Shamar Joseph delivered. As media in the Caribbean and across the globe gushed, and many editorialised right to the brink of hyperbole late last month, there is no thesaurus with enough synonyms; and as the Guyana newspaper, Stabroek News, stated, there are not enough “superlatives to frame the courageous single-mindedness of Baracara’s and Guyana’s Shamar Joseph in leading the West Indies to this marvellous victory over Australia”.
The moment when Joseph took his seventh wicket to secure victory for the West Indies in Australia in the second Test reflected the immense magnitude of the moment, Newsday editorialised out of Trinidad and Tobago on January 30.
The newspaper added, “This was not just a single win in a Test cricket series. It was the reaffirmation of a dream and the wider hopes of a region. When Joseph made his Test cricket debut mere weeks ago Down Under, it was clear the world was in store for something special. He took a wicket off the very first ball he delivered in his Test career, dismissing Steve Smith for 12.”
And as was noted across our globe by the cricketing media, the long history of Test cricket has seen just 22 bowlers achieving the first-ball-wicket feat, with Joseph sharing the honour with one other West Indian bowler.
Also, in that match, he went on to take a five-wicket haul, yet another rarity for debut bowlers, Newsday noted.
However, it was Joseph’s follow-up performance with the ball that was spectacular, taking seven wickets for 68 runs at The Gabba in Brisbane even as he nursed a toe injury, the consequence of a Mitchell Starc yorker.
It appears that players on the West Indies team make history at The Gabba. Here was the same ground where our dearly departed Joe Solomon tied that historic Test in 1960.
Perhaps it is heroics as Solomon’s historic run out, and Joseph’s class performance, that have now stirred the dormant embers into life once more among disillusioned West Indies fans in the region, and here in the diaspora.
Joseph’s memorable bowling performance, despite his injury, saw West Indies taking a breathtaking, tension-filled eight-run victory that drew the two-match series.
That West Indies beat the Australians on their home turf was in itself an astonishing achievement.
The last time the Caribbean side won a match in Australia was in Perth in 1997. In that match, Brian Lara scored a century, with Curtly Ambrose named Player of the Match. Notably, the names Lara and Ambrose summon a wholly different era in West Indian cricket. No wonder Lara, who was in The Gabba’s commentary box for the game, was reported to have shed a few tears.
As the Trinidad Express noted in its Editorial on January 29, Joseph’s sustained pace, hurled down the pitch at close to 150 kilometres per hour during his unbroken 11.5-over spell, while battling through his stark pain, was a statement of fortitude, talent, and determination in itself.
“He is undoubtedly the real deal, a young fast bowler fully capable of leading the West Indies attack for many years to come. Perhaps, he could even steer the regional team back to the top,” the newspaper opined.
And as Stabroek News noted, when Joseph was capped on January 16, on the first day of the first Test for his stunning debut, he received sage advice from another formidable West Indies speedster, now commentator, Ian Bishop.
“With a pat on his shoulder, Bishop told Joseph that he now had, ‘A chance to carry on the legacy, the great legacy of fast bowling which was set up by Hall and Griffith, Holding, Roberts, Garner, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh… Now it is on your shoulder,” Bishop was reported as saying.
Additionally, he told Joseph, “It is a great honour to present you with this cap, and every time you put it on, every time you look at it, remember 12 months ago you bet on yourself. You came from little, and now you are a national cricketer. Remember your family: those who have helped you; those who love you; and those who supported you over the years, every time you look at it. And aspire to greatness”.
Last month, with an injured toe, Joseph set out firmly on that path; and he delivered.