Looking out for future greats
August 3, 2003
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Though the current crop of young West Indies Testies all made relatively quick transitions from the junior tournament to the burgundy cap, none was as dramatic as Taylor’s.
At the end of the 2002 Under-19 Tournament in Jamaica, if cricket fans were asked to select one fast bowler who they thought would have gone on to play for the West Indies in 2003, Ravi Rampaul would have undoubtedly won hands down. Rampaul was the quintessence of devastation amidst his awe struck colleagues.
Ironically, it was against Rampaul’s Trinidad in the senior regional tournament that the previously unknown Jamaican school boy named Taylor shot to prominence. During one impressive burst of fast bowling at the Queen’s Park Oval, Taylor with 8 for 59, bushwhacked the Trinidadians into a heap.
The story is often told of how Daren Ganga left one outside the off stump that seemed rather unthreatening. When his furniture was sent cart-wheeling, eyewitnesses said it was as if Michael Holding was once again in his early twenties. The end result of it all is that Taylor now has two Test caps and a guaranteed place on the next West Indies overseas assignment.
This is the message that all the Under-19 players from the Caribbean territories will want to repeat to themselves throughout the tournament.
If they produce the goods, show discipline and a willingness to work hard, it is not unimaginable for them to be the next man smiling in a white West Indies Test shirt.
The Under-19 tournament is where the development arm of the West Indies Cricket Board is particularly keen on identifying those talents who can excite us at the international level in years to come.
The young batsmen would be best advised to buckle down and bat long. The bowlers should bend their backs and persevere on a stingy line. There is no harm in trying an unconventional tactic infrequently but it must not be overused to the detriment of the team’s game plan or indeed to the downfall of the cricketer himself.
In addition, to the eyes of the WICB development folks, the fanatic fans will take note of those who bulk on the runs and those who chalk up the wickets.
They will be keen on spotting a young, exciting spinner that the senior team so desperately needs. Despite the continued inclusion of Omari Banks the West Indies can do with a spinner of worth to add some meaningful variety to their armoury.
Banks is an unquestionably positive and driven cricketer. He has the attitude and the work ethic coaches dream of. While he bats competently and is brisk and sure in the field, Banks falls short in that aspect of the game for which he was primarily selected - bowling.
The Anguillan is as aggressive as spinners come, he flights the ball appreciably and is not afraid to try something different. However he is not a brutal turner, is unable to extract disconcerting bounce and by no stretch of the imagination is he among the best spinners in the Caribbean.
Brian Lara and Sir Viv Richards would definitely sit up and take note of any spinner in the Under-19 tournament who is able to knock over his challengers. While a place on the Zimbabwe and South Africa tours may not quite be on the cards, with England and especially Bangladesh coming in 2004, the opportunities should be bountiful.
With the West Indies batting being as solid as it currently is and with the likes of Narsingh Deonarine, Ryan Hinds and Brenton Parchment on the outer periphery the Under 19 batsmen may have a tougher task at hand. And with Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Corey Collymore, Tino Best, Daren Powell and Jermaine Lawson having broken through, the fast bowlers seem thick at the moment.
Let us not forget though, that time when the entire region was duped by a quartet of quickmen that was supposed to have reclaimed West Indian international glory.
Since that time all have fallen away. Franklyn Rose lost his place on the Jamaica team to Taylor, Reon King has been undone by repeated injuries, Nixon McLean returned to disappoint and Merv Dillon seems pained at having to play.
Just as quickly as the most recent bunch shot to the top, they can come tumbling down if they do not apply themselves purposefully. While the wish is for them to continue on upward, the Under-19s have got to send a clear signal that ‘if you slip, you slide’.
We know they have the talent. Rampaul, Assad Fudadin (Guyana) Xavier Marshall (Jamaica) and Martin Nurse (Barbados) have all been spoken of as future prospects. The others must compete to get their names into the fray. They must now show that they mean business and are not just talent-infested players enjoying a joyride as too many of our cricketers do.
Recall, if you will, the falling away of the wayward Runako Morton and the once much heralded but now obscure Wayne Phillips. Morton’s maladies have been well publicized.
Those in the know report that Phillips, upon being identified as a possible replacement for Ridley Jacobs, suddenly thought of himself as the modern-day Jeff Dujon. He began to act like an authority upon himself. Now, when he should have been the man to take over from Jacobs, the gutsy Carlton Baugh Jr. is relishing that honour.
The lessons of past downfalls must be repeated to these impressionable youngsters who have invaded our shores. In addition to producing the goods in the middle they need wise guidance off the field. Common sense is not a bad asset to utilise either.
As every bowler marks his run-up and every batsman taps at the crease, he must recognise his presence on the field as an opportunity to climb greater heights. He must tell himself, than what happened to Jerome Taylor this year can happen to him next year.