POINT TO PROVE
JAMAICAN cricketer Abhijai Mansingh says his selection to the West Indies A squad for the unofficial three-Test series away to South Africa offers the chance for him to showcase his all-round capabilities.
“On this tour I want to bring my multidimensional skills to the table. I want to prove my worth as a wicket-taker and show that I can bat for long periods to make big runs for the team. I want to show that I can be a genuine all-rounder at that level,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
The 26-year-old, a compact right-hand batsman and highly capable leg-spin bowler, had a promising run in regional four-day cricket last season, which was his debut campaign with Jamaica Scorpions.
Batting in the middle order, Mansingh defiantly propped up the frail Scorpions batting on occasions and also claimed timely wickets. Those performances led to the West Indies A call-up against the South Africans.
And though he didn’t make the eleven for the first “Test” — which began Tuesday at Willowmoore Park in Benoni — he has two more opportunities on tour. The second match is set to start in East London on November 28 and the final encounter is scheduled to begin exactly a week later in Bloemfontein.
He said playing against the South Africa A in their conditions — renowned for producing quick and bouncy pitches — presents invaluable experience for the West Indians.
“South Africa have a very strong and experienced team and playing them in their backyard will be a big challenge. However, this is a good tour to show our fearlessness and character, to make a name for ourselves,” he said.
He said stints overseas give him confidence if his big opportunity comes but admitted that playing at high altitude could be a challenge in South Africa.
“I’ve played club cricket in Australia and England before in similar conditions so I accounted for the adaptations that I would need to make while preparing for this series. Having said that, the altitude in South Africa is a factor so it will be a test of our physical fitness,” he explained.
Notably, Benoni and Bloemfontein are both situated at more than 4500 feet above sea level.
He said he welcomes the chance to learn from his more seasoned teammates and to glean experience from playing in different conditions.
“I always lean on experienced players to guide me in tournaments, and in new conditions even more so. I am keen to learn how to adapt my game to new conditions.”
Mansingh told the Observer that a multifaceted approach to training has been central to his steady rise.
“Improving my mental game has definitely contributed to this [selection]. I have always been a hard worker but now I am understanding how to use my work ethic in more efficient ways to get the best out of myself.
“I’ve just been focused on preparing myself as best as possible to grab this opportunity. To be a part of a West Indies team is a dream of mine so I want to show that pride in my performance,” he explained.
“Coming from the four-day season, I highlighted areas I needed to improve on. It’s been six months since the four-day [season] ended so this was enough time to work on these areas so that I am ready for this opportunity.
“I worked on being more threatening with the ball by using more variations, and with the bat I have worked on improving on my scoring options… more shots — especially sweeps — and using my feet to be proactive against spin,” Mansingh, who plays for Melbourne Cricket Club in Jamaica, said.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing for him since the four-day season. Mansingh was not part of the Scorpions squad for the Super50 Cup which ended earlier this month but he made the cut for Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC), which at a minimum allowed him to maintain his competitive sharpness while keeping his eye on the ultimate prize.
“Being left out of the Scorpions team was disappointing, however I got the opportunity to play for CCC. At the end of the day my goal is to play for West Indies, and even though I would love to wear the Jamaican colours I relish any opportunity that will help me to reach my goal. At CCC I had a decent season, which has helped me to inch closer to my goal,” he said.