In an unprecedented move, the West Indies Cricket board (WICB) has awarded central retainer contracts to six of its women cricketers for the period October 2010 to September 2011.
"The board of directors took a decision that the WICB must commit to ensuring that our women players have a level of personal security which will assist as they continue their climb to the top of world cricket," said Ernest Hilaire, WICB CEO. "This is an exciting period of revitalisation of women's cricket and we see the awarding of central retainer contracts to these six outstanding players as another positive step in the development of West Indies women's cricket."
Allrounder Stafanie Taylor and Deandra Dottin, who was the first woman to score an international Twenty20 hundred, have been awarded Grade A contracts. West Indies captain Merissa Aguilleira, offspinner Anisa Mohammed, and allrounders Stacy-Ann King and Shanel Daley have been awarded Grade B contracts.
"The granting of these six retainer contracts represents a start and we are hoping to expand the programme in coming years. This is a tangible commitment to the players that the WICB is very serious about women's cricket and its development in the region," added Hilaire. "We have re-activated the women's cricket programme in a serious way and we have been working steadily to ensure that our women's team play more cricket on international tours.
"The players have repaid the investment of the WICB thus far by showing that they are determined and committed to realising their goal of making the West Indies women's team the best in the world," Hilaire said.
West Indies have enjoyed a successful run in recent times - they won the inaugural ICC Women's Challenge Twenty20 tournament and finished runners-up in the 50-over format in South Africa in October. Their next campaign is a tour of India in January where they play five ODIs and three Twenty20s.
Speaking on Wednesday Aguilleira, Dottin and Taylor expressed their excitement at the contracts. "It was a great birthday gift for me," said Aguillera, who is captain of the national side and received the news of her central retainer on her 25th birthday. "When I got the news I was on my way to training and I was very happy. I went to the training field thinking I now have to dig deeper and deliver even more for the team.
"I can now dedicate even more time to training and there is less stress about financial worries," she added. "This is a major step forward for women's cricket in the West Indies and a major investment in the development of the young females across the Caribbean. It is also a major step forward for women's cricket on the world stage."
"It is great to see the WICB is looking out for the girls," added the 19 year-old Dottin, who is a multi-talented sportswoman, having represented Barbados at cricket, football and athletics. "We work so hard and we are pleased with this show of support. On behalf of everyone I would like to say thanks for looking out for us. I promise we will continue to do West Indies proud."
"This is a major step and I'm really excited," agreed Taylor, who is in the top 10 batters and top five allrounders in women's ODIs and was nominated for the ICC Women's Cricketer of the Year award earlier this year. "Before I didn't have a job, I was going to school, so this is my first profession, as a cricketer. The work has now started.
"I have to work doubly hard as I did before and look to bring greater reward to West Indies cricket. A lot will be expected of us as players on and off the field and I have to lead by example. As players we have been working hard and now we have to double up and lift West Indies cricket closer to the top."