Thomas tale a tri­umph of tal­ent over ad­ver­sity

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - Nick Hoult

Oshane Thomas is sit­ting in the back of a van talk­ing to the cam­era about grow­ing up in Claren­don, Ja­maica.

The con­ver­sa­tion turns to the mur­der of his brother. “He was shot in his foot, so his foot was bro­ken and he could not run away, so they gave him six more [bul­lets].” Thomas’s fam­ily found the body. “He was in a trench ly­ing down. I am from a nice place, but some­times the vi­o­lence can be a bit rough … but, as an in­di­vid­ual, if you can sep­a­rate your­self from gangs you should be OK.”

The film crew take Thomas, 23, to the scene of the mur­der. “It was here,” he says, point­ing at waste ground next to a cart sell­ing drinks. “It’s been tough for a while, but even­tu­ally you get over things.”

Thomas, who was yes­ter­day bowl­ing at Emi­rates Old Traf­ford in West Indies’ prac­tice match, is proof of how fast bowl­ing is still a way out of ghetto life and how the hunger to suc­ceed is driven by sup­port­ing a fam­ily back home in Ja­maica. It also shows tal­ent can emerge with­out academies and costly tal­ent-path­way pro­grammes.

Thomas’s story can be seen on YouTube. It is part one of the Caribbean Premier League’s pow­er­ful life sto­ries se­ries in which West Indies’ youngest, new­est stars go back to their home vil­lages to talk about child­hoods shaped by the strug­gles of gang vi­o­lence and poverty.

He is not in the main Test squad on this tour, but that could change, es­pe­cially after he started this week’s prac­tice match by bowl­ing Shayne Moseley with the first ball. He is tall, pow­er­ful and can bowl at 95mph – the great Andy Roberts said his name would be the first he would pen­cil in to play Eng­land.

Thomas is part of a bat­tery of new fast bowlers that harks back to West Indies’ great­est days. This gen­er­a­tion is dis­pelling the myth that West In­di­ans have lost in­ter­est in Test cricket and are chas­ing Twenty20 riches. “I def­i­nitely want to play Test cricket; I want to do well in all three for­mats,” he told the Ja­maica Ob­server. “Test cricket is the ul­ti­mate that ev­ery­one wants to play to be great. You don’t want to just be an av­er­age crick­eter; you want to be among the greats.”

‘My brother was shot in his foot and could not run away, so they gave him six more bul­lets’

Life took a dif­fer­ent route for Thomas. A teacher saw his tal­ent and in­tro­duced him to Mel­bourne Cricket Club in Kingston, the club of Michael Hold­ing and Court­ney Walsh. From 2014 to 2018, he lived at the ground, work­ing on his cricket and sleep­ing in a bunk, with his feet hang­ing off the end. A scout from Ja­maica Tallawahs, the Caribbean Premier League fran­chise, signed him after watch­ing him bowl two balls, one of which bounced just once on its way to hit­ting the sight screen.

Now he is in Eng­land try­ing to bowl his way into con­tention for the first Test. Stan­dards have risen in do­mes­tic Caribbean cricket un­der Jimmy Adams, the per­for­mance di­rec­tor, and chief ex­ec­u­tive Johnny Grave. This is why it is im­por­tant Eng­land do not for­get the favour they owe West Indies cricket. The play­ers have come to a Covid-19 hotspot, de­spite hav­ing their pay slashed by 50 per cent by their cash-strapped board.

If West Indies are to con­tinue to im­prove they need fix­tures against teams such as Eng­land and In­dia and a more eq­ui­table share of the game’s in­come. Do­mes­tic four-day com­pe­ti­tions are ex­pen­sive, but if they fail then the Test team will even­tu­ally whither, too.

A lot rides on this se­ries. The fi­nan­cial well-be­ing of English cricket for a start. But West Indies make money out of TV deals only when Eng­land and In­dia tour. Eng­land are due to play five Tests in In­dia after Christ­mas. The chances of that hap­pen­ing look slim, given the pan­demic in In­dia. The Caribbean is a safe haven – a se­ries there would be pay­back and the money made may ease the way for the next Oshane Thomas.

Rapid: Oshane Thomas sees Test cricket as the ‘ul­ti­mate’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.