowling the West Indies out for 96.
But Taylor’s side has shown enough resilience during the tournament to suggest it will not be a cakewalk for the world champion Southern Stars, who are led by the world’s leading batter Meg Lanning.
The fifth-ranked West Indies squeezed past Pakistan by four runs in its opening match before comfortably beating Bangladesh by 49 runs. It endured a heart-breaking last-ball, one-wicket loss to England before bouncing back to beat India by three runs to seal a place in the semi-finals.
It was in the semi-final against New Zealand in Mumbai on Thursday that the West Indies played its best cricket to secure a six-run win over a side that had emerged unscathed in the league.
The tall Britney Cooper, who was brought in for the semi-final, justified her selection with a 48-ball 61 that set up the West Indies win.
Skipper Taylor has proved an inspiration with both bat and ball, her 187 runs in the tournament – second only behind England captain Charlotte Edwards – coming on top of her eight wickets.
In Deandra Dottin, the West Indies has one of the most power-packed all-rounders in the women’s game who has scored 111 runs and claimed seven wickets.
“We are very much excited” said Taylor. “There will be nerves around, being out first final, but we have to embrace it, try to be calm and composed and just go there and fight for it.
“What I admire about the Aussies is that they are fearless. If they go down, they go down fighting. That is what I tell my girls. Go out there, play your natural game and be fearless.
“But we are not intimidated by them. They have won three titles, we have nothing to lose. We need to be positive and relaxed.”
Australia, meanwhile, has peaked at the right time after losing to New Zealand in the league and displayed its prowess with a five-run win over old foe England in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Lanning’s 55 off 50 balls against England showed the Australian captain had recovered from a stomach bug and will be expected to once again lead from the front at the Eden Gardens.
The West Indies will also be wary of medium-pacer Megan Schutt, who claimed two for 15 against England and is her side’s leading bowler with seven wickets.
Lanning, however, said three titles did not guarantee a fourth one, adding it will all depend on how the team played on Sunday.
“I have always said we are not here to defend the title, we are here to win the 2016 event,” the Australian captain said. “Tomorrow is a new day and we need to start from scratch. What has happened before does not matter.
“No doubt we love winning. We are a competitive side, but each tournament is different. This one can’t be compared to the previous three tournaments.
“The hunger in this side is as high and good as it has ever been. We can’t wait to get in there and play a tough game against the West Indies.
“Whatever happened in the past will not count for anything. The team that settles quickly and gets into the rhythm of the game will do well.”
Lanning said the entire team was “excited” about playing the final at the iconic Eden Gardens.
“It’s a big occasion, no doubt about that,” she said. “These are the days we train for and play for. We are very excited to play a World Cup final at such a famous ground. It does not get bigger than this.”
Teams (to be selected from):
AUSTRALIA – Meg Lanning (capt.); Kristen Beams; Alex Blackwell; Nicola Carey, Lauren Cheatle; Sarah Coyte; Rene Farrell; Holly Ferling; Alyssa Healy; Jess Jonassen; Beth Mooney; Erin Osborne; Ellyse Perry; Megan Schutt and Elyse Villani.
Coach – Matthew Mott
WEST INDIES – Stafanie Taylor (capt.); Merissa Aguilleira; Shemaine Campbelle; Shamilia Connell; Britney Cooper; Deandra Dottin; Afy Fletcher; Stacy-Ann King; Kyshona Knight; Kycia Knight; Hayley Matthews; Anisa Mohammed; Shaquana Quintyne; Shakera Selman and Tremayne Smartt.
Coach – Vasbert Drakes