In The Time Of Sorrow, Joseph Console In A Cricket Match > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - At the time of bereavement, Joseph takes comfort in cricket
Grief is inescapable. At some time or other, each one of us will experience it. Many of us will experience it numerous times throughout our lives and on each occasion, it will be different, it will hurt in different ways, some more anguish filled than others. Each time it affects you, it will change you, perhaps obviously, perhaps not. Yet somehow, when grief strikes, you have to find a way to put one foot in front of the other and move forward. Because what else can you do?
Alzarri Joseph has just turned 22. He's living his dream as a West Indian cricketer, one of the region's brightest and best prospects. By all accounts, he is a reserved, diligent, respectful young man, handling all that being an international sportsman brings with calmness and clarity. This morning, he was faced with a day he hoped would never come. His mother, Sharon, passed away in the early hours after a long illness battling a brain tumour.
Cricket fades into insignificance at a moment such as this. Who, frankly, cares about the result of a Test match when a young man has to deal with the death of his mother? Grief is never easy to handle but for young people, its effects can be magnified. Nobody would have blamed Joseph if he had abandoned this game to be with his family. If he had chosen that course of action, it would have absolutely been the right one for him.
That he chose, instead, to stay and finish the second Test was also the right one. There is no wrong at a time such as this.
But thoughts of his mother would no doubt have been constant. How could they not be? Both sets of players wore black armbands and when Joseph came out to bat in the first session, he was given a sustained round of applause by the spectators and England's players. As former West Indian fast-bowler Ian Bishop tweeted, it showed a "humane" side in the heat of competition. Joseph promptly dispatched James Anderson over his head for four, holding the pose.
When West Indies came out to bowl, defending a lead of 119, Joseph was stationed down at fine leg as Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach opened up before lunch. There, all alone with only his thoughts for company, you just wanted someone to give him a hug. At a time of bereavement, people often say they take comfort in being with other people, trying, not to distract themselves, but to share memories of better times, to think of those rather than the sadness and the gloom. For four overs, Joseph had nobody to distract him.
Once he got the ball in his hand, he had other things to think about and given the emotional toll he was under, Joseph's performance was nothing short of remarkable. In the hour before tea, he removed the England captain Joe Root, for the second time in the match, with a snorter of a delivery and then bowled Joe Denly with a good one.
He should also have had another wicket in his seven-over spell when he bowled a beauty to Ben Stokes which bounced and left him, finding the edge only to be dropped at third slip by John Campbell. If it had been taken, Joseph's figures would have been 3 wickets for 2 runs.
The spell proved why Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose and Bishop have raved about him since he was part of the West Indies team which won the Under-19 World Cup in 2016. He has a smooth, rhythmical run-up; height, which generates good bounce; and an easy, repeatable action. He is quick and gaining in consistency, and hardly bowled a bad ball today. Despite back trouble keeping him out of the side for the past 18 months, the future looks very bright indeed.
But it was the way Joseph handled himself, the mental strength he displayed - that was perhaps the most impressive aspect of his performance today. It would have been easy to go through the motions, easy to be distracted by other things. But, remarkably, there was none of that. It wouldn't have been easy to focus on the game but he managed it. That is testament to his character, to the way he was raised and yes, to his mother.
For the first of his wickets, that of Root, Joseph didn't even appeal. A good length ball fizzed and cut back sharply at the right hander off the pitch before going through bat and body to the keeper but it was only thanks to Jason Holder, who reviewed the not out decision, that it became apparent the ball had brushed Root's glove on the way. When the decision was given out, Jospeh had a brief smile to himself but that was it. Despite the importance of the wicket, there was no exuberance. Clearly, it was not a day for that.
Denly's dismissal soon after wasn't celebrated at all. Having bowled the right-hander, shouldering arms, Joseph just simply trotted through to the slips, gave a few high fives and then stood there waiting for the next batsman. When Stokes was dropped, he had a quick glance at Campbell and then walked back to his mark. Clearly, it was not a day where something so trivial would cause too much concern, either.
In a 16 over spell between them, Holder and Joseph took four for 40 and nipped England's decent start in their second innings in the bud. It was the spell that made good on all the discipline West Indies had showed in the previous two and a half days. It was a spell that started a collapse of ten for 97 and which ended with West Indies taking the series two-nil with one match to go. It was the telling phase of play on day three.
"Alzarri was exceptional," said Holder. "It took a lot of heart for him to be on the field today, I think a lot of people wouldn't have been able to, but credit to him. The way he ran in this afternoon was exceptional and with a bit more luck he could have got three or four more wickets and could have put in a man-of-the-match performance.
"To see him in tears this morning was even harder, and we came together in the huddle and we just wanted to do it for him and we dedicate this day to him, his mum and his family. It was up to him if he played. I didn't want to deprive him of the opportunity to take the field. If he felt he could manage and take the field for the West Indies and perform then I wasn't going to deprive him of that."
In time, Joseph may look back at this spell, this match and this series fondly from a cricketing perspective. Right now, it's unlikely he can think of much aside from his mother. Victory is nearly always sweet but, for Joseph, it will be merely something he was part of, a blur, a moment in time. It will probably have been the hardest thing he has ever had to do but it was, at least, a first, small step on the long, hard journey of grieving.
There will be many tough days ahead and many more tears shed but today, in so many ways, Joseph put in a performance of which his mother would have been proud. And there is little doubt that she is.
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