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A HERO IS BORN
- 10 Feb - 16 Feb, 2024
The scenes at the end of AUS V WI test series were historical, the outpour of emotions, feeling for the love of the game and sheer joy was eminent. It was magical to an extent, where one didn’t need to be from either of the countries playing, but everyone watching was in awe of a rookie who rose to the occasion and became an inspiration through his sensational display of selfless grit and determination – Shamar Joseph has announced his arrival.
In an unexpected twist of fate, the giants of the game were tamed in their own backyard. A man who had no initial plans of being on the field ended up weaving a spell in the Test match that would go down in history as one of the all-time greats. "I'm not putting down this ball until the last wicket falls," Shamar Joseph tells his captain Kraigg Brathwaite on the fourth day at the Gabba. It was the third day of second test between Australia and West Indies, a relentless yorker crushers Shamar's toe, leaving him sprawled in pain on the ground. With the agony too intense, he's compelled to retire hurt, assisted off the field, and it appears his Test match journey has come to an abrupt halt. Despite a scan revealing no fractures, the night proves restless for Shamar, struggling to find comfort until finally dozing off around 4am.
On the fourth day, Shamar, initially resigned from taking the field, has a change of heart. Without much anticipation, he decides to join his teammates in the pursuit of victory, marking an unexpected twist in his Test match saga. Just a year ago, Shamar had yet to grace the field in any first-class cricket matches. His remarkable ascent to the national side is a tale woven from the heart of Baracara, a small village in Guyana, situated 225km away from the nearest town, and only introduced to the wonders of the internet in 2018. His journey, unfolding like a captivating summer story, had already become one of the standout narratives. The skipper, Brathwaite, met this bloke for the first time in this test series only. “From speaking to him, I knew he was special,” he says.
As the fourth day unfolds at the Gabba, Australia, guided by the partnership of Steven Smith and Cameron Green, stands at 93 for 2. The target of 216 begins to cast its shadow. Enter Shamar, battling through patched-up injuries and fueled by painkillers, from the Vulture Street End. Green takes a daring swing at his fourth delivery, narrowly escaping the slips, and follows it with a flawless drive that races to the boundary, marking Australia’s ominous ascent to 100. The stage is set for a gripping narrative.
In the subsequent over bowled by Shamar, Green executes a precise late-cut through backward point, propelling the score to 113 for 2, with 103 runs now required for victory. The following delivery challenges Green, who, despite being in a good defensive stance, sees the ball deflect off his elbow and crash into the stumps. Then, a masterful yorker from Shamar pierces through Travis Head’s defenses, resulting in just Australia’s third king pair in Test cricket, a rare feat following in the footsteps of Ryan Harris and Adam Gilchrist. Notably, this unfortunate turn of events means that the last four deliveries Head has faced in Tests at the Gabba have led to his dismissal. The plot thickens at the Gabba.
Mitchell Marsh showed signs of aggression, emblematic of his Test comeback, dispatches Shamar behind point. However, a rising delivery one ball later sees him edging into the slips. Alick Athanaze parries the chance, only for Justin Greaves to seize the rebound, showcasing West Indies’ impeccable catching form in this series. Next in line is Alex Carey, the second-day hero, who succumbs to a well-pitched full delivery. Each time, Shamar, battling the persistent pain from his bleeding toe, finds renewed energy as he sprints into the vast Gabba outfield.
Mitchell Starc adds a touch of danger, rapidly bringing down the required runs to under 50 alongside Smith. Yet, his fortune runs dry as he carves high into the off side, granting Shamar his fifth wicket. The game unfolds with twists and turns at the Gabba. In a déjà vu moment, Pat Cummins, who played a pivotal role in Australia’s thrilling victory at Edgbaston last year and recently showcased his career-best batting performance, is once again summoned for a rescue act. Despite grappling with an injury, Shamar defies the odds, maintaining impressive pace consistently throughout his spell. His fastest delivery, a scorching 149.6kph, poses a challenge for Smith, and on the subsequent ball, Cummins succumbs, edging behind in a crucial turn of events. The stage is set for another gripping chapter in the tale at hand.
At the lunch break, Shamar had figures of 10-0-60-6. Kavem Hodge, when asked what is keeping Shamar going, he said “special juice”, and hopes there’s some more left. The play resumes, and Steven Smith tirelessly keeping one end safe, was scoring freely. However, the lack of support at other end finally gave in as he adds a touch of brilliance with an extraordinary scoop for six off Alzarri. Facing Hazlewood, he then judiciously leaves two balls (extending to three due to a no-ball), with 12 runs needed. The anticipation lingers: will Smith opt for sixes?
