Following in the footsteps of Walsh, Ambrose, Garner and Holding, the West Indies might just have found their next world class fast bowler. Kemar Roach might not have the same daunting height as his predecessors, but he is every bit as dangerous as them.
Big things were expected of Roach from the moment he took a hat-trick against Pakistan in a warm-up match before the under-19 World Cup in 2006. His searing pace and late swing made him virtually unplayable, and he immediately caught the eye of West Indian selectors.
Roach made his international debut in 2008, where he took two wickets in the West Indies’ comfortable T20 win over Australia. The national honours continued to flow that year, as he snared 2/29 in his first ODI match against Bermuda.
The West Indian pay dispute in 2009 gave him his first chance at Test cricket, and he didn’t disappoint. Although the weakened squad were beaten in both the Tests and ODI’s, Roach was the lone star in both forms of the game. 13 wickets in the Test series, including career best figures of 6/48, were soon followed by 10 wickets in the ODI series.
His excellent stats against Bangladesh saw him picked for the tour of Australia. The hosts had not seen much of Roach, but it didn’t take long for them to realise they were dealing with a man of prodigious talent. The most telling moment of his career came in the third Test in Perth on a pitch that was always going to suit his style of bowling. Ricky Ponting was the victim on this occasion; struck on the elbow by a bouncer that almost clocked 150 k/ph. It was the delivery that made the world take notice. The brash West Indian sent the Australian captain to hospital, and it is believed that Ponting never played the pull shot the same way after that.
Roach continued to deliver in the Test arena, this time in Sri Lanka. His ten wickets in two matches saw him named Man of the Series in conditions that should have seen him struggle. His form against Australia in 2012 was equally impressive, and saw him become the first West Indian bowler since 2005 to claim ten wickets in a match. With 82 wickets in just 21 appearances, he is regarded one of the finest quicks in the world at the moment.
His ODI stocks rose rapidly during the 2011 World Cup. Roach bagged 13 wickets in the tournament, including a hat-trick against the Netherlands. He finished with 6/27 in the game, which remains his career best haul. It is this sort of aggression and accuracy that could trouble the Australians in the upcoming ODI series.
In T20 cricket, Roach has announced himself as a mainstay in the World Champion team. He was picked up by the Deccan Chargers for $720,000 in the IPL, and played for the Brisbane Heat in the recent KFC T20 Big Bash League. His effort in the final (3/18) helped the Heat capture their first BBL title.