Best news in a long time

Best news in a long time

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AKSHAI MANSINGH

Sunday, May 17, 2020

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The last few months have been filled with stories of gloom and disappointment, particularly so in sport. Reading a Jamaica Observer news article about two of the most exciting young batsmen in the West Indies — Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King — wanting to play Test Cricket is one of the few pieces of good news in a long time. To hear young cricketers still respect the longest version of the game is a relief, but I am firmly of the belief that a good batsman can play any version of the game so long as he has proper technique. And that can only be learnt through First Class cricket and then Test cricket. The only true test of a batsman is to spend a long time at the crease, which only these forms of cricket afford.


With the hectic pace of cricket, it is very easy to label batsmen into “red ball” or “white ball” cricketers. It often forces them to choose a format and play it in leagues and competitions around the world. That is especially so for T20 cricket. However, it is unfair to label young batsmen too soon. It prevents their own personal development as a batsman, forcing lapses in technique in the pursuit of scoring quick runs. If this becomes embedded, it is often hard to reverse, and is exploited as a weakness when discovered through video analysis.

Both Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King are special batsmen and need to be nurtured. They are that special type of batsmen who are looking at which ball to defend, as attacking cricket is their natural game. This is the opposite to most batsmen who are looking for which ball to hit. That is why they score fast, and why they are often misunderstood as being careless, or rather carefree.

This is similar to what Chris Gayle transformed himself into later in his career. That is why the most successful batsmen in T20 cricket is also one of only four to have two triple centuries (or above) in Test cricket. But batsmen with this talent have to spend time in the middle to hone the art of which ball to defend and that can only come through First Class (and Test) cricket. That they have expressed hunger to do so is very exciting.

Indeed Brandon King has shown that prowess, improving in successive First Class seasons, and ending the 2018-19 season with an average just below 50 with 600 runs. That he had a 194 in the previous season is a bonus, but having two centuries to 12 half centuries shows that learning is still needed in converting starts to big finishes.

Nicholas Pooran has not played First Class cricket since 2014, with only three games experience. Once again, time spent in this format can only help his style of game.

The great contemporary batsmen of the last decade have all shown mastery in red and white ball cricket. A B DeVilliers, Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Kumar Sangakara, et al have all credited their performances in the shorter formats of the game to the techniques learnt through the longer format. Here's hoping that both King and Pooran will walk the walk, and the only talking is with the coaches on how this can be accommodated. Both have great potential to dominate all formats of the game.

Dr Akshai Mansingh is dean of the Faculty of Sport, The University of the West Indies, Mona. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or amansingh@flowja.com.


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