IPL 2019: Calm and committed Alzarri Joseph announces his arrival
“Who was that Joseph guy, spoiled the entire evening for me.” One young Sunrisers Hyderabad fan telling another summed up the sombre mood at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here on Saturday after Alzarri Joseph rocked the home batsmen with blistering pace, claiming 6/12 on his Mumbai Indians debut to seal a 40-run win.
For the average Indian fan, his name may not ring a bell. He’s never been to this part of the world; but it was he who took three crucial wickets, including Rishabh Pant, as India lost the under-19 World Cup final to West Indies in 2016. Later that year, on Test debut, he scalped Virat Kohli as his first victim — a well-directed bouncer claiming arguably the best batsman in the world.
He may not be part of a golden generation of West Indies cricket, but quite like the immigration officer at the St Kitts airport who had once warned Dilip Sardesai to “watch out for this Roberts fella, he gonna knock your head off”, it won’t be a surprise if such well-wishers pop up and serve a friendly reminder about Joseph to opposition batsmen. If his raw pace reminds one of the legendary Andy Roberts, his accuracy can be attributed to another Antiguan — Curtly Ambrose.
“It is a dream. I could not have asked for a better start. I just backed my plans and it worked,” he told reporters. He spoke so softly, the organisers had to request him to speak up. The swagger, it seemed, was limited to when he had the leather in his hand. “I know we had a game to win and I was focused on that,” he said.
It was hardly the statement of someone who had just returned the best figures in IPL history on his tournament debut, including a wicket-maiden to start with. Mumbai Indians defended 136 by dismissing Sunrisers for 96.
Joseph has already made his Test and ODI debuts, his heroics on Saturday should help get a call-up for the shortest format as well. Though many Caribbean players have featured in IPL, Joseph said he never called anyone for guidance.
Joseph is known for his confidence. During the second Test against England at Antigua this year, Joseph opted to stay on the field despite his mother’s death as West Indies went on to seal victory for a 2-0 lead in the three-match series. Had Lasith Malinga been with the side, chances are the youngster would not have been in the playing XI. That he grabbed the opportunity promises there would be several such nights.
While Andy Roberts may not consider him “fast enough”, Joseph, who clocks 145 kph plus, knows he has what it takes to run through opposition batting while staying calm. Well, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo have competition!