On July 12, 2021, just a few hours ago actually, the West Indies were the toast of the cricket world. It was hard to decide what to give more credit to- whether to the team that defeated the Australians among all after countless years in a bi-lateral series or direct all the applause to the Universe boss, who raised 14,000 T20 runs. Not a joke.
Though the scenes were different three days later.
On July 15, 2021, it was difficult to decide what to direct one’s ire to. Whether to the fact that none other than Andre Russell went quiet in the very over where firing surface-to-air missiles were needed or whether to criticise Oshane Thomas?
Of the 189 runs that Australia carved in an attack lacking Bravo and McCoy, Oshane Thomas leaked 31 runs alone. That didn’t hurt nearly as much as the fact that he went at fifteen an over, bowling just two overs before captain Pooran decided to remove him from the sight of a dangerous Mitchell Marsh.
Though, let’s face facts. Oshane Thomas made a comeback into the T20 line up after having last represented the West Indies seven months back in time.
For a cricketer to return to a side after having sat out of international cricket for half a year and then be tasked with delivering results immediately is no smooth ask. One would call it an uphill climb.
But at the same time, let’s not forget Oshane Thomas is no ordinary talent. In 2017, thanks to a superb match-winning spell in the Caribbean Premier League, he knocked on the selectors’ doors and found himself considered to wear the proud Maroon jersey soon after.
In the mother of all sporting battles, 2019 World Cup, it was Oshane Thomas who made a place for himself and became the headlining material when he rocked the back of a Pakistani line-up featuring Imam, Fakhar, Babar, Sohail and others.
That’s ample evidence of a fine talent making himself counted at a stage where it really matters. That it was West Indies’ campaign-opener, which resulted in a big win was simply stellar.
But the Oshane Thomas the world got to see a few hours ago felt like a different bowler. Not that the fast-bowling tearaway has lost the speed. He’s a hard-as-nails cricketer who will bowl his heart out.
And perhaps that is where the problem or concern should the former seem like a mightily disturbing word lays; in a sport that requires you to perform from the brain just as much as from the heart, the arm pacer seemingly falls short on the former.
It’s not that pace has cheated him. Today, he bowled easily in excess of 140 kmph. That’s a sign of a young tearaway wanting to go the quick route without much ado.
Could it still be, however, that Oshane Thomas needs to reorient his craft a tad bit to work out some flaws.
If you haven’t sensed yet that the lanky Jamaican bowls full and perhaps a tad bit too full and much to the batsmen’s liking, then you are either watching cricket blind-folded or living under a rock.
If the ball is in the slot of a batsman like Finch or Marsh, none of whom need any introduction whatsoever, especially in that stage in the series where there’s nothing more to lose, you are flirting with danger.
But young Oshane Thomas doesn’t seem to learn.
In my freewheeling interaction with Vernon Springer, where I asked the Antigua-based cricket analyst and expert all things Oshane Thomas, I did bring the question whether someone like Sir Curtly needs to sit Thomas down and guide him a bit.
I asked one of the most passionate voices on the sport in the Caribbean if something’s mightily wrong with Oshane Thomas but Mr. Springer, true to his cerebral style of examining a question offered a different theory altogether.
One that sounded convincing and beckons great introspection, not in the least from this current West Indies side.
“I just think that Oshane Thomas needs to put some miles under his legs. He needs to get himself organised. Young legs of his. He needs to run a lot more than he probably is, get slightly lean. He doesn’t need any bowling coach.”
Now when I picked Mr. Springer’s brain as to why he doesn’t need a special coach who could for instance, guide him on how to develop other resources in his armoury, here’s what the famous Caribbean analyst had to say, “Thomas’ style isn’t perhaps fluent enough. He is juggling rather than hitting the crease. And I think that is his major problem. I reiterate, he’s got to get a lot of running.”
That said, are there any other skills that a bowler with the speed of Thomas needs to develop?
Mr. Springer responded, “As a fast bowler, one has to be willing to put a lot of hard work. Thomas burst into the world three years ago, went to the CPL and IPL, though since then he’s fallen apart. One of the things that happens that if you are fit, you are stronger on the mental side of things. But additionally speaking, one of the things that may have hurt his case is that in the last CPL, he was kept out of the action in his Jamaica Tallawahs team. But if he wises to go the long way and play international cricket, then he has to be prepared to work very very hard and change some things in his craft whilst working on his fitness.”
With another game to go and then Pakistan coming down Windies’ shores, there’ll be plenty of opportunities for Thomas to work out some of the flaws, which one thinks someone like Roddy Estwick is in the best-possible place to assist with.
Chin up, Thomas. You will get better and get there!