World Cup selection, an enactment of Keemo Paul’s boyhood dreams
By Akeem Greene
Three years ago with the scores level, Keemo Paul top-edged Indian seamer Khaleel Ahmed for four and won West Indies their first Under-19 World Cup title.
That was one accomplishment ticked off and the other is on the horizon- the senior World Cup in England from May 30 – July 14- that is if he is selected.
Taking the field at the marque global event is something Paul has rumbling in his sleep since the early days of playing on the beaches of Saxacalli in the mighty Essequibo River.
Prior to the horrendous quadriceps injury in the third Test against England last month, which resulted in him being stretchered off the field, the street-smart all-rounder was making gains with both the white and red ball.
Injuries are never good, but that one came at an utterly wrong time with World Cup selection a major interest for both sides during the ODI leg.
“It will be like an emotional roller-coaster for me. Playing in the World Cup is something I always dreamed about and hopefully by God’s grace I am there and once given the opportunity I am going to perform for the West Indies, which is always a pleasure and always my priority,” he related exclusively to News Room Sport.
“It [injury] was a major setback for me. It actually made me not play in the One Day and T20I series, and I was aiming to play that to cement my place for the World Cup. It is disappointing, but I came back and worked with physio [Neil] Barry Jr and I am getting back to 100%”.
The Delhi Capitals all-rounder plans to use the fast-paced Indian Premier League to test his fitness for a speedy return to International cricket, particularly the Tri-Nation Series involving Windies and Sri Lanka in Ireland, which slightly clashes with the IPL in early May.
IPL commences on March 23 and the final has a tentative date of May 12; the Tri-Nations series is from May 5-17, but by then teams should have submitted their 15-member squads for the World Cup.
Eager to Improve
An ODI debut came at a time of crisis for Windies with them having to undergo the World Cup qualifying route in March 2018. He has 11 scalps and indeed, nothing overly exciting, but it came at a decent economy rate of 5.88, bowling mainly at the death, an area where most of his teammates have struggled.
The IPL provides the 21 year-old with another opportunity to saturate critical knowledge of the sport, particularly with regards to out-foxing batsmen at the death.
“There is always stuff to be learnt, so when I go [to the IPL], it is just to learn a lot from the bowling coach [James Hopes] and see as much I can get from him…death bowling comes natural so I always back myself for the team, but there is always stuff to be learnt and I want to enhance my skills.”
He holds the record of best bowling figures (5-15 in four overs) by a West Indian in a Twenty International when he wreaked havoc against Bangladesh late last year and helped Windies to their first T20I series win (two or matches) since a 3-0 triumph over Afghanistan in 2017.
With the inspired performance by the men in maroon against England, barring the T20I, Paul indicated Windies are always a threat and teams should be wary.
“West Indies was always a threat and always is a threat. When we are in the field we always tell ourselves we can beat anytime and the mood in the camp is always fantastic. Coming from the Bangladesh series (lost both ODI and Tests) I knew something special was going to happen. When we lost those games a lot of guys sat and cried and we reflected on ourselves and had a very hard talk and we knew things were going to change.”
He further added, “It was good sitting and watching and seeing the younger guys stepping up…the passion and everything is there and it is fantastic.”
It will take some time before he is mentally ready to go bustling behind balls to the boundary again, but one thing Paul wants to do to the best of his ability, and that is wear the maroon crest proudly and help Windies win.