Uncapped all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall has been included in West Indies’ Test squad for the two-match series against India starting with the first match at Antigua on August 22.
His call-up is coming on the back of an impressive performance for West Indies A in the recently concluded unofficial Test series against India A, during which he registered two gritty fifties in back-to-back Tests and also picked up four wickets in the first match at an excellent average of 17.25. Cornwall did a decent job in the one-day series which preceded the 4-day format as well. He picked up five wickets in four matches at an average of 34.
However, his selection hasn’t been influenced by just one good series. In fact, Cornwall has grinded his way in first-class cricket for quite some time now. And his statistics tell that he can be quite an asset for the future of Caribbean cricket.
The 26-year-old has 255 wickets in 55 first-class matches at an excellent average of 23.90 and an equally impressive strike-rate rate of 50.0, which stands at a frequency of a wicket every 8.2 overs. Even his economy rate of 2.86 is tremendous. And if you add to that his batting numbers, which read 2224 runs at an average of 24.43, it sums up how valuable an asset he is in the longer format. Moreover, these runs include 14 scores of fifty or more, one of which has been converted into a century as well. So, the numbers are there to see for everyone to gauge his quality as a player.
However, there is more to Cornwall than what these numbers suggest. He has been consistently monitored by the West Indies Cricket Board over the years ever since his talent caught the eye of the selectors. However, his physique always stood in the way of his chances of making it to the highest level.
The Antiguan weighs 140 Kgs and is one of the heaviest cricketers in the world at present. He would become the heaviest player to have ever played international cricket when he makes his Test debut for West Indies a couple of weeks later.
Cornwall would have made his debut much earlier but the Board wanted to work on getting him fit before pushing him on to the highest level of cricket. The local administration had even set up a programme with the help of the then Chairman of selectors, Courtney Browne, to help Cornwall shed a few kilos a year back.
“We’re actually putting a programme in place for Rahkeem where we are actually going to have someone to manage him overall,” Browne, a former Test player, had told a local radio station.
However, his body didn’t react to the diet and the regimen eventually and, thus, they couldn’t get a positive result out of it. This prompted the selectors to finally make the move and take him to the next level of cricket. After all he has kept performing successfully over the years with this kind of a physique. Cornwall always overcame his physical limitations with his mental strength and will-power. Yes, peak fitness is the standard of modern day cricket. It requires fielders to be at their best. Since achieving that hasn’t been possible for him, despite his constant efforts, he tries to make up for that with his batting and bowling skills. And his performances so far suggest that he will continue doing that.
It shouldn’t be forgotten how he got the best of the Indian batsmen during a tour game back in 2017. He had claimed a five-wicket haul which included the prized scalps of Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. So, that tells a lot about his skills and talent. He is 6’6″ tall and that helps him to extract some extra bounce off the surface as compared to other spinners. Cornwall gives his deliveries a nice rip as well and, that, combined with the bounce he gets, lands the batsmen in trouble most of the times. Moreover, his action helps him to get some drift even on unhelpful surfaces, thus, making him a potent wicket-taker across all conditions.
Cornwall is also a brute striker with the bat in hand. He has the temperament and ability to contribute lower down the order and his first-class record, and his recent performances against India A, serve testimony to that. So, West Indies probably have a potential gem in their hands and, hence, they need to manage his workload carefully if they desire a long career for him.