Joseph deserving of huge kudos

Published: Feb 07, 2019, 08:08 IST | Clayton Murzello

Windies pacers decision to play through grief against England after his mother passed away placed him on a list of other cricketing bravehearts

Joseph deserving of huge kudos
West Indies fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, whose mother passed away during the recent Antigua Test against England at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloThe player who can claim some credit for West Indies' recent win over England in Antigua is young fast bowler Alzarri Joseph. He was told that his mother Sharon succumbed to a brain tumour on Day Three of the Test, after which he bowled an impact spell of 7-4-12-2 to help demolish England for 132.

It reflected a kind of toughness that is nothing short of special Joseph bowled through sheer grief, having being told about his mother's death by his father Alva as he was boarding the team bus heading to the ground. "I told him that his mother has passed away. He was speechless for a few minutes and broke down in tears. But he regained his composure and decided to play," Joseph Sr told this newspaper's freelance reporter Bipin Dani on Saturday.

West Indies batting legend Brian Lara would have been reminded of his father's death when he read of Joseph's plight. Lara was 12th man in the West Indies squad for the Trinidad Test against India in 1989. His father Bunty was thrilled, but on the opening day of the Test, the after effects of his two heart attacks consumed him. The entire West Indies team landed up for Bunty's funeral.

Sachin Tendulkar, Lara's great rival for the No. 1 batsman title in world cricket during the 1990s, also lost his father while on cricket duty. Ramesh Tendulkar, as well documented, succumbed to a heart attack while his son was in England with the Indian team for the 1999 World Cup and Sachin's hundred against Kenya on return to England from his father's funeral, has gone down in cricket folklore.

Tendulkar's fellow Mumbai teammates Vinod Kambli and Wasim Jaffer too played through grief after the death of their mothers while playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.

And Eknath Solkar, that large-hearted Mumbai and India stalwart performed the last rites of his father Dhondu and returned to the Brabourne Stadium to resume his innings to help Mumbai win the 1968-69 Ranji Trophy final against Bengal. India captain Virat Kohli too resumed his innings after his father passed away in the wee hours of December 19, 2006. Batting on 40 overnight, Kohli, according to Delhi journalist Vijay Lokapally, helped Delhi avoid the follow on against Karnataka but was wrongly adjudged caught behind for 90. Kohli left the Kotla to attend his father's funeral and despite being in the throes of sorrow, he called his batting partner Punit Bisht to congratulate him for his century.

Mohammed Azharuddin experienced personal trauma when it was conveyed to him via a telegram from home that his grandfather was unwell. In Azhar, the former India captain's authorised biographer, Harsha Bhogle wrote about how Ravi Shastri (captain of India Under-25 against England in 1984) was sitting next to Azharuddin as the India U-25 openers were batting when he was delivered a telegram. Azharuddin's glanced at the communication and noticed that it was addressed to him but Shastri was all set to put it in his pocket. Azharuddin's request to see the telegram was granted and he learnt that his grandfather was in a serious condition.

Azharuddin wanted to leave only to be coaxed by Shastri to stay on and bat at No 3. Azharuddin went on and got a classy hundred. Shastri withheld the news of the death of Azharuddin's grandfather. When the India hopeful arrived in Hyderabad, his worst fears came true — his grandfather had expired.

Cricket writers too have received depressing news while on tour. Journalist Rajan Bala was told about his father's death during India's 1984 tour of Pakistan. He wanted to leave for home in the dead of the night, only to be convinced by Lala Amarnath, who was in Pakistan as his son Mohinder was part of the Indian team. Lala told Bala that he will be his father henceforth but he shouldn't leave for India.

In 1990, Debasish Datta, a Kolkata-based writer, was busy writing yet another piece for his newspaper on the Lord's Test when he had a visitor in the form of Sunil Gavaskar. The batting legend was there to deliver the news to Datta that his newly married brother and wife were involved in a horrific accident in Kolkata. Three nights later, an anxious Datta called the Incentive Care Unit reception of SSKM Hospital to check on the couple's progress, only to be told by the head nurse that his brother had passed away 10 minutes back.

He immediately made arrangements to leave London. When he reached Kolkata his mother admonished him for abandoning the tour and insisted he returns to cover the series. "Thanks to my mother, I was able to witness Tendulkar's first Test century which he scored in the second Test at Manchester," Datta told me.

Brightness has eventually emerged from the cloud of gloom for all those who have endured bereavement. Joseph's time will come too and his departed mother will be willing him on – for one more spell, another wicket and a big effort to be part of West Indies cricket's rich fast bowling legacy.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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