“I told my dad that I’d give myself three years to make the West Indies squad” © Getty
Joshua Da Silva was just 17-years-old when he turned up at Old WImbledonians CC in Surrey for a stint of club cricket as part of the Kieron Pollard Scholarship programme. He did well in that 2017 season, averaging over 60 with the bat and keeping wicket tidily. Unassuming, polite, a bit shy, the club loved him too. Everything that summer went as well as could be. Except for one match. “I remember that like yesterday,” Da Silva laughs. “That one still irks me.”
Old Wimbledonians were hosting Staines in a league game. Da Silva was left trying to chase down a total of 204 almost singlehandedly after the rest of the batting line-up had collapsed in a heap. He had just passed 50 when he was joined by the number 11. Da Silva farmed the strike, played a few shots and had somehow managed to get to 115 when, just a few runs short of leading his side to what would have been a remarkable victory, he went for one shot too many.
“The worst bowler got me out, which is the worst part,” he says. “Caught and bowled. I went for a sweep and caught the bottom of the bat and it went straight back to the dibbly dobbly bowler. That one really, really hits home because I just wanted to do it for the team… It was disappointing that I didn’t see it through.” It was the only time Johnno Gordon, Da Silva’s captain, saw him lose his cool the whole summer. They still talk about that innings now.
Things have moved quickly for Da Silva since. In just three years has gone from playing Division 3 club cricket in Surrey to unseating Denesh Ramdin, the 74 Test veteran, as Trinidad’s number one wicket-keeper during last season’s West Indies Championship. Da Silva’s performances in that competition with gloves and bat forced his way into the reserve squad for West Indies’ current tour of England.
“I did not expect this,” he tells Fame Dubai. “I told myself last year – I was talking to my Dad – I told him that I’d give myself three years to make the West Indies. I haven’t made the squad yet but I’m getting close. I’m on the reserves so hopefully soon, it will be less than that 3 years, and I can make it.”
Although some way off the finished article, his reputation is starting to grow. Jimmy Adams, the West Indies’ Director of Cricket, spoke of Da Silva’s talent on the Two Hacks, One Pro podcast this week. Floyd Reifer, the West Indies batting coach, was impressed when working with him as part of the Emerging Players team which stunningly won last season’s Regional Super 50 competition. A common theme from those who know Da Silva is praise for his work ethic and determination.
He is somewhat of a late developer, though, having only decided to pursue a cricket career rather than a football one in 2016. He played just a handful of games for Trinidad’s age group teams and never made the West Indies Under-19 team. Gordon recognised Da Silva’s talent as a 17 year-old but says it wasn’t obvious then that he would go on to a professional career.
Da Silva himself cites that season in England as a pivotal moment in his development. The responsibility of being the batting’s main bread winner each week – “If I didn’t score runs the team would’ve been in a spot of bother” – and learning to fend for himself helped him grow. “Just overall the responsibility which I never really had because I was a bit of a mummy’s boy at the time,” he says. “Still am. But that really helped me to progress.”
He had joined the famous Queen’s Park CC in Port of Spain a year before he played in England. The club had two sides in the country’s top division and they identified Da Silva as the keeper they wanted for the second of those top flight sides. At that stage, however, he wasn’t quite ready. He had a few technical issues on the front foot and was a bit too gung-ho. So the club got him ready.
Under the watchful eye of coach David Furlonge, Da Silva was put through an exhaustive five day a week training programme to get him up to scratch. In the mornings the pair would train one-to-one and in the afternoons, Da Silva would join in with the club sessions where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Shannon Gabriel and Sunil Narine. “When we decided to do it, we said don’t come in late, no complaining,” Furlonge says. “He worked hard for it.”
Six hundred runs for Queens Park in the 2017/18 season was his reward and a first-class debut for Trinidad came the following season. But Da Silva only really started to make his name in last year’s domestic programme, having worked hard on his fitness and with a fire lit under him by the disappointment of being left out of Trinidad’s squad for the one-day tournament.
It was a setback but he was given a reprieve when selected as a squad player for the West Indies Emerging Players side who were also included in that competition. Da Silva didn’t expect much game time but made the most of an early opportunity in the second game against the USA. He pumped 62 off 44 balls and then scored a hundred in the next game. “The rest was history,” he says.
Da Silva’s performances for the Emerging Players helped him force his way into Trinidad’s team for the four-day tournament which followed. He averaged 50.70 from eight first-class games, including a maiden hundred, and kept Ramdin out of the side. It was a significant leap. The season before, he had averaged 21.75. There were no significant technical changes but he had dropped 30 lbs since working with Furlonge.
“I did a lot of running. I passed the fitness test for the first time which was very good,” Da Silva says. “My fitness definitely played a big part in being able to bat for longer and making better decisions and concentrating on all those things. I needed to get fitter because to play at this level is not easy. I knew from last season that I wasn’t where I needed to be. I still have a lot of work to do.”
Da Silva wants to be an all-format cricketer but is yet to make his professional T20 debut. He was part of the Caribbean Premier League’s draft this week and although the signings have not yet been released, he is expected to be picked up by one of the franchises. His main aim, however, is to play Test cricket for West Indies. If he does so, he will be the first white West Indian to don the maroon cap since Brendan Nash in 2011.
For now, Shane Dowrich is the man in possession of the West Indies keeping gloves. But if Da Silva does eventually fulfil his dream, and he finds himself on the verge of leading his country to victory in a match, perhaps he will think back to that game against Staines in Surrey league cricket and knuckle down to get the job done. Then maybe that defeat won’t irk him so much.
© Fame Dubai