It’s often difficult to figure whether West Indies cricket is more about Barbados than any other island. The chief selector and assistant coach are Bajan, captain Jason Holder along with six others hail from Barbados, even the media managers are from the same country.
What further makes this squad unique is how four current players --- Carlos and Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich have graduated from the same school in Barbados --- Combermere. To make it a little more interesting, the coach who oversaw the programme in Combermere is now the assistant coach of the West Indies --- Roddy Estwick.
Combermere, which also happens to be music artist Rihanna’s alma mater, has a tradition of producing West Indies’ finest cricketers. Sir Frank Worrell, West Indies’ first black captain, is a product of Combermere. So is Sir Wes Hall, one of the finest fast bowlers West Indies ever produced. But rarely has there been an instance in world cricket where four players from one school have been part of a Test side at the same time.
A big factor behind West Indies being able to put up a fight against India has been this quartet. “It feels really good. I have seen them since they were 11, right through to when they were 18. They have been good servants for the school,” Estwick told HT when asked how it feels to supervise his one-time students as a West Indies coach.
“Actually, we have six players. Chris Jordan (now plays for England) was there. There is Jomel Warrican (left-arm spinner who has played four Tests). Then, there are the Brathwaites, Chase and Dowrich. So once you can turn up six boys of almost the same age playing international cricket you have got to be happy,” he said. Estwick is also the half-brother of former West Indies fast bowler Sylvester Clarke.
But to many in Barbados, he is the reason why Combermere has been able to produce so many Test players in recent years. Estwick was hired at the insistence of Vernon Williams, former chairman of the school’s board of management and an ex-student, after which cricket was treated at par with subjects like English and Mathematics.
From a boys’ only school, Combermere also went on to include more girls in the game. Shakera Selman, a member of the women’s team that won the World Twenty20 this year, comes from this school. So does Shamar Springer, a member of the U-19 team that won the World Cup in Bangladesh this year. They now have teams in every age group, and have led the school cricket scene for many years now. When he isn’t with the West Indies team, Estwick ensures everyone goes through the rigours at school.
“Hard work, discipline, dedication, these are things that have produced so many cricketers. We have been fortunate we have the facilities as well. We have a couple of bowling machines. We have our cricket field as well. We got two concrete pitches which the rain doesn’t affect. Plus, we have a principal who is very big on cricket and keen to see the boys excel. So he is really proud as well. Now more students will get inspired watching these boys play for West Indies,” said Estwick.