‘Remember the name': The unlikely triumph of Guyana's Shamar Joseph has brought joy to West Indies cricket fans

Feature image of the West Indies Cricket flag via Canva Pro.

On January 28, sports headlines around the world were primarily focused on the history that had been made at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, fondly called The Gabba. On that Sunday, the West Indies cricket team secured its first test cricket victory in Australia since 1997, ending an arduous dry spell that had lasted those 27 years. They did it in style, too, grasping victory by a nail-biting eight runs — and bringing to an unexpected end a match in which most people thought the Aussies were a shoo-in:

The player who helped pull off the feat — with an injured toe at that — was Shamar Joseph, a 24-year-old right-handed fast bowler, who took seven wickets and won the titles of Man of The Match and Player of the Series for his efforts:

The moment of victory had cricket fans around the world spellbound…

… though no one celebrated as joyously as the team themselves:

For many longstanding fans of the game, the moment was like a return to the glory days of West Indies cricket, when the team dominated the sport in the 1970s and '80s. The determination to excel back then was in some measure prompted by the aggressive playing style and hurtful taunts of the Australian side, which, decades ago, had racist undertones. This time, former Australian player Rodney Hogg calling the West Indies team “hopeless” and “pathetic” helped motivate Joseph and the rest of the team, infusing them with grit and passion, and leaving some to wonder whether they were witnessing a renaissance:

Even the Australian commentators were drawn into the excitement of the moment:

One X (formerly Twitter) user added:

There was understandably a lot of praise for Joseph himself, as the hero of the match, with social media users calling him “a superstar,” a “deadset legend [and] joy to watch,” and “a king“. He certainly returned home to a hero's welcome, which included a Cricket West Indies (CWI) international retainer contract. He has also been signed by the Peshawar Zalmi, ahead of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024.

Joseph's success has only been made sweeter by the fact that he only made his first-class cricket debut for Guyana in February 2023, playing just a handful of home games before arriving in Australia. Most of all, though, his personal journey resonated with people throughout the region.

The young cricketer, who hails from Baracara, a remote village that is reportedly 225 kilometres by boat from the nearest town and was only able to access the internet in 2018, was never part of any formal cricket programme. Instead, he would use “anything that looked like a ball to play his cricket.” He worked, at different times, as a logger, a labourer, and a security guard, but ultimately decided to focus on cricket — and in so doing, inspired many young West Indians to believe in themselves and pursue their own dreams.

Trinidadian Facebook user Rubadiri Victor used Joseph's success as an example to ask how many other young men with talent are being overlooked: “How many Boys have we marginalized who can be our Saviours?”

In an era when Twenty20 (T20) cricket (a short format version of the game) has been capturing the interest of fans, the win also generated a renewed interest in test cricket, where matches go on for days at a time, but often deliver incredible victories rooted in clever strategy and unshakeable resilience:

Trinidadian academic Amílcar Presi Sanatan mused, “For years I have had to put up with people (my age) telling me how much test cricket is a waste of time. Hello, you could be T20 champions for the rest of your life. Okay … Test cricket? A test match and test series are the true tests of a man/woman🏏. A serious cricketing nation takes test cricket seriously. I really hope we continue our financial, talent and market investment in WI test cricket.”

In the end, there were only a couple of things left to say:

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