Among the great discontents of Cricket is that it often reserves very little for those who lack charisma or a sense of style.
While scoreboards recount them and records identify these cricketers, our imagination, nonetheless, stays fixated with artists.
It could be batsmen who play with flair, showing artistry of the wrists.
Picture the copybook cover drive. Say Sangakkara?
The forward defense straight out of a coaching manual. Like Dravid.
It could be bowlers who hunt with a murderous appetite. Those fire-breathing dragons who throw a stare long after the wicket has cartwheeled in mid-air. Picture Donald. Mitchell Johnson. Ambrose.
But not an awful lot is reserved for the grafters. It’s highly unlikely you’d spend an extra minute on batsmen bereft of arresting technique, yet those who batted patiently, formed partnerships, delayed the inevitable in a Test.
When was the last time you YouTubed a Jimmy Adams inning? Can you state his Test hundreds without going Wiki?
In one of the most heart-stopping Caribbean moments ever- the 1998-99 Barbados Test when Lara took the team home- was there something else to the West Indies’ 1-wicket victory, other than the Prince’s unbeaten 153?
What if Jimmy Adams- who batted for 170-long minutes in holding up McGrath, Gillespie, Warne, MacGill with Lara at the other end- not done so?
What if in the summers of 1994, Jimmy Adams hadn’t teamed up with Hooper to rescue the team out of the woods, with Lara, Simmons, Williams back in the dressing room with West Indies battling India’s 546 at Nagpur?
What if that exemplary 408-minute effort of Kumble and Raju-defying hadn’t yielded 125 runs? What would’ve become of the West Indians, who’d been hammered in the First Test already?
Minus any fanciness in batting, or breathtaking strokeplay, devoid of the whirlwind shuffle at the crease, Jimmy Adams moved from his Nagpur heroics to conjure another 174 in the very next Test.
At Mohali- the only memorable win of a very West Indian summer in India- it wasn’t Lara, Hooper, Simmons, Williams or Arthurton who delivered the heroics.
It was James Clive Adams, who stood tall for 371 balls, 452 minutes. Never blasting the bowling, but collecting his runs with thoughtfulness and diligence.
But there was more to Jimmy Adams than met the eye.
Success for batsmen doesn’t only stem from big knocks or by filling record books. It comes when you pierce a territory guarded cautiously by alert fielders around the 22 yards.
Part of Jimmy Adams’ modus operandi for West Indies was to deny the batsmen exactly that.
He displayed unmatched excellence in a department often undersung.
He wasn’t just a man stationed at point; he guarded the region with extreme caution and single-minded vigilance.
On other occasions, he moved closer to the ‘enemy’ territory, para trooping at short-leg. Mark Taylor found it out rather discontentedly when a finely middled ball from Ambrose at Kingston Jamaica in 1995 was caught with unimaginable ease by the Jamaican.
On other occasions, Andy Flower learned the perils of working the ball into Jimmy Adams-territory.
Needing just 98 to win in a 2000 Test in the Caribbean, Zimbabwe bowed out on 63.
Jonty may have been the legend raising the bar for fielding. But the West Indians had no complaints; in Adams, they had a man who’d match Rhodes for toughness and single-minded alertness at all times.
When he wasn’t plucking catches out of thin air, going airborne, he was the busy workhorse in the middle, content at doing the basics.
The first three years of Test Cricket unfurled nearly a third of Jimmy Adams’ career runs.
The patient watcher, the fast runner among the two in a stand, the defender of West Indies on many an odd day with the bat went about collecting his runs with astonishing speed.
In 1992- his Test batting was north of 51. A year later, it rose to 85.
You read that right.
One year later, the year when Brian Lara, at his peak, climbed past Sobers, Jimmy Adams’ bat produced 894 runs.
The average, that year, was exactly what Sir Don Bradman left the game with- 99.
How surprising, must one say, is the fact that for a batsman who compiled nearly a third of his career runs in just the first three years in Test Cricket, managed to chart only a little over 3,100 runs in the end?
But while the moment lasted for Jimmy, he made it count, perpetually with the stubbornness of the bat.
Occasionally, cutting into a gentle smile.
Hundreds against India, Pakistan were common recurrences. There was even a famous double-hundred against New Zealand; that fantastic 208 not out.
But for the better part of his career- one where he compiled 6 Test hundreds, 28 fifties (including both forms), Adams remained content being the second-hero.
You could say the tireless sepoy. The second lieutenant in charge of command. But one who dared to make a difference. One who didn’t shy away from taking big responsibility.
He showed success could come to you when you work out a bowler mentally by just doing the basics; defending, padding up, even leaving one delivery too many; not akin to the flourish of a ballerina in a crowd-pulling act but with the craftiness of a woodpecker that keeps chipping away, doing its job for it has to.
Few cricketers essayed the simplicity and complimented it with the love for the grind as Jimmy Adams.
He was as central and ever-lasting to the West Indian cricket of the 1990s as is the T20 to today’s game.
Many batsmen have amassed far more runs spending a decade batting for their sides.
Most have fan-bases, are remembered every day on social media, inspire hashtags and are synonymous with cricketing nostalgia. Picture Mark Waugh. Daryl Cullinan. Jonty Rhodes. Inzamam.
But not everyone epitomizes the love for the grind as sedately as Jimmy Adams. Few put the joy of having contributed to team wins over individual feats.
Jimmy Adams was, doubtlessly, a team man.
Paying homage to a career that could only produce 5000 plus international runs might seem too fashionable an idea, like over-cooking a meal.
But for what it stood for; upholding the dignity of the West Indies of the 1990s; soldiering on during adversity; contributing to delay the inevitable decline that seemed certain in post-1996 era- Jimmy Adams must be hailed.
Not only since the man has turned 52 recently.