It didn’t take Hayley Matthews long to get the feel for a cricket bat.
Born and raised in Barbados – home to some of the greatest cricketers of all time, including Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Frank Worrell, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner, and Malcolm Marshall – Matthews recalls first picking up a bat aged seven.
She’d never look back.
“My Dad was always outside playing with my brother so I started joining in,” 17-year-old Matthews tells Sportette.
“He [Hayley’s father] put me in a club with boys when I was seven and straight away, I started getting into it.”
Her remarkable rise to the top of West Indies cricket began just two years later when she was selected to represent her home island, despite a relative lack of experience.
“I actually made my Barbados Under-19s debut when I was nine, and later I was selected for the senior team when I turned 12,” she says.
“It was a bit intimidating, being the youngest by far, but it was also great experience for me. I was always very confident, I guess.”
It was that kind of swagger that also led Matthews to sporting success away from the pitch.
“I actually made my Barbados Under-19s debut when I was nine, and later I was selected for the senior team when I turned 12”
An accomplished javelin thrower, she has represented Barbados at the CARIFTA [Caribbean Free Trade Association] Games – the region’s premier athletics event.
“My first two years competing, I won silver, while this year I actually won gold,” Hayley says.
“I also went to the CAC [Central American and Caribbean] Games last year in Mexico and won bronze. Athletics was something I did on the side. I really did like doing it, but cricket has always been my love.”
A hard-hitting right-hand batter, and handy off-break bowler, Matthews burst onto the international scene at 16, debuting for the West Indies in a T20 against New Zealand in September 2014.
Her One-Day International bow would come two months later in a devastating tour of Australia.
In four games against the Southern Stars, she plundered 241 runs – including three half centuries, and a top score of 89 – at the impressive average of 60.25.
It was raw talent the Hobart Hurricanes spotted a mile away, swiftly signing the Caribbean sensation for this season’s inaugural rebel WBBL.
“I’m excited to be in it [WBBL]. It’s a really big step forward for women’s cricket,”
“The fans back home really love the Caribbean Premier League and T20 cricket – it’s what people in the West Indies are really leaning towards now.”
Matthews, whose cricketing idol is compatriot and fellow Hurricanes signing Darren Sammy, believes Australia’s T20 league is the ideal proving ground for aspiring players to develop into international cricketers.
“The level of cricket is very close to international standard. I’ve seen so many players down here that don’t even play for Australia but are really, really good – the level of domestic cricket has really impressed me,”
And while Matthews sees T20 as the ideal vehicle to grow the game, she hopes administrators will place the same emphasis on all formats – particular Test cricket.
Matthews admits she has a burning desire to represent her nation in Tests.
It’s been 11 years since the West Indies last played a Test match – a one-off game against Pakistan in 2004.
Prior to that, West Indian women last featured in 1979, playing a three-match series away to England.
“Going forward, I don’t think women will only specialise in T20 cricket,”
“T20 is obviously the easiest form of competition because it’s the shortest to play, but I’d like to be involved in all formats of the game, especially if the West Indies decide to start playing Test cricket again.”
Hobart Hurricanes play the Brisbane Heat at Blundstone Arena Friday 1st January 2.40pm all the action live on OneHD