All-format excellence the standard for Romario Shepherd

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By Akeem Greene

At a glance, Romario Shepherd could be mistaken for a bustling pugilist; he is certainly not the lean figure of the modern-day West Indian fast bowler.

Towering above six though, he possesses the physical characteristics required to reproduce the sort of menacing and lethal fast bowling that typified the battery of West Indies bowlers before him.

Soft-spoken by nature, this “workhorse”, as teammates describe him, is intimidating with the ball. With bat in hand, he could send it the distance as well, while his excellent fielding makes him a true all-rounder.

A bustling approach and ‘slingy’ action have helped Shepherd to become an exponent of reverse swing and pinpoint yorkers, making him a prime candidate for the ‘death’ bowling role.

Career in numbers: https://www.espncricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/677077.html

However, the New Amsterdam-born lad feels he can offer more outside of exploits in the limited overs version for West Indies.

“I don’t want to be classified as a one-day bowler; I want to play Four-day and Test cricket,” he told News Room Sport.

“I am hungrier for Test cricket; people now are seeing me as a white-ball player mostly, but I think I can play all three formats as well as I can play anyone. I am very hungry to get into the Test squad and Test cricket is the pinnacle of international cricket.”

The 25-year-old added: “I played Four-day for the [West Indies] A-team so they know I am capable of playing Test cricket, so for me now it is all about showing that quality and showing that patience.”

Shepherd’s batting is an ever-improving facet of his game (Photo: CWI)

Consistent performer

Since youth days, Shepherd has been a consistent performer for club, county and country.

In fact, on List A debut for Guyana Jaguars in 2016, he was Man-of-the-Match for figures of 3-37 from 10 overs against the Leeward Islands Hurricanes. Surprisingly, he did not play another next match in the format for Guyana until 2018 after being overlooked in 2017.

In the two Regional Super50 tournaments in 2018, Shepherd picked up 21 wickets in 15 innings. Backed up by a solid Regional Four-Day 2018/19 season where had 37 wickets (the highest for any seamer in the championship) and 315 runs (inclusive of two-half centuries), Shepherd ensured selectors had full notice of his exploits.

After productive stints with the A-team both home and away, and an impressive Caribbean Premier League in 2019, West Indies selection came in November for the tour to Afghanistan.

To date, he has played just five ODIs and Two T20Is but by all account, his immediate future in the limited-overs team seems assured.

It an experience he deems to be one of immense learning value where the quest has to be one to keep evolving.

“I did what the selectors saw in me, especially against Afghanistan in my first tour.”

“What I need to work on is the middle overs where you are trying to contain batsmen and limit them to at least under six runs per over; [it is about] getting in some wicket balls there and being attacking during that period.”

“I had a good start [to international cricket] so I am feeling at home and I want to play more international cricket to get the experience. Going forward is all about learning and learning fast. Even if you do good this game, you need to look back to see somewhere you can do better.”

Shepherd says himself and Keemo Paul (centre) spend lots of time planning tactics against various batsmen. Here, they are seen with West Indies Head Coach Phil Simmons

Art of winning

‘Sheppy’, as his peers call him, was part of two ODI series victories (against Afghanistan and Ireland) and two losses (India and Sri Lanka). They lost the T20I series to Afghanistan and India, drew with Ireland and won against Sri Lanka.

The mixed results, according to Shepherd, are an indication of them not staying focused on the key moments.

“Teams that do well win key moments and a lot of times, we relax in those key moments and there is where we lost the game. You can see we play competitive cricket, but those key moments they [the opposition] played it better than us.”

Noting himself and teammates are relatively inexperienced at this level, Shepherd felt the losses thus far should not induce the idea the opposition are totally better, but rather their players have to learn to the art of winning and “getting over the line.”

While he has displayed the ingredients to be a lethal bowler in the white ball format, Shepherd has his eyes set on all formats for West Indies (Photo: CPL)

Mental awareness

During the downtime necessitated by the COVID-19 restrictions, Shepherd is working to improve his fitness. He noted that it is a good time to reflect on previous on-field lapses, while working on becoming mentally stronger.

“Mental awareness is something key we are missing and I think someone who is very engaged in that area is Shai Hope and you can see how successful he is…if we all can get mentally stronger and try to think through key moments not go on egos (we can do much better).”

Former ODI captains and fellow all-rounders Jason Holder and Dwayne Bravo have been aiding Shepherd as he seeks to enhance his knowledge of the game and sharpen his skills.

And entering a team with compatriots Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford has brought an extremely calming influence to the nerves.

“Me and Keemo chat a lot about what we need to do against a batsman; we plan a lot separate from the team. We look to have a plan A or B; we are just trying to grow as youngsters in a big arena.”

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