Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha
A new variation to unleash on the opposition and four wickets to add to her tally during the four-ODI tour of South Africa.
These, along with helping West Indies fine-tune their preparations ahead of the ODI World Cup in March-April, are on the checklist of their premier offspinner Anisa Mohammed as she heads into the bilateral series next week, four wickets shy of becoming the first West Indies women's player to 300 wickets in international cricket.
"I'm currently working on a new variation," Mohammed, the leading ODI wicket-taker of 2021 and the all-time highest wicket-taker in T20Is, said in a virtual press conference from Johannesburg. "Hopefully, I'll be able to use that in this upcoming series against South Africa, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to execute and get a positive result from that."
Behind only India's Jhulan Goswami, England's Katherine Brunt, and Australia's Ellyse Perry, Mohammed, who has 171 wickets in ODIs and 125 wickets in T20Is, is hopeful the series against South Africa starting on January 28 at the Wanderers propels her to the distinction of the first spinner to reach the 300-wicket mark in the women's international game.
"This would be a huge milestone for me. I'd really like to get it in this series and not have to wait for the World Cup," Mohammed said. "That's something that I've been looking forward to for quite some time. I've been working on my game and I really hope that I'm able to pick up just four [wickets]. I'm just telling myself, 'Four wickets - I have four matches to get four wickets,' so I'm really excited."
A veteran of four ODI World Cups and West Indies' most-capped player, Mohammed, 33, is mindful of the responsibility her experience and heft of personal achievements in a career spanning nearly 19 years bring with them, especially with the 50-over World Cup in New Zealand around the corner.
"I'm one of the senior players on the team. This is my fifth ODI World Cup. And I've said to some of the younger players, 'Playing in a World Cup the atmosphere is different and you have to keep a level head.' I think having played four World Cups - this will be my fifth one - I have to step up as the one of the senior players on the team and try to perform and while I do that, try to keep the younger players calm and help them to be able to go out there and execute as well."
Named in the ICC Women's ODI Team of the Year and the ESPNcricinfo Women's Team of the Year for 2021 recently, Mohammed gave little away on whether the upcoming world event could be her swansong - "I'm not going to put a timeline on my career" - but admitted she was cognizant of the phase she has entered in her career.
"It's a great feeling to be named in the ICC ODI Team of the Year last year," Mohammed said. "And that's definitely inspiration to go forward and try to make it into this year's team as well. To be honest, I'm just trying to enjoy my cricket. As you know, I'm coming to the latter part of my career, so I've been trying to enjoy whatever is left of my career.
"I'll be 34 this year. I don't know how long I have, but I just really want to make sure that when I leave cricket or when I retire, I have a good memory of West Indies cricket and representing West Indies."
West Indies were not among the five teams to earn direct qualification to the ODI World Cup but made the cut based on rankings in the wake of the pandemic-enforced cancellation of the global qualifier. They will fancy their chances against South Africa, who will be missing their designated captain and premier legspin-bowling allrounder Dane van Niekerk through an injury.
"That's a big blow for South Africa. And it's never nice when you have an injury," Mohammed said. "But if you're looking at winning and losing, I think that's an advantage for us because, as we know, she's a key player for the South Africa team, not just in her batting and bowling but also her leadership qualities. And I think that we have to take full advantage of that - of her not being here. But having said that, I would like to wish her a speedy recovery."
Mohammed, for her part, will spearhead an attack bolstered by the addition of the experienced legspinner Afy Fletcher in their 18-member squad.
"We're really excited for Afy. It's nice having her back," Mohammed said of Fletcher, who is returning from a maternity break, having last played for West Indies in September 2020. "Unfortunately, she could not bring the baby with her. We would have liked to have a baby on tour, like the other teams, but she calls her baby every day and chat with him online. So it's nice having a baby around and having some fun with him as well."