The most exciting aspect of the just concluded T-20 regional tournament is the justification of the hype of three young fast bowlers who were being touted by none other than revered cricket columnist Tony Cozier as the real deal.
Shannon Gabriel, Ronsford Beaton and Sheldon Cotterel have clearly shown that they have what it takes to be very good fast bowlers. All three have shown that they are ready to step up to the highest level, with Gabriel and Cotterel already playing at Test and A-team level and performing excellently. Beaton has no first class experience but is a young and exciting talent. W/Indies cricket has always punted on exciting young pace bowling talent even if they don’t have the requisite experience – Michael Holding and Joel Garner immediately come to mind. Now is as good a time as any to do that once more.
Gabriel clocked around 90mph on his Test debut, and if Tony Cozier’s observation is true he has since modified his action and is bowling it a ‘serious lick’, meaning that his pace has increased even further. Beaton was consistently clocked at over 90mph during the recent U-19 World Cup and was easily the quickest bowler in the tournament. His showing in the T-20 tournament confirmed his pace, bounce, control and intelligence. Cotterel rattled the Bangladesh A-Team on flat wickets in that country, frequently taking clusters of wickets very cheaply. So the pace and wicket taking ability of these players has already been confirmed.
One of the biggest problems with W/Indies cricket at the moment is that we don’t have the big fast bowlers whose pace and bounce can rattle the best international batsmen. Our small size bowlers at present are good quality, but are frequently found wanting on flat tracks or against real quality batsmen. We do not have that X factor in our bowling where a hostile spell could change a game. Any or all of these three fast bowlers can easily provide that quality if properly groomed.
The selectors should think long term and start easing these fast bowlers into international cricket, especially during this period when we will be facing the lesser international teams. The bigger picture should be that by the time the real big teams come our way in a few years time (according to the international calendar) at least one or all three of these players could be household names and ready to rattle the opposition.
In the instance that any of this group does not live up to expectations then there is still the likes of Andre Russel, Jason Holder, Carlos Braithwaite, Delorn Johnson to come to the fore. And, as is usually the case in W/Indies cricket, once fast bowlers start coming through they usually do so in clusters, so other unknown names may also surface.
As Tony Cozier has frequently stated, W/Indies cricket is synonymous with fast bowling and this will never change. Over the past decade or more we went through a trough of fast bowling resources. But there is very clear evidence that this is changing and a glut of exciting young talents are emerging.
It is now up to WICB and selectors to start introducing these young talents to international cricket in the immediate future for they have clearly shown that they are ready for the big time. And we die hard West Indians can look forward to coming times when we will once again begin intimidating batsmen and silence those cocky international commentators who have been belittling West Indies cricket for a number of years.