By Zaheer Mohamed
Keemo Mandela Angus Paul became Guyana’s latest West Indies test recruit; he was called up on Tuesday last for the final Test against Sri Lanka in Barbados. The game will commence tomorrow and is the first day/night Test that will be played in the Caribbean.
From the tender age of eight Paul left his birth place of Saxacalli for the Essequibo River island of Wakenaam where he started his cricketing career, and from a boy running around on cricket grounds on the island, Paul has worked his way to the pinnacle of the game thereby becoming the first Essequibo cricketer to achieve the feat.
Paul, who attended the Essequibo Islands’ Secondary in Wakenaam, was encouraged by the author of this article, a certified Coach, to get involved in the game in his initial days in Wakenaam.
He joined the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) Digicel Grassroots and Scotiabank Kiddy Coaching programmes that were conducted by Mohamed and Nandkishore Andrews, with the former programme being done at the Wakenaam Community Centre ground.
He has always shown commitment and discipline and never showed signs of giving up, such was his courage that when he was not selected to play for the Essequibo U15 team, the first time he was called to trials he worked harder and became the county’s Captain the following year.
At a tender age, he had a somewhat difficult time in getting into the starting eleven of some clubs for tournaments in Wakenaam, but this did not deter him; he soon became a member of the Noitgedacht Sports Club (NSC) and was given the opportunity to hone his skills. He later became a member of the Demerara Cricket Club.
Paul first represented Guyana at the U15 level as a batsman who also bowled off-spin, but started to bowl fast when he was asked to do so by Coach Garvin Nedd in the nets following his selection on the Guyana U17 team; he subsequently became the team’s premier all-rounder in the said tournament.
Paul was then selected to play for Guyana at the U19 level and notched up his highest score (97) against the Leeward Islands at Providence. He won the MVP award in that tournament and was later named Vice Captain of the West Indies U19 side for the CWC World Cup in 2016.
It was in this tournament he caught the eyes of many with his all-round display and his knowledge of the game was showcased when he mankad a Zimbabwean lower order batman to ensure West Indies made it to the quarterfinals.
The dismissal sparked debates among players as well as commentators, but his action is well covered within the laws of the game. The West Indies went on to win their first U19 World Cup and Paul played an integral role in the final against India.
Following that showing, Paul was next on the radar of the Guyana Cricket Board Local Franchise League, and he made his first-class debut for Guyana in the 2016–17 Regional Four Day Competition on 18 March 2017. He made his Twenty20 debut for Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2017 Caribbean Premier League on 5 August 2017 and in October 2017, he scored his maiden century in first-class cricket against Jamaica.
Born on February 21, 1998, Paul was encouraged by his father David Paul and other family members while his teacher in Saxacalli, Joylin Fiedtkou told him that he would one day play Test cricket.
His dad has always been there for him and continues to be the driving force behind his career. Speaking with Kaieteur Sport from Barbados, Paul expressed delight on his call up to the Test team.
”It came as a surprise, I didn’t expect it so soon, but I am looking forward to the challenge, I have put in the hard work and it has paid off. I must thank God for reaching this far and playing Test cricket is a great achievement,” he added.
Paul recalled his boyhood days in Saxacalli, “Everyday as soon as I woke up I would play cricket with my family, I used to bat a lot even when I was dismissed I was asked to continue batting. When I returned from school I would continue to bat until dusk.
The all-rounder remembered his initial playing days in Wakenaam. “I was encouraged by Zaheer Mohamed to take the sport seriously. Many days I would be the only student that turned up for practice sessions and I have seen the result today.”
Apart from the President of the NSC Trevor Stewart and friends, Paul was also given much support by V Net Communications Chief Executive Officer Safraz Sheriffudeen who made him the brand Ambassador of his company.
”V Net Communications has always been there for me, they have given me tremendous support and I am very thankful for all those who have supported me including the NSC, DCC, Wakenaam Cricket Committee, Essequibo Cricket Board and GCB,”
In an invited comment, Sheriffudeen told Kaieteur Sport that Paul is a very positive cricketer who knows what he wants to accomplish, he sets his goals and works extremely hard towards them. “I first took note of the name when he played for the Essequibo Islands Secondary School in two T20 games scoring 80 odd and a century. I first saw him when he played in one of our T20 tournaments in Wakenaam and so impressed I was, that I decided to offer my support,” he stated.
Sheriffudeen said Paul is always committed, whether on or off the field and has always been working towards improving his game. He made his One Day International (ODI) debut for the West Indies against Afghanistan in the World Cup Qualifier on 15 March and made his T20I debut for the West Indies against Pakistan on 1 April. Paul was named the Emerging Cricketer of the Year at the annual Cricket West Indies’ Awards on Wednesday night last.
This is just the stepping stone for bigger things to come in the career of the talented Keemo Paul.
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