Who is Reynard Leveridge?
That was the question on the lips of many West Indians when the fast bowler’s name appeared yesterday among those chosen for the imminent West Indies ‘A’ team tour of Sri Lanka.
The 25-year-old member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has basically got his chance at breaking into top-flight cricket through bowling in the nets to both the West Indies and India teams at Sabina Park during the recent Test series.
It is a route previously experienced by the then unheralded Barbadian pacer Fidel Edwards who owed his introduction to international cricket through bowling to West Indies captain Brian Lara in the nets ahead of the 2003 home series against Sri Lanka. Edwards went on to play 55 Tests in a nine-year career, capturing 165 wickets with 12 five-wicket hauls.
Damion Grey, the captain of the JDF cricket team, said he was not surprised that teammate Leveridge had been called to the West Indies ‘A’ team tour of Sri Lanka, starting next month.
The six-foot five-inch tall Leveridge, who turns 26 this Thursday, has never played first class cricket.
However, the Jamaican drew the attention of West Indies head coach Phil Simmons and others in the regional side’s management set-up while bowling in the practice nets. Former West Indies fast bowling ace Ian Bishop, who now commentates on air, was also impressed.
“I think it’s [his selection] justified because he has been putting in the work over the course of recent seasons,” Grey told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“West Indies Coach Phil Simmons saw him, and Ian Bishop as well. They liked the real, raw talent when he bowled in the nets.”
Usually making the most of his height to get steep bounce combined with sharp pace, Leveridge has been a success for the JDF in local club cricket, taking bags of wickets.
He was on the verge of making the Jamaica Scorpions team for last season’s Professional Cricket League before a side muscle strain ruled him out at the last hour.
“During those trial matches he was on top of his game. Amongst the pace bowlers he was leading the wicket takers but he got injured,” said the JDF skipper.
Leveridge, who has represented Jamaica in hockey, is an ordinary seaman in the JDF coast guard.
He admitted that hockey, and not cricket, was his initial preferred sport.
“I was playing national hockey since age 15, and had no interest in cricket really,” Leveridge said.
He revealed that he was called up by the JDF to play cricket which he tried without having any previous experience. He stopped playing after that first try. But a year later the army called on him again to play. He said he went on Youtube and learnt a bit about fast bowling and on this occasion when he played he was a resounding success. He was called to national trials in 2015 in his first full year with the JDF but was then sidelined by a niggling injury.
Now the young pacer says he intends to work even harder on his game in an effort to play international cricket.
That journey starts in a few weeks’ time in Sri Lanka.