Standing tall at 6″ 6, and weighing close to 140 kgs, to say Rahkeem Cornwall is a big man will be an understatement. Also, the man of his physical stature is definitely not something we see every day in modern professional sport, where fitness and skillset are of equal importance.
Yet, that Rahkeem Cornwall has become a household name today wherever West Indies cricket holds value has absurdly got less to do with his skills and more to do with how he stands out as a giant on the field.
Is this being unfair to the Antiguan?
This is when he has made a name for himself in the longest format of the game in the limited opportunities he has got so far.
Who can forget the famous 7 for 75 against Afghanistan, in the only Test the right-handed batsman who bowls clever off-breaks played against Rashid’s men?
It was the same contest where growing batsman Shamarh Brooks clinched headlines with a fighting century.
But where it comes to the all-rounder, we’ve got to understand how he became a busy cricketer in a short span of time?
Certainly, it’s not easy for Rahkeem Cornwall to slip under the radar. There are zero scopes for argument there.
But it must be said, the little we know of Rahkeem Cornwall’s career, for its yet to take full flight (having begun in August 2019) there’s not much thought given to his First-Class journey.
55 games 2224 runs at 24.43, 1 hundred, 13 fifties 260 wickets at 23.90, 17 five-wicket hauls, 2 10-wicket matches- all of these bear imprint to the singular factor that stands out for the Antiguan.
Love for the game. Nothing else.
Moreover, to Cornwall’s advantage, the West Indies in recent years, have not been blessed with a plethora of allrounders. Pollard, already an accomplished name in the ranks is the man-marauder-warrior-in ODIs
Let’s face it- Roston Chase is the only real name the line-up possesses where Jason Holder is the only other name that stands out as an undoubtedly solid all-rounder.
Look no further than the prized ranking afforded to the Barbadian by the ICC Tests table. But you’d think both Chase and Holder are yet to develop one aspect of their cricket that can further elevate the West Indies to a position of strength- Chase with his bowling and Holder, who’s hit a double hundred, with his batting.
Can Rahkeem Cornwall- who’s headlined the CPL already in several seasons offer a ‘debate settler?’
Just when the selectors thought there was scope for a genuine all-rounder with these two names, in came Rahkeem Cornwall like a question out of the textbooks to further a debate which now seems exciting.
But make no mistake. It’s not been a smooth ride for the fella.
Prior to making his Test debut in India 2019, where he performed exceptionally well, Cornwall was pitted against a long wait.
But someone whose greatest asset on a developing resume is pure love of the game, Rahkeem Cornwall made most of the chances afforded to him by removing a few popular Indian batsmen in the 2019 Test series.
At Sabina Park, Jadeja and Pujara were dismissed by the off-break specialist before he claimed Shami.
That told, the way it stands at the moment, Rahkeem Cornwall the cricketer is busy proving himself out in the middle even as his image finds itself to be a subject of polarisation: should he be in the team, why is he touring to England.
But we must focus on the bigger things.
Truth is, the series against England will be a big opportunity in that while he takes wickets, he must offer runs from the lower order and try to bat around Dowrich, Chase, Holder, if it comes to that since he’d remember he’s picked in the side as an all-rounder.
But will it be easy?
English conditions are an overwhelmingly difficult one, more so when you’ve never been there before.
As a spinner, he’ll be against Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.
But to his credit, Cornwall comes with a reasonable experience having played against some of the biggest names in the game in the CPL.
Let’s not forget, Cornwall is a powerful hitter as well, the England series could well be if not the decisive factor, then the groundwork for how his career’s supposed to pan out for the West Indies who are still hungry to capitalize on all-rounders.
For a side that lags two specialist batsmen- Bravo, who despite his ups and downs has forged thus far a fine career and Hetmyer who’s only growing in his stature, Rakheem Cornwall should look at the opportunity to grab it with both hands.
Ironical as it may sound, the bulging weight often used as a pelting stone to mock the man has actually, in hindsight, aids Cornwall to function as a mighty mauler of the cricket ball.
All in all, Rahkeem Cornwall, 27, comes across as someone who thinks about the game, someone who has a knack of picking wickets like how one saw in the Caribbean, someone who might not be a great turner of the ball, but on a pitch offering some assistance, can hold his own and help his team in shifting the momentum away from the batters.
If Cornwall gets a chance in the playing 11 at – the Ageas bowl and Emirates Old Trafford- that have provided encouragement for spinners in the past, will only help the West Indies in adding variety to a bowling attack bolstered by genuine quicks.
Who knows, for if all goes well, there’s a probability after the Test series when someone refers to Rahkeem Cornwall- the adjective ‘Big man’ will not correspond to his size, but rather a show of his cricketing repertoire; that respect he deserves?