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A tribute to Kemar Roach

The 3rd test match at Old Trafford belonged to Stuart Broad and rightfully so. He starred with both bat and ball as he dispelled any doubts on his world class ability. To put the icing on the cake, Broad became only the 7th bowler to have 500 hundred test wickets and hence putting him in the league of bowlers such as Shane Warne, Courtney Walsh and, of course, James Anderson.

Stuart Broad has been,deservedly, flooded with immense praise and congratulations as the the entire country celebrates yet another achievement by one of England’s greatest ever players.

However, in amidst all this fervour for Stuart Broad’s monumental achievement,a West Indian bowler became only the 9th West Indian bowler to have joined the 200 wickets club and that man is the remarkable Kemar Roach…

Kemar Roach began his international career as a young tearaway quick who could hurl the ball in speeds excessive of 90 miles per hour. He could also produce prodigious movement with the old ball which is an attribute a fast bowler would do anything for.

His breakthrough series came when he caught the eye of cricket fans around the world with his fiery pace and aggression against Australia. Most notably, Kemar Roach managed to hit Ricky Ponting, one of the finest players of short pitched bowling in history, on the elbow and he was sent to hospital.

Despite his unfortunate injury, Ricky Ponting had some kind words to say about the budding fast bowler:

“Someone who is pretty short at that pace can get the ball to skid onto you pretty quickly off the wicket with not much bounce. We’ve played him pretty well here [in Adelaide]. The ball reverse-swung for them in both innings. He’s a handful, there’s no doubt about that.”

Ricky Ponting

After this series, Kemar Roach had developed a fierce reputation as a bowler who could bowl at astonishing speeds and success followed.

He made his ODI debut against Bermuda in 2009 and then went on to accumulate 91 wickets in just 50 matches at a miserly economy rate of under 5 runs. He was rewarded for his white ball form with a place in the West Indies T20 world cup side and a lucrative contract for the Deccan Chargers in the IPL.

However,all this white ball success did not derail his red ball ability as in 2012 he claimed the first 10 wicket haul by a West Indian in 7 years and that too against the Australians.

Kemar Roach’s international career was cruising along nicely as he terrorised batsmen around the globe with his skiddy pace but it was all put to a halt by a fast bowler’s greatest nemesis: injuries.

Roach’s 5 foot 7 frame was struggling to cope with the demands of bowling fast bowling as knee injuries gnawed away at his helpless body. His T20 form rapidly declined and he never played a T20 after the year of 2012.

To emphasise how much injuries had curtailed his career, Kemar Roach has missed almost a third of his team’s test matches as a result of his knee but all this did not stop him from battling on.

To rub salt into the wound, Kemar Roach was met with a car accident and narrowly escaped a serious injury. This crash scarred Roach mentally as he revealed that he was reluctant to drive again but he maintained that the crash had no implications on his game. This may have been true but it is impossible to deny how hard it would have been to start playing the game again.

Kemar Roach at the Prime Ministers 11 Cricket match in Canberra 2010.

Against all the odds, after years of scarce opportunities due to his injuries, Kemar Roach was back playing for the West Indies as he was selected for a tour to England but he was a different bowler.

No longer a rapid bowler capable of bowling speeds upwards of 90 miles per hour, he was a wily swing and seam bowler who bowled at the relatively meek speed of 80 miles per hour.

This did not deter at all as he took 11 wickets in 5 innings and Kemar Roach hasn’t look back since. He transformed himself into a swing bowling wizard and bowler capable of getting left handers out at will. He had completely remodelled himself and became even better because of it.

In what he describes as his best ever series, West Indies defeated England 2-1 in 2018 and Kemar Roach was the chief architect of destruction as he claimed 18 wickets in 3 games. These 18 wickets also included a brilliant 5 for 4 and only needed 27 balls to take it.

A stat that sums up Kemar Roach’s rise is that ever since his comeback, he has averaged at less than 23 and taken 79 test wickets. These are outstanding stats.

To cap all of this off, Kemar Roach claimed his 200th test wicket at the Old Trafford Test and all his perseverance and hard work has finally come to fruition. From being ridden with injuries and mentally scarred to becoming one of the best fast bowlers in the world.

What a journey it has been!

The reason I admire the career of Kemar Roach so much is because of the sheer versatility and self belief he had shown in the face of adversity. It must have been daunting to come to terms with the reality that he may never play again and even if he does he wouldn’t be able to bowl the thunderbolts that made him in love with the game in the first place.

Despite this giant obstacle, Kemar Roach came back better and stronger and completed a fairytale comeback but it’s not over just yet…

Courtney Walsh believes that there might still be some miles left in Kemar Roach’s 32 year old legs:

“It shows hard work and dedication pays off. I think he is fit enough to get to 250 or even 300.”

Courtney Walsh

Seeing that the former king of longevity himself thinks this, we definitely have not seen the last of Kemar Roach and he will be back to terrorise English batsmen for years to come(unfortunately)…

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