Veteran cricket Coach Terrence Corke says West Indies Under-19 batting standout Jordan Johnson has shown he is ready to feature in the regional first-class tournament.
Though the Windies Under-19s lost 0-1 to hosts Sri Lanka in the two-match Youth Tests, the left-handed Johnson was awarded player of the series after plundering 358 runs in three innings.
The 18-year-old Jamaican scored 149 in his single outing in the drawn first Test, followed by knocks of 52 and 157 not out as West Indies lost the second match by seven wickets in Dambulla on Thursday.
Prior to the Youth Tests, the free-scoring Johnson had scores of 18, 105, and 14 in the three-match one-day series, which Sri Lanka won 2-1.
"Jordan is the best age-group cricketer in the region, in the whole West Indies," Corke told the Jamaica Observer.
"He's such an excellent player, has all the shots in his repertoire, runs well between the wickets. He's just a fantastic young player.
"He plays spin and he plays pace just as well, and he's a 360° player — he plays all the shots. If he didn't do as well as he did [in Sri Lanka] I'd have been very, very surprised. I expected that from him."
At varying age-group levels, Johnson, who also bowls more-than-useful right-arm wrist spin, has indicated his extraordinary talent.
He took part in the Jamaica Scorpions trials during the last regional first-class season, and while he didn't make a big score, Corke noted that "he didn't look out of place" competing with and against senior team players.
"I, for one, thought he should have played for Jamaica [senior team] this year — he's that good. But his time will come," he said.
"He doesn't think anybody bowls that fast that he can't hook them. I know that's youthful exuberance, but that's his belief — he doesn't duck [evade the bouncer], he doesn't hide away... he's that confident.
"I think he should get a chance now, and having scored centuries in the one-day and four-day Tests, you can see that he's ready. He has all the shots and he's at his best when he's challenged. If there's no challenge, he gets bored, he gets out," he pointed out.
Corke coached the Jamaica U-19 team which won the regional 50-over and three-day tournaments in mid-year.
Johnson was a huge part of that success, and Corke noted that the dashing left-hander was their in-house pacesetter.
"When we were in a spot of bother, Jordan would come to the fore. There were two matches we played that Jordan didn't play [due to a hamstring problem] and we didn't do well because Jordan would always set the tone. We struggled in those two matches — one we won and we lost the other," the coach said.
Corke said discussions with Johnson and Jamaica team Manager Gibbs Williams during the regional Under-19 three-day final confirmed to him that the young batsman was truly ready for the next step.
"In the final that we played against Barbados I told the manager that Jordan would score a hundred... the next morning I told him, 'I told the manager you're going to get a hundred so don't make a liar out of me.' And he just turned to me and said, 'Coach, I'm going to score a hundred.'
"He went out and did really well, batted out the [pitch] moisture, took some hits, and when the pitch was really ready and playing properly… he scored a hundred. And he came to me and said, 'I can't believe I scored a hundred, with six fours, a six, and I ran 54 singles. And I said, 'You're ready,' because if you ran 54 singles, that means you're ready. Jordan just needs to be challenged," he told the Observer.
"I think he's ready for [senior team cricket] and I'm not the only one saying so. At the regional tournament in St Vincent, people were saying it. I have coached Jordan for a couple of years now, so I know the kind of player he is," Corke added.