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Shamar Joseph: Sky Sports' Michael Atherton meets West Indies' fast-bowling star ahead of England series

Michael Atherton chats to new West Indies fast-bowling star Shamar Joseph about near-death experiences, shredding Australia and facing England; Joseph in West Indies squad for first Test at Lord's, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am, Wednesday (11am first ball)

From chopping down trees to chopping down Australia - it has been some rise for West Indies fast bowler Shamar Joseph.

The former logger from the Guyanese village of Baracara, which has a population of around 300 and is only accessible by boat, made headlines in Brisbane in January when he braved a busted toe to take a seven-wicket haul and fire West Indies to a famous win.

When he bowled Josh Hazlewood, the Caribbean side had their first Test victory in Australia since 1997. Joseph ran away in delight. Brian Lara, who had scored a century in the previous triumph down under in Perth 27 years earlier, was in tears in the commentary box.

West Indies' Shamar Joseph raises the ball after taking 7 wickets in his team's defeat of Australia on the 4th day of their cricket test match in Brisbane, Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. (Jono Searle/AAP Image via AP)
Image: Shamar Joseph's seven-wicket haul took West Indies to their first Test win in Australia since 1997

Tears were shed by Joseph a day before when he was crunched on the boot by a Mitchell Starc yorker and had to retire hurt, leaving the paceman wondering whether he would feature again in the match and Australia requiring 216 for a 2-0 series win.

The hosts were over halfway there at 113-2 only for Joseph to hoover up seven of the final eight wickets as Pat Cummins' men were dismissed for 207. Steve Smith, whom Joseph had removed with his first ball in Test cricket in the series opener in Adelaide, was left stranded on 91 as West Indies triumphed by eight runs.

Shamar Joseph celebrates with team-mates after bowling West Indies to victory in the second Test against Australia
Image: Joseph picked up 13 wickets in two Tests against Australia en route to being named Player of the Series

'I saw my life flash before my eyes'

Dismissing Smith on debut to kick off a five-wicket haul and snaffling 13 wickets across the two games in a player-of-the-series display would have once been a distant dream for Joseph.

"I never had the thought of even going to Australia," he told Sky Sports' Michael Atherton during an interview you can watch during the first England vs West Indies Test at Lord's, from Wednesday.

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Athers travelled to Guyana to catch up with Joseph, while he also visited Baracara to see where the paceman was bred and to chat to family members, including his sister and mother.

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Joseph recounts the near-death experience that changed his life and eventually kick-started his cricket career

It was after nearly being hit by a tree while he worked as a logger with his father that Joseph made the decision to leave Baracara aged 17, head to New Amsterdam and eventually seek a cricket career - something he achieved after a stint as a security guard.

"Doing logging was quite dangerous. I saw my life flash before my eyes and I said, 'I am not into this anymore'. I had to make a decision. It was a tough one. It wasn't easy to leave Dad alone to do his work as we had a bond."

Joseph's decision has borne fruit.

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Joseph reminisces about his younger days growing up in Baracara and playing cricket with the closest object he could find to a ball!

He attended a camp held by West Indies fast-bowling legend Curtly Ambrose, which gave him the "push" he needed.

"His words to me were: 'you have good potential, I want to see you in the Guyana team next year'. I picked up eight wickets in two matches in the trials and got called up by Guyana."

After just five first-class games, and off an impressive tour of South Africa with West Indies A, Joseph was picked for the Australia series, with commentator Ian Bishop telling ESPNCricinfo at the time: "There's a lot of high hopes for him because of his attitude and physical capabilities. He has hustle, bustle and really comes at you."

West Indies' Shamar Joseph celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Steve Smith (Associated Press)
Image: Joseph is in West Indies' squad for the three-Test tour of England this June

'Getting the last wicket was pure joy'

Australia soon found that out for themselves, starting when Joseph forced Smith to edge to third slip at Adelaide Oval.

Joseph's debut five-for, in which he also bounced out Marnus Labuschagne, came in vain as West Indies were thumped by 10 wickets but his second, at The Gabba, secured one of the most memorable Test moments in recent history.

Not even that busted toe could stop him.

I had hopes for him but I didn’t expect him to be able to go to Australia, one of the toughest cauldrons to go as a bowler, and to be able to hit his length as consistently as he did at that pace and to maintain his control. His temperament was above my expectation.
Ian Bishop on Shamar Joseph

"It was not easy to go through that pain and come back out but I learnt one thing and that is that giving up is not an option for me. I wasn't fine but it's my second Test match, I can't just say I don't want to play. I was eager to go out and do my best.

"All the wickets stand out but getting the last wicket was pure joy. You don't know how to express those emotions. I just had to run to the coaches, my team-mates. It was amazing."

Joseph cleaned up Cameron Green to trigger a stirring comeback. Travis Head was bowled for a golden duck next ball. Alex Carey also castled. Starc spooned to backward point. Mitchell Marsh snicked behind, as did Cummins and Nathan Lyon.

From 191-9, Australia added a further 16 runs to threaten victory but Joseph ended that hope by dismissing Hazlewood. Cue wild celebrations - which were also seen when Joseph returned to the Caribbean and was mobbed at the airport. He now had hero status.

That wicket gave me joy, made me feel all big. Getting one of Australia’s best Test batsmen out motivated me and built my confidence. After that I kept getting wicket after wicket.
Shamar Joseph on making Steve Smith his first Test wicket

'I definitely want to do great in England'

He has been back to Baracara "to put up some internet at my mum's place" and credits growing up in that verdant spot, where he used to play cricket with lemons and limes for balls, for the success he is enjoying, which he hopes will now stretch to being a key player for West Indies across all formats of the international game.

"Growing up in Baracara was special for me. You learn what life is all about - you see what is a hard way and what is an easy way. If not for the training I had, I don't think I would be in this position. Having that discipline plays a part. You have to have discipline in cricket.

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Joseph is looking to impress in England this summer and then become a firm fixture for West Indies across all formats

"People from Baracara support cricket a lot, not just me but also West Indies. As much as I can do for them, I will."

Lord's, from Wednesday, is Joseph's next stop as he aims to build on the stellar start to his Test career: "I know I will do it more in Test cricket and I definitely want to do great in England.

"For sure, I know my name will be on the honours boards."

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The West Indies squad were invited to Buckingham Palace to meet King Charles ahead of the three-Test series against England

Catch Shamar Joseph: The Boy from Baracara during Sky Sports' coverage of the first England vs West Indies Test at Lord's. The full programme will be available to watch On Demand from Friday.

Watch England vs West Indies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10am on Wednesday (11am first ball) as James Anderson plays his final international match before retirement.

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