In the ensuing over by Shamar, Smith collects three runs off the first four balls, leaving two for Hazlewood. However, Shamar needs only one. Approaching from around the wicket, Hazlewood’s delivery shatters the off stump. In an instant, Shamar races towards the boundary in jubilation, teammates catching up. Smith and Hazlewood stand momentarily frozen, the field frozen in a snapshot of contrasting emotions. The Gabba witnesses a dramatic climax.
“Two deliveries to Hazlewood, I knew either would have got him,” Shamar said and continued, “I can’t remember anything [after that ball], just that I ran all the way to the boundary. Just know that I’m really happy and proud.” Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, and Ian Bishop all wear their emotions on display. Almost tearful, Lara is visibly moved, with clear tears streaming down Hooper’s face in a video shared by ABC Radio. The depth of emotion is evident in Ian Bishop as well, painting a poignant picture of the impact and significance of the moment. The cricketing world witnesses a genuine outpouring of feelings. “A real dream come true for ‘Joseph the Deliverer’, for the West Indies,” shares Bishop to a news channel. “There will be felicitations from Kingston to Georgetown to Guyana. This is just the beginning of a storied career but it’s hard to find any in the history of the game, perhaps, to top this.”
“Twenty-seven years to beat Australia,” Lara shares with Fox Cricket. “Young, inexperienced, written off – this West Indies team can stand tall today. West Indies cricket can stand tall. Today is a big day in West Indies cricket. Congratulations to every member of that cricket team. What a wonderful occasion.” Even Pat Cummins couldn’t help but embrace the achievement and in one off moment can be seen hugging Shamar out of sheer admiration for a rival player. This image will be etched in the memory of sporting fans. And proves the character of a champion player that even in defeat, you got to acknowledge and applaud the charisma and endurance showed by a rookie. Scenes like these will take cricket forward and stay true to the proverbial saying that “Cricket is a gentleman’s game.” When asked about Shamar’s, Cummins said, “He’s had a hell of a start. He bowled the house down.”
In a unified front, Brathwaite and Shamar take their seats at the press conference, embodying the essence of the team’s triumph. Towards the rear stands Lara, a beacon of pride, capturing the moment on his phone, his beaming smile reflecting the collective success. The camaraderie and achievement resonate in this snapshot of celebration and accomplishment. “It was amazing to do it in front of Ian Bishop, Carl Hooper and Brian Lara,” Shamar said. “It’s amazing. I can’t explain it. Having people who believe in you, that gives me a lot of confidence.” As the press conference goes on, inquiries shift towards Joseph’s future, delving into the allure of T20 cricket and the potential paths that lie ahead for the talented player. The spotlight turns to the choices and possibilities awaiting Joseph in the dynamic landscape of the cricketing world.
“I will always be here to play Test cricket for the West Indies,” Shamar says. “I am not afraid to say this live. There will be times when T20 might come around and Test cricket will be there but I will always be available to play for the West Indies no matter how much money comes towards me.” Brathwaite is confronted with observations about his typically reserved demeanour, despite having been vocal in his critique of remarks made by former Australia fast bowler Rodney Hogg. The paradox between his usual composure and the outspoken response to Hogg’s comments adds an intriguing layer to the discussion. “When you have a guy disrespecting West Indies, and us players that are playing, it is hurtful,” he said. Perhaps, this is his way of silencing critics in the most hurtful of ways that is to perform on the field.” He further added, “It means everything to do it in front of the legends like Brian Lara and to win in Australia, a place we haven’t won in [in] a number of years. And to do it with this young group with seven uncapped players is nothing but amazingly special.”
“Everyone loves the West Indies and for us to come and do it against the number one team in the world here in Australia, it is great. We have won one Test match and this is a new beginning for us but we still have work to do. Once this group has the belief and plays with heart, we can do anything,” Brathwaite adds. The 70s & 80s had Malcolm, Holding, Garner, Roberts and Clarke. Walsh, Ambrose and Bishop carried the mantle in 90s. It is safe to say they all are brimming with pride right now courtesy Shamar Joseph.
About the writer
Shahzeb Ali Rizvi is a sports aficionado with a keen eye for the intricacies of cricket and football. He can be reached at [email protected]
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