The second T20I in St Kitts. Andrew Balbirnie contrives only to send his attempted slog off Romario Shepherd skywards. The sure-handed Dwayne John Bravo settles under it. The overly excited 25-year-old gets in the way. The chance goes a-begging. The Ireland skipper benefits from an early reprieve.
Bravo’s bemused expression bespeaks a mixture of disbelief and disappointment. Shepherd is, well, sheepish. And, as we are about to discover, determined to make amends.
Next over, Balbirnie miscues another attempted slog. On the cover boundary, the 6’3” Shepherd, a late call-up for the T20 series, races to his right and atones with a spectacular, low-diving catch.
The first to embrace him is DJB. Daiz wha we talking bout!
Whether it’s 23-year-old Shimron Hetmyer pouching Kevin O’Brien at mid-wicket or 21-year-old Keemo Paul snaffling a skier at long-off, Bravo is almost always among the first with the congratulations.
Remember: the confidence and whatever else it takes to enable them to step into our shoes tomorrow.
Three overs into last week Sunday’s final T20I, Pollard has ball in hand. Ireland’s openers have already posted 48. Sheldon Cottrell’s first two overs have cost eight and 21 respectively. At the Lozack Road end, Shepherd has shipped 27 from over #2.
At the end of over #4, the score is just 52 for 1. Pollard summons Bravo for over #5 and, after Shepherd concedes another 12 from #7, for #9 as well. When that ends, the score is 88 for 4. DJB has claimed 1/15 in two. The skipper’s four straight from Shepherd’s end yield figures of 3/17. Slowed, Ireland manage a paltry 138.
Supported by opening partner Evin Lewis, 28 last month, Lendl Simmons, just turned 35, races to a punishing 90-odd to put the game to bed after some 12 overs.
Consistent message: where we lead, they follow so that they can step into our shoes tomorrow….
To end, lend an ear to this West Indies all-rounder:
“I enjoy this more because when I bowl middle overs, it’s all about containing and I get to use my variations.
“Bowling at the death, I can show my slower balls and bouncers. I enjoy bowling at the death more than anything else. To have that confidence of bowling in the hardest part of the innings is a good asset.”
Sounds like DJB speaking, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s Nyeem Young, a teenaged Barbadian currently representing the Kimani Melius-led West Indies in the ICC Under19 World Cup in South Africa. He was adjudged Player-of-the-Match in the first two West Indies games. Worryingly, the story, attributed to Sreshth Shah in Bloemfontein, says that “Nyeem considers himself to be in the Ben Stokes mould. The higher the pressure, the more he thrives.”
Ben Stokes? Whatever happened to Dwayne Bravo? Or are West Indian players, particularly those who were for years unjustly banished to the periphery, not to be seen as proper role models?
“His grandfather was a bit of a cricket nerd,” says the story, “and Young grew up watching all kinds of cricket games on television at his house.”
A few WI fathers were present to see WI whip both Australia (by 3 wkts)—a first for a West Indies Under19 team—and then England (by 71 runs). Young’s dad, it is worth noting, was not among them.
Melius’ young men went on to dismiss Nigeria for only 57 to take full points from Group B in the round robin phase. In today’s Super League quarter-finals against the Kiwis, however, they had their noses in front for a lot of the race but they couldn’t quite get over the line. semi-final next week awaiting the winner.
Perhaps a place in the final would still be beckoning if…
Young was not the only one to catch the eye. Noteworthy contributions also came from Matthew Forde (3/24 and a steady 23 off 50 balls vs Australia and then five catches, including one off his own bowling, vs the English), Matthew Patrick (68 and 2/16 vs Nigeria) and off-spinner Ashmead Nedd (5.4-3-11-3 vs Nigeria and 10-2-35-2 vs England).
Kirk McKenzie, who drove the final nail in Australia’s coffin with that effortless drive over extra-cover, did enough in that game to hint at the “Chris-Gayle like power,” as one commentator put it, we saw today. It was cramp more than the New Zealanders that denied him a well-deserved century
And after his 8-0-49-4—and a run-out!—against Australia, Jayden Seales contributed a parsimonious spell of ten overs for 21 runs against England. His subsequent devastation of the albeit unheralded Nigeria top order must have raised hopes that there’s another Alzarri Joseph already waiting in the West Indian wings and more third generation fire to come from Babylon.
But such fire needs to be stoked. In my view, a cricketing big brother or father figure to walk with Melius down the previously untravelled road of a knockout round might just have been what was missing.
Listen once more to Young, discussing a time when “(i)t appeared to him that the transition into the Under-19s would not be possible but an arm around his shoulder changed everything.
“I was a bit down (…) because I couldn’t believe my form could drop so significantly within 12 months. I felt depressed (…).
“That’s when Corey Collymore, my coach back then, came to my rescue. He had trust in me and calmed my anxiety by telling me that he believed in my potential.”
I think thoughtful, tactful talk, particularly from those who have trodden on that terrain before, tends to make testing times less tough to traverse.
Talent is not the WI problem; it is temperament, the capacity for being patient enough to take the time needed to let the talent shine through.
Ask Young about Collymore; to the wise, an opportune word is enough. The young often need an example.
Or an exemplar. Ask Pollard. Or Bravo.
On TV, the avuncular double-ICC-title-winning skipper Darren Sammy, already 36, has done more than hint that he is not yet prepared to accept a non-playing role, fraternal or paternal.
What say you, Chris ‘Universe Boss’ Gayle, veteran of multiple World Cups?
Are you listening, CWI?