When Jerome, the lost talent, ripped
Garfield Robinson looks back at a Test career that remained sadly unfulfilled due to injuries
At his best,West Indies fast bowler Jerome Taylor can be seriously devastating, capable of raining down sudden and complete destruction on the opposition’s batting. At his best he is a bowler of considerable skill and rapid pace, and it has been so from the time he was very young.
He was only around 10 when he approached his father one day, delivering himself most importunately, suggesting that he was now ready for a place on the local cricket team that the senior Taylor captained. Deciding to indulge his son, he brought him along to the next practice session and handed him the ball. The result: three wickets in his first three deliveries, all bowled. It would have been four in four, too, for the batsman was hit dead in front, but there was, of course, no umpire.
Taylor went on to star for his high school, St Elizabeth Technical, in Jamaica, and made his first-class debut in February 2003 against the Windward Islands at Sabina Park. Disappointingly wicket-less in his first game – clearly the victim of nerves – he was dropped for the next two, but returned for the encounter against Guyana at Bourda where he collected only one wicket, though he bowled well.
The next game was against Trinidad at the Queens Park Oval, and those fortunate enough to witness the Jamaican quick’s performance in the second innings spoke about it for a long time.
From 20.5 overs he snatched 8-59, seven of them bowled or leg before. Bowling at high pace, he was particularly proficient at bringing the ball startlingly back into the right-hander. Based on that performance many predicted a long and fruitful international career. Taylor first played for the West Indies in n ODI in St. Vincent, against Sri Lanka, and did well enough, taking 2-39 runs off 10 overs. He made his Test debut nine days later on June 20, 2003, in St. Lucia, against the same opposition. He was 18.
Injury, illness, and indifferent form and fitness, meant that his appearances for the West Indies were mostly sporadic, though he had a consistent run after returning from injury in 2014, and prior to him retiring from Tests in July 2016.
While he has bowled well on occasion, his performances have been, at best, patchy. There was a hat-trick against Australia in 50-over game and there were five-wicket hauls against India, Pakistan and Australia (there was also a run-a-ball century against New Zealand in Dunedin in 2008).
But the wily fast bowler who destroyed Trinidad and Tobago early in his first-class career has not often been in evidence, and only rarely has everything come together for the 6ft 1in Jamaican.
On one memorable day at Sabina Park, however, everything clicked. He ran in hard, bowled rapidly, and exhibited exemplary control of direction and movement.
It was February 7, 2009, and the first Test of the 2008/09 series against England had reached its fourth day. The West Indies had responded to the visitor’s first innings score of 318 with 392, the innings closing before lunch. And though nobody would have dared imagine it at the time, that rather measly lead was to prove insurmountable.
England would have been a bit worried at the break, because they were already 11-2, after Devon Smith accepted a catch at slip from a ball that Taylor slanted across Alastair Cook, while Ian Bell, middling everything beautifully, as is his wont, then carelessly went, caught behind off Sulieman Benn attempting to cut a wide delivery.
Still, there was no indication of the mayhem that was to unfold, and with so many high quality wickets still intact, England would have been confident of staging a recovery.
But then first ball back Kevin Pietersen, who had missed a first innings century by just three runs, had his off-stump uprooted by a peach of a ball from Taylor. Full and heading toward middle, it swung away wickedly late, evading Pietersen’s outside edge, sending the stick cartwheeling. It was a delivery that would almost certainly have defeated any right hander of any era.
The crowd erupted. This was a scene that recalled the days when the great four
On one memorable day at Sabina Park, however, everything clicked. He ran in hard, bowled rapidly and exhibited exemplary control
Cartwheeling: Kevin Pietersen’s stump is sent spinning by a Taylor delivery
Pace and poise: Jerome Taylor in Test match colours
TAYLOR’s TEST BOWLING RECORD Tests Balls Runs Wkts Ave BB 5wi 46 7757 4480 130 34.46 6-47 4