The Barbados Chef de Mission for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has said representing the West Indies in the women's cricket tournament would be a "tremendous honour". 

Caribbean countries compete together as the West Indies on the international stage, but are only eligible to play separately in Birmingham.

In August, Cricket West Indies (CWI) said Barbados had been selected to represent the region after the 2021 CWI T20 Blaze competition, a qualifier for Birmingham 2022, was postponed due to COVID-19.

Barbados were picked after winning the 2020 event but Chef de Mission Cameron Burke said they were still awaiting official confirmation from the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

Cricket featured at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur but women, and the T20 format, will both debut in Birmingham where a men's event will not be held.

"That [representing the West Indies] is a tremendous honour," Burke, who has been Barbados Chef de Mission at every Commonwealth Games since 2006 and at five Olympics, told insidethegames.

"I remember in Malaysia they did have cricket and Barbados was there. 

"T20 cricket has really taken off and to be part of the initial introduction, with the cricket history of Barbados and the legacy we have, certainly we are excited to have our ladies represented.

"One of the good things about it, about seven or eight of the players have represented the West Indies team. 

"So that speaks volumes for the standard of our cricket here in Barbados.

The addition of cricket looks set to bolster the Barbados team at Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images
The addition of cricket looks set to bolster the Barbados team at Birmingham 2022 ©Getty Images

"I know we'd be up against Australia, England...but we'd still be very, very optimistic that they can hold their own and do well at the Games." 

Burke, a vice-president of the Barbados Olympic Association and retired meteorologist, who has an extensive hockey background, said the country is also hopeful of qualifying its netball team for Birmingham.

Barbados needs to place itself in the top 12 of the International Netball Federation world rankings and, in October 2021, sits 13th.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the opportunity to practice and play matches.

"My netball team right now is ranked 13th in the world," Burke said.

"Clearly we want to get that down under 12 so we can be included in the competition. 

"But they are not allowed to train, so how do we prepare the netball team to overcome that challenge?"

Barbados, who have been ever-present in netball at the Commonwealth Games, have been speaking to Scotland about playing a Test series there by the end of 2021, and could also train in Northern Ireland and Wales.

"The reason we are concentrating on netball is that it's the only standalone female team sport," said Burke.

"As it stands it's only in the Commonwealth Games, so it's important for us to have them there." 

In September, the country estimated potentially taking more than 100 people to Birmingham 2022 but Burke believes this number will fall.

"Historically we would take about 70 people to the Commonwealth Games," he said. 

"I expect we will be in that ball park but right now our team calculator is suggesting over 100. 

"Some sports still have to qualify, so some of those numbers would be expected to fall off."

Barbados will hope to be strong in athletics, while the island was buoyed by its squash performance at Gold Coast 2018 and would also like to qualify for Birmingham in rugby sevens.

The 2021 Junior Pan American Games in Cali in Colombia are seen as a chance for Birmingham 2022 team members to hone their skills, while Barbados is due to host the regional Commonwealth Games qualifier in weightlifting.

Twelve Commonwealth Games medals have been won by Barbados, including two golds, although the country drew a blank in Gold Coast.

Barbados are hoping their netball team will qualify for Birmingham 2022 but COVID-19 has hindered preparations ©Getty Images
Barbados are hoping their netball team will qualify for Birmingham 2022 but COVID-19 has hindered preparations ©Getty Images

"We are being a lot more strategic in ensuring that our teams are prepared," said Burke.

"We have had medal success at the Commonwealth Games and we'd like that to continue, and we are working strategically towards improving our medal count at the Games. 

"It won't happen overnight, it's like building a house. 

"You start with the foundations and you come up, then you get to the roof and then you paint it. 

"We are receiving a lot more funding from the local lottery."

Barbados will sever ties with Queen Elizabeth II and become a republic in November, but the shift to a President as head of state will have no impact on sport and the country will remain within the Commonwealth of Nations.

Burke said he had been left impressed by the work of Birmingham 2022 organsiers.

"Having heard that there would be no central Village, you ask yourself 'how is that going to work?,'" he said.

"Seeing exactly what they are doing and how they are going about doing it, lots of people are going to be very surprised at what Birmingham 2022 have achieved to make the Commonwealth Games a success. 

"And I think it will be a success, the facilities are fantastic and it certainly augurs well for good Games.

"In Birmingham it's 'we want the Games, we are looking forward to the Games'. 

"You can see the excitement is there."