Dropped from the team, accident, comeback – The tale of Oshane Thomas’ scintillating return against Sri Lanka

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On February 16, Oshane Thomas had met with a car accident. There were reports that the car cartwheeled. Much worse, the dangerous world of social media started to circulate rumours about his belief. At that moment, all that cricket fans around the world would have hoped for was his safety and well-being.

The fact that an exciting fast-bowler who had impressed on the tour of India a year and a half back was not part of the Windies set-up wasn’t as important anymore. Oshane Thomas was dropped for his fitness and for lack of control. The Jamaican did play the odd games against India at home and Ireland but a confirmed spot in the line-up wasn’t there yet.

It was at such a time that Thomas met with a scary accident. However, luckily the six-foot six inches fast tall bowler came out of the accident without any major injury and this good news was followed by the announcement that he was picked for the T20I series against Sri Lanka.

On his return, the tall fast bowler showcased what West Indies had missed during the recently-concluded ODI series which ended with a 3-0 scoreline in Sri Lanka’s favour. Although another young pacer in the form of Alzarri Joseph provided West Indies some hostility and uncomfortable hard-length bowling during the ODI series, the side missed some firepower with the new ball.

This is why Oshane Thomas’ opening burst went a long way in securing a win for West Indies in the first T20I. Thomas started off by dismissing the dangerous Avishka Fernando off just his third legitimate delivery of the match. It was a short of a length delivery which ensured a top-edge to Nicholas Pooran when Fernando went for an extravagant pull shot. After Shehan Jayasuriya got out while trying to slash at a short and wide delivery, Thomas strangled Kusal Mendis with a bouncer which was slipping down the leg side to get a third scalp in just his first over.

Even after this, Sri Lanka continued to be aggressive and Angelo Mathews had to pay for this tactic as his attempted hoick over mid-wicket only ended up in the safe hands of Andre Russell who took a good running catch at long-on. Soon, Thomas had a fifer when Dasun Shanka went stepped across to the off-side and totally exposed his stumps. It was just his third over and even the powerplay overs weren’t over but Sri Lanka had lost half of their side already.

Although the hosts had raced onto 56 in the first six overs, it came at a cost as they were unable to cope up with Thomas’ bounce and pace. Be it Avishka Fernando’s top-edge, Kusal Mendis’ feathered edge down the leg-side or even Dasun Shanaka’s wicket, all the Sri Lankan batsmen were undone by the pace and uncomfortable height from which Thomas bowls. Even Thomas would agree that it wasn’t his best bowling performance by a mile but he displayed the X-factor that West Indies were so badly missing.

This effort not only bagged Thomas the ‘Man of the Match’ award but also made him only the second man to pick up a five-wicket haul inside the powerplay overs after Lasith Malinga who had achieved the feat against New Zealand at the same venue last year.

Looking at the overall picture, while no one would wish an accident to the worst of their enemies, it is remarkable to see how sportsmen bounce back from life-threatening incidents so quickly. Even among his team-mates, Thomas has Nicholas Pooran to take inspiration from considering the fact that the Trinidadian also suffered a road accident in 2015 which caused him to be away from cricket for at least 18 months.

If Thomas continues to improve on the way he bowled in the first T20I and takes the path that Pooran did to succeed at the highest level, West Indies might have a cracking young fast-bowler to work with for years to come.