It was not a question of if but when. Alzarri Joseph, a scrawny but tall kid, joined the big boys’ club last Test to fuel anticipation that he could be unleashed on a pace-assisting pitch at Sabina Park.
Thrust into the cameras, asked to pose at the Michael Holding end, Joseph clearly looked a tad nervous. Gros Islet was far removed from the media glare of Kingston. On a bouncy pitch and after an inspiring draw, West Indies deemed it ideal for Joseph to make his debut. The time between Kingston and here was used to help Joseph familiarise himself with the team.
“Obviously, you had to integrate him in the side. It takes time. It’s a big step coming from under-19 cricket to Test cricket. He came in the second Test and selectors feel he was ready and we felt that with this pitch, with a little bit more bounce and pace in it, it was a good time to release him,” West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick said at the end of the first day’s play. “It’s only his first day in Test cricket. But I am sure that he would be happy with it and he can build on that.”
At 19, a pacer just wants to run in hard and bowl quick. Joseph looked eager to get started as early as possible. So when he was finally given the chance --- handed the cap by the great Joel Garner --- Joseph unleashed a spell that lived up to its billing. In only his first over of international cricket, Joseph showed he isn’t afraid to pitch the ball up. Proof of his aggression came in the next over. To make the India captain almost lose his balance with the first ball he faces is no light task. Any other bowler would have basked in its glory, maybe even given a long hard stare at Kohli. Still a greenhorn, Joseph turned around and headed back to his mark.
When he returned in the next over though, Kohli had no answer to his bounce. What seemed a simple catch at first slip had so much going for Joseph --- pace, aim and the urge to test a batsman on top of his game. It turned out Kohli wasn’t as prepared for Joseph as he should have been. Rohit Sharma’s wicket however gave a good account of Joseph.
This time, he used the angle of his delivery so well that Rohit couldn’t resist the temptation of going forward but ended up stuck in his crease. By taking wickets with both the new and old balls, Joseph has shown the ability to control it. West Indies captain Jason Holder might have missed a trick by not persisting with Joseph for longer spells in the middle. After a five-over opening spell, Joseph was given two spells of four and two overs before Holder brought him back for three overs with the new ball.
Alarmed at the dip in talented young pacers, the West Indies management should feel happy that someone has finally been able to come through the ranks. Joseph’s first-day show has been promising but West Indies are willing to give him time. “He got two big wickets. His pace didn’t look too bad. But as he goes along and understands Test cricket, he goes from bowling 10 overs in a match to 20 overs, once he gets stronger as well, we got high hopes from him. He is a young lad, 19 years of age. It’s only good for West Indies cricket that we get some firepower as well,” said Estwick.