Kyle Mayers, the unlikely hero with a very certain future

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Let’s face facts. All this while until February 6, 2021, the only prominent ‘Kyle’ going around in the cricket world was Kyle Jamieson, the lanky New Zealand pacer. With a towering personality and a golden Test debut against Virat Kohli’s India, the pacer known for his nagging bounce and control enjoyed an impeccable breakthrough in international cricket. But the events that unfolded in Bangladesh on February 7, birthed yet another Kyle in world cricket: 28-year-old Kyle Rico Mayers.

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And while this one doesn’t bowl with stunning control and that quintessential bounce that would disturb most well-set batsmen, he bats and bats, and bats. Just as he did, facing a mighty stack of 310 deliveries on his own, of which he scored a fighting double century, a cracker of a knock for West Indies in the fourth inning of a very memorable Test at Chattogram.

And while most Test debutants who accomplish something special in their first go at the game’s classic format end up with either a ton or an impressive fifer, Kyle Mayers carved an unforgettable start to his five-day cricket career.

He lorded supreme in unfriendly conditions, squared up against an attack he hardly had an idea about, entering the Test on the back of scores like 40, 0, and 11, and yet managed to stay undefeated in the end.

Is that all that makes Kyle Mayers’ Test debut unforgettable?

The last time a West Indian debutant smashed 7 sixes on Test debut was….it never has happened! Fact.

Kyle Mayers, in the process of scoring a match-winning knock in turning conditions, absolutely alien to Caribbean pitches, spared no Bangladesh bowler the caustic bite of his whirring willow.

He was aggressive against Mehidy and Nayeem, the pick of the spinners and didn’t pardon Taijul either. While scripting that decisive stand with Nkrumah Bonner (86 in the fourth innings), also on debut, he guided the ball to the third man boundary and picked gaps toward both- cover and mid-wicket- regions, he was quick to dislodge anything bowled short and his region.

The standing highlight of his debut Test hundred was the dismissive ease with which Kyle Mayers dislodged anything bowled short and slightly around middle and leg.

When was the last time you saw a West Indian debutant scoring 122 runs of his double-hundred only through boundaries (20 fours, 7 sixes)?

Make no mistake.

All the while he stayed put at the wicket, there was turn for the Bangladeshi spin troika of Nayeem, Mehidy, and Taijul as well as movement for the pace-mainstay Mustafizur.

But there’s yet more to Kyle Mayers’ effort that explains why on a day where India and England, as also South Africa and Pakistan were daggers drawn in the sub-continent, there was an epic tale being stitched by a man hardly known in international quarters.

Kyle Mayers arrived at the wicket on Day 4, the penultimate moment to what eventually became five unforgettable days of Test cricket if you are a West Indian fan.

Interestingly, Mayers didn’t leave the wicket until the completion of the final day’s play.

Until such time, he had a tall task on his shoulders: to chase down 395 for victory.

He ensured, he’d contribute 210 of those brilliantly scored runs- some collected through big heaves from around the square to the point region and others, through the grinding effort of running hard in between the wickets.

And throughout, this time, he appeared in the role of a batsman with character, importantly, one with the will to fight and bat on for the West Indies.

Truly speaking what’s also lent a definitive fabric to the left-hander’s effort is the fact that where none of the familiar faces in red-ball cricket were around to safeguard the West Indies- Darren Bravo, Holder, Chase, Dowrich, Hetmyer refusing to travel to Bangladesh- a little-known batsman counted himself in.

But that’s precisely what separates heroes from those who often hardly look the part.

The actual heroes, truly speaking, are