Shamar Joseph, and a tale of four overs

Shamar with KL at the match against KKR. (Source X)

To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was the best of moments, it was the worst of times. Shamar Joseph, the man from Baracara, a village in Guyana that had no Internet until 2018, was taking the plunge in the glitzy world of the Indian Premier League (IPL). No wonder that to start with, he was like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Joseph looked shy, almost apologetic, when he was handed over the Lucknow Super Giants cap before the start of the game against Kolkata Knight Riders at the storied Eden Gardens. The 24-year-old West Indies fast bowler went unsold at the IPL auction, where his base price was Rs 50 lakh. And here he was, making his IPL debut in a high-profile game.

In between, the Gabba happened, where his match-winning 7-68 against Australia with an injured toe was a song of perseverance. Then, Mark Wood made himself unavailable for this year’s IPL and LSG replaced him with Joseph by forking out Rs 3 crores. Someone who had to take a five-hour boat ride to reach the nearest town, who was a security guard only three years ago, was suddenly under the lens of thousands of fans. Nervous energy crept in.

A short ball was punched for a four by Sunil Narine. Joseph had a wry smile. His response was a beauty, a 146.5 kph delivery that pitched outside off and cut back to beat the batsman and the wicketkeeper for a bye. The next ball was a 150.7 kph thunderbolt that deflected off Phil Salt’s bat and went to Yash Thakur at short fine leg. Thakur was a tad slow to react and dropped the catch but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway, for Joseph had overstepped. The bowler once again had a sheepish smile. Five wides, another no-ball and a six followed. Joseph’s first over in the IPL accounted for 22 runs. He looked dejected.

“First game of the IPL, you can get excited. And Shamar was very excited and just wanted to bowl fast, sprayed the ball around a bit but that can happen with anyone,” LSG captain KL Rahul said at the post-match presentation.

Rahul duly took Joseph out of the firing line and brought him back a little later. Good captaincy. In his second over, Joseph looked a lot more composed. A back-of-a-length delivery completely squared up Salt, who played and missed. The bowler smiled again. He should have had Salt in his third over, but Arshad Khan tipped the skier ‘over the bar’ at deep square leg for a six. Joseph looked frustrated for a moment, but he quickly saw the funny side of it. He was playing with a smile. 

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In the end, his four overs yielded 47 runs without a wicket, but the youngster would take heart from the way he came back after an expensive first over. Beneath a soft exterior, it attested to a strong character. Joseph was included in the playing XI because, in Mayank Yadav’s absence, LSG needed searing pace in their ranks. He didn’t disappoint. His fastest delivery almost touched 152 kph and it was a real positive.

Rahul, too, said as much. “The positive was he was bowling very quick and he got the ball to nip around. He hit some good areas but obviously he has to work on his consistency and the choice of balls he bowls.”

The IPL provides opportunities to young players from all over the world to showcase their talent. It offers them a platform to grow. Joseph has talent in abundance. Guided by quality coaches, this tournament should be an excellent learning curve for him.

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