“Don’t look back on what you could have done, just move on and learn you champion.” The lyrics to his song Move on sums up the life and times of Omari Banks.
Banks is a former West Indies all-rounder, who figured in 10 Tests and five one-day internationals from 2003 to 2005. He is now a full-time reggae artist after retiring from the sport last year. He turns 31 today. Banks has followed his father in the world of music and is proud of his tracks like Move On, Unafraid and O Africa. “My music video is in the Top Ten countdown at the moment.
I’m proud of Unafraid,” he told MiD DAY from Anguilla, the small island in North Eastern Caribbean. “Reggae-Rhythm & Blues is the flavour of my music. The title track of my album is Move On and that is inspired from me moving on from cricket to music. I wrote Move On when I retired.”
Claim to fame
Banks’ claim to fame in Test cricket is his unbeaten 47 which helped Brian Lara’s West Indians to score 418 in the highest successful run chase in the history of Test cricket. The win pushed India’s 1975-76 win to No 2 position on the stats charts. More of Antigua 2003 later.
So what got Banks so heavily involved in music which became the priority of his life in cricket’s T20 age (Banks figured in the 2009 Champions League held in India where he represented Somerset)? And how confronting was it to start a new career? “It was not confronting at all. Even before I played cricket, I was involved in music with my dad being a musician. I grew up with a band house under my bedroom.
So although I started playing cricket at a very young age, I was introduced to music before that. Music and sport are my two passions and I think I’m blessed to pursue both of them. “The transition period is not the easiest one, but for me it was easy. I wasn’t willing to put in all the hard work that I did throughout my whole (cricket) career.
So for me, it was better to move on to something which I would be more focussed on. Now I’ve made music as my career and I’m really happy. I was happy when I played cricket as well.” Banks doesn’t get a chance to follow the game very closely thanks to his late night gigs. But he kept track of the odd Indian Premier League-VI game.
Memories of the West Indies vs Australia Test in Antigua 2003 are indelible. It was only his second Test and it was a home game considering Anguilla is close to St John’s. “I had quite a bit of family who came to watch the Test.
That (opening day on May 9) was quite a day for me. I told myself when I left home, ‘do your best’ and once you do your best, the pressure just comes off,” he says. Banks’ solitary wicket in Australia’s first innings was Martin Love, the top order batsman who he dismissed in the second innings as well. He also sent back Adam Gilchrist for 6.
His job for the Test had not ended with three wickets. In fact, there was an opportunity to make amends. After all, he had conceded 153 runs in a second innings 37-over spell. He walked in to bat at 288 for six with Shivnarine Chanderpaul at the other end. Target 418 seemed so far away and there were no more accomplished batsmen left to come. Plus, Australia had taken the new ball.
“Ramnaresh Sarwan had scored a hundred and got a bouncer from Brett Lee. Ridley Jacobs got out in controversial circumstances off the very next ball. The crowd threw bottles on the field and I came in when Lee was on a hat-trick,” Banks recalls. At the end of Day Four, the two batsmen had taken West Indies to 371 for six (Chanderpaul 103, Banks 28). Target 418 was only 47 runs away. “Shiv told me that I would have to take strike (often). He had a lot of confidence in me.”
Lara’s dressing room talk at the end of the fourth day was nothing short of priceless for the 21-year-old Banks. “Brian said he was proud of the guys and me whether we win or not. Hearing that from my captain meant so much. That made me feel very confident. It was comforting to know that the captain was pleased with your performance.”
The next day, Chanderpaul fell after adding just one to his overnight score. In came Vasbert Drakes and the two tall men batted on, put on 46 runs and achieved the incredible. After getting a hiding in the first three Tests of the series, West Indies finally had some champagne in their change rooms. And of course, some music as well, the very kind Banks makes a living from now.
Omari Banks’ songs:
* Move On
* O Africa
Available on YouTube
The Antigua Test of 2003 was also famous for the Glenn McGrath vs Ramnaresh Sarwan verbal duel where both players abused each other.
Here’s Omari Banks’ view on the ugly incident: “They are two competitors. Sarwan is one of my good friends actually. In sport, people play as if they are playing for their life.
“It’s all aggression in sport but when you go home and lie on your bed, you think about it and we all think we could have done things differently.”