It was impossible to obtain statistical data on the premier Essequibo batsmen of yesteryear. I had to therefore rely on the dedicated fans of that era to arrive at the special group of players who have earned the respect and recognition of the cricketing public. Yet I played with most of them and eventually determined that Dinesh Joseph was the finest. Of the past era, John Floyd and Alfred Maycock were the two most prolific and dangerous batsmen. Alfred Maycock’s courageous innings of 94 against Colin Croft remains a gem, while John Floyd was a natural ball beater. They were gifted batsmen but lacked key elements of coaching and dedicated practice that exposed their limitations at the higher level. That era also had the county’s first senior inter-county centurion in Jeff Jones, but he was more of a player who relied on patience.
The next generation of batsmen included Trenton Peters, Ramcharran Singh, Jaimini Singh, James Chattergoon, Rovendra Mandolall and Ramesh Narine, with Ramcharran Singh and Ramesh Narine having the distinction of recording inter-county centuries. However, of that elite group, Trenton Peters was the most destructive and feared by his opponents. He was a compulsive hooker and scored prolifically both at the club and inter-county level. He had tremendous reflexes and a hawk’s eye, though his technique was flawed.
The fans loved Mandolall for his artistry, and he was perhaps the most technically correct of all the batsmen. While he possessed skill and timing, he remained stagnant for most of his career. I saw Ramcharran Singh’s century at Bourda at the non-striker’s end, and it was a marvellous innings. He had to fight as Reon King and Colin Stuart were peppering him with a barrage of bouncers (not excluding me) that he relished, making ferocious upper cuts and back foot horizontal strokes. He was however vulnerable to the moving ball, and perished on many occasions in the slip cordon.
I have great admiration for Ramesh Narine who grew up as a soft ball specialist and who did not appreciate fast bowling. However, he became a masterful inventor, particularly of spin. The records have shown that he remains the most consistent run scorer for Essequibo which resulted in him playing for Guyana in the T20 version. Perhaps Jaimini Singh was the natural cricketer who made batting looked simple. He could have jumped right off a plane, put his pads on and scored a century, as the legendary Clive Lloyd famously did at Bourda. His unbeaten 95 against Berbice to seal a rare inter-county four-day victory is testimony to his talent. Yet he like James Chattergoon did not do justice to himself, and they were more often than not inconsistent at the highest level, though they remain attractive players.
The current generation of batsmen is very limited as only Dinesh Joseph, Troy Cornelius and Norman Fredericks have made an impact. Joseph and Cornelius are the remaining centurions against Demerara and Berbice respectively, while Fredericks’ 96 against Berbice in 2010 in a one-day encounter was full of promise. Joseph and Fredericks are similar in style and they are both openers, though one bats right and the other left. They can both play pace and spin with competence while Cornelius was a tough batsman who relied on constant practice to develop his skill. He was more content to compile his innings with deft touches and worked his way to a landmark. Instead, the two openers were natural aggressors and possessed an array of strokes. Both are good at cutting, driving and defence and they were fearless.
However, Dinesh Joseph had a sounder technique, developed immense concentration and was a very fit individual. He knew the intensity of an innings and purposefully formed what in most cases was quality display of batsmanship. He had strokes all around the wicket and was a powerful striker of a cricket ball, not excluding his sublime touch and swift footwork. He was not an individual who succumbed to pressure, since he scored quickly and was not afraid to take risks. His masterful century against Demerara against Test bowlers Reon King, Colin Stuart and Neil McGarrell was an innings to behold. I was there and at that moment I had no doubt that Joseph had the qualities to play Test cricket. Beyond that he had amassed a bludgeoning double century against North Essequibo in what was a first division countrywide 50 overs competition where unfortunately I was one of the hapless bowlers. He is just a fantastic player who seemed to have had very few vulnerabilities except when he was not in the mood to play. His many battles with Mahendra Nagamootoo on dusty pitches whether at Albion in Berbice or Uitvlugt in Demerara were duels that required tremendous skill and application. I cannot think of another quality batsman, though there were many that will rival Dinesh Joseph for the title as Essequibo’s finest batsman.