Merissa Aguilleira: The Queen Of Caribbean Cricket
  The Paradise Sportsman
FEATURES
January 2015

When one thinks of the West Indies team, the male cricketers are the ones who get all the attention. However, one cannot leave out the ladies who have been quite successful on the field of play.

The side is led by the inspirational Merissa Aguilleira who hails from the village of Moruga, which is located in the southern part of Trinidad. For the 29-year-old, it has not always been an easy ride since the team has had both the good days and the bad ones.

Speaking of which, the Caribbean women would want to obliterate from their memories the 8-0 thrashing they received from Australia in both the ODIs and T20s (4-0 in each format) during the latter part of 2014. However, Aguilleira believes there were several good things that came out of the tour ‘Down Under’.

Merissa Aguilleira leads the West Indies Women’s team off the field

 (Photo courtesy WICB Media)

 

“It was really difficult for us but it was a great experience. It was the first time that most of the players went to Australia since only six of us were there before,” said the wicket-keeper/batter. “It was an education for us against Australia since their system is more advanced and they are structured. We proved to be competitive in some of the games despite losing.”

Merissa the batswoman

 (Photo courtesy WICB Media) 

Because of Aguilleira’s positive outlook on life, she wants to achieve what the senior West Indies men’s team accomplished under the astute Clive Lloyd in 1975 and 1979. 

“So far, my best moment with the West Indies was winning the (ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier) four-nation tournament in 2011 in Bangladesh. We had to play Pakistan, Bangladesh and South Africa. My other most memorable moment was when we played in the 50-over World Cup final against Australia (which the Windies lost in 2013). But now I badly want to do something special. I really want to win a World Cup and also make my first century with the bat.”

 

 

(Photo courtesy WICB Media)

Aguilleira had a penchant for the sport at an early age and played windball cricket at Moruga Composite School, which gave her a head start to take it up a notch. Added to that, she was given the opportunity to be a scorer when her uncles were playing matches in the community.

“I started off playing hard ball cricket in 2002 with the Trinidad and Tobago Under-23s.  It was really difficult for me to be committed since I lived very far away from where the training sessions took place in Barataria. But somehow I managed to make it work because of my discipline and dedication. That’s how I made the Under-23 team.”

When Aguilleira was selected on the Trinidad and Tobago senior squad in 2005, never in her life had she kept wicket before. So how did she end up doing the job behind the stumps?

Top and bottom: Merissa in action behind the stumps

(Photos courtesy WICB Media)

“My coach Winston Trumpet told me that in order to make the team, I must have a backup and not solely focus on batting. I went to a trial game, put on the gloves for the first time and surprised myself by doing a good job. After that I became the second keeper to Stephanie Power until she retired.”

In the year 2007, Aguilleira became the first choice keeper as well as the captain of Trinidad and Tobago. She says captaincy did her a world of good, making her a better person and understanding people much better.

Many would get the impression that Aguilleira was a tomboy because of her involvement in cricket as a child. In fact, as her story began to unfold, one could have sworn that such was the case until she made mention of one of her favourite hobbies which dispelled that notion.

“I used to pitch marbles like guys would do. I even played football growing up and got called up to the Trinidad and Tobago Under-19 team but declined because of my love for cricket. But I did a lot of girl stuff too and took part in beauty pageants. I came first in a school competition, but outside of school I placed second or third in other pageants.”

As far as her present game is concerned, Aguilleira is working hard at improving her batting averages (which at present stand at 18.40 in One Day Internationals and 11.88 in T20 Internationals). She also hopes to soon completely overcome a toe injury which she has been carrying for the past three years. 

Not everything in life is cricket since there are of course other things that individuals treasure. Such is also the case with the affable young lady who, after being away on many a tour, cherishes reuniting with her loved ones who fully support the fact that she has chosen cricket as a career.

Merissa (second from right) with her dad and three of her sisters

“My main form of enjoyment is spending time with my parents and (four) sisters and (two) brothers. We sit down and chat a lot. One of my sisters sings and sometimes I join her but I don’t sing too well,” she said with a chuckle. “We also engage in prayer meetings as a family to spend time with God. One of my brothers is a pastor.”

Some of her time is also spent fulfilling her role as Sports Ambassador for Atlantic LNG.

Whether or not she’s single is a matter of conjecture (based on how she describes her relationship with West Indies left-arm medium-pacer Krishmar Santokie, who hails from Jamaica).

Merissa with her mom

“I am not engaged or anything like that. I have been good friends with Krishmar for about a year and five months. Plus it’s tough meeting each other often because we live in different countries. Sometimes we see each other when we have cricket engagements. During the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) I was with him supporting him all the way when he played with the (Guyana) Amazon Warriors.”

Even though Santokie is not a regular member of the West Indies side, Agulleira often provides words of encouragement to the Jamaican so that he could one day become part and parcel of the team.

“He is very humble and has a never-say-die attitude.  I have been his motivator because I know he has the potential to get there. He will bounce back,” she said with conviction.

Hopefully the Windies women too can bounce back following the debacle 'Down Under' and bring back the winning smiles that have gone missing. With Merissa Aguilleira at the forefront, don’t bet against it!

Paradise Pulse wishes to thank WICB Media for the use of some of the images for this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By: The Paradise Sportsman | FEATURES | January 2015


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