(ICC) Having won the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup in 2016, Keemo Paul is determined to ensure Windies qualify for next year’s senior edition after his unexpected late call-up for the qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe.
Keemo Mandela Paul is drawing inspiration from the proud culture of fast bowling that emanates from the Caribbean, and is excited at the prospect of playing an important role in earning the Windies a spot at the global cricket showpiece in England and Wales next year.
“Growing up you look at a lot of fast bowlers coming from the West Indies,” he said, speaking ahead of West Indies’ vital game against Scotland on 21 March. “We just programme ourselves from there.”
Aged 20, Paul is somewhat justified to have had no expectations of a call-up to the national team midway through a series between West Indies ‘A’ and the England Lions in the Caribbean earlier this month. But following an injury to left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, he was a late addition to the Windies squad for the ongoing ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. Despite not expecting to be selected, he says he was quietly working hard behind the scenes, waiting for his opportunity.
“I wasn’t thinking of making the West Indies team so soon but I was always putting in the hard performances and putting in the hard work, so whenever I got call, I wanted to be ready.”
The right-arm paceman has settled in seamlessly with his teammates in Zimbabwe and identifies Shimron Hetmyer – captain of the West Indies’ Under 19 Cricket World Cup-winning side of 2016, of which Paul was a crucial member – as a familiar face who made him feel comfortable.
“Once I got selected and I told him, he [Hetmyer] was just calling me and messaging me every day. Coming into the team, the senior guys, they just supported me and I must give God thanks and praise for that.”
The young fast bowler from Guyana describes his first ODI appearance, during the Super Sixes match against Afghanistan, as a very special moment in his fledgling career. Another early peak is winning the Under 19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh two years ago, a feat he believes put him in good stead for the current tournament.
“I know the feeling of winning a World Cup, I did it in the under 19s. The feeling was pretty special, you know, the whole Caribbean came together and it was tremendous. Coming into this tournament here, I would say it’s the same.”
It has been rapid transition from age-group cricket to the senior national team for Paul, but he has shown he is up to the challenge, picking up two wickets in each of his first two matches.
“I want to go out there and perform for the West Indies,” he said, “because that was always my dream growing up, to represent the West Indies one day and I got an opportunity. So I want to cement my spot and keep doing well.
“The guys here are guys that I looked up to in my childhood, the Chris Gayles, the Marlon Samuels, it’s tremendous for me.
“To come here and represent the West Indies is a true feeling, so we just want to qualify. We want to be there come the 2019 World Cup so we are going to put in 110 per cent on the field and I want to put in a match-winning performance for my team.”
Paul banks on his versatility at being able to control the ball in its different states during various phases of an innings; a skill-set he is convinced will be critical to the remainder of Windies’ campaign in Zimbabwe.
“I could bowl with the new ball, swing the new ball and also come back in the death overs and bowl pretty good, so I would say I am an all-round cricketer.
“I am enjoying my time in Zimbabwe so far. Against Scotland, it’s obviously a must-win game for us so we are not taking it lightly. We want to qualify, we want to be there in the 2019 World Cup. Once selected in the final XI, I just want to go out there and give it my best. The last game [where Paul took 2/55 in the victory against Zimbabwe] wasn’t the best, so I want to have a match-winning performance.
“It would be great playing in a World Cup, and it would be greater to win another World Cup for the West Indies with the senior team.”