Antigua's pace legacy spurs Alzarri Joseph ahead

File photo – Alzarri Joseph’s pace and tendency to take early wickets has generated interest among followers of West Indies cricket © WICB Media

The sight of the tall Antiguan fast bowler, Alzarri Joseph, running in from the mist must have been unnerving for England Under-19 openers Dan Lawrence and Max Holden but it was a threat that West Indies Under-19s failed to take advantage of in their 61-run loss in Chittagong. Still, Joseph left a mark in his first appearance at the Under-19 World Cup with his pace and movement, even as he finished his full quota in the first 26 overs of England’s innings.

Whether the West Indies captain Shimron Hetmyer made a mistake by not keeping Joseph’s overs for the death is an important question but with England cruising at 115 for 2 in the 18th over, he may have been looking for a breakthrough from Joseph. In each of his spells, Joseph gave away 17 runs but took only one wicket, getting Holden to pull a ball that got big on him. He ended the game as West Indies’ most economical bowler.

Joseph has a calm personality on and off the field. Hailing from All Saints in Antigua, he understands the legacy he carries of legends such as Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose. Coached by Winston Benjamin, Joseph looks up to Dale Steyn as his hero and his first-class performance for Leeward Islands has impressed veteran writer and commentator Tony Cozier. Writing earlier this month, Cozier pointed to Joseph’s speed and tendency to take early wickets and observed that the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh will be the young bowler’s first test at the international level.

“I try to bowl really fast,” Joseph told ESPNcricinfo. “I try to hit my areas and I try to be consistent. Any shape I would get on the ball, I will try to get it away from the right-hander. Down here [in Bangladesh], I haven’t found much movement so I will try to keep it in the right areas. We played some games here. The ball doesn’t do much so you have to apply as much pressure as you can.

“I think fast-bowling comes naturally to me but I think because of the background and history that we have in Antigua, it really encourages me to go on and continue bowling fast. I know about the legendary fast bowlers but I only got to speak to some of them. I have been coached by Winston Benjamin. He has taught me to keep it simple. He has told me to be patient in four-day cricket. Let the batsman make the mistake.

“I have interacted with Andy Roberts. He is a great bowler. I haven’t met Curtly Ambrose. He is a great bowler. I have seen clips of him bowl. I love his bowling. I watch every fast bowler and try to learn from them. My hero is Dale Steyn. I don’t really copy anyone, but I like his style of bowling.”

Joseph says he has never had a speed gun trained on him but reckons he is quick. There wasn’t a speed gun either when he bowled at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong against England but the pace showed in the way the ball hit the bat.

His efforts, which started with backyard cricket, were encouraged by his father, Alva, who played as an opening batsman and bowled a bit of medium pace. Joseph went on to play for Empire Cricket Club, where his father had played, before making it to age-group teams for Antigua and Leeward Island and then the Leeward franchise side.

For now he is thinking of bowling with patience in the first-class and one-day formats and has his sights on Test cricket. He is also clear about how aggressive he wants to be as a bowler.

“I am not trying to look at T20 cricket at the moment,” he said. “I am looking at Test cricket. I like it.

“As a fast bowler you want to have the upper-hand over the batsman so you will try to be as aggressive as you can be. I don’t really try to hit a batsman but I let him know that I am there, so that the batsman doesn’t really come after me. I would try to keep it simple.”

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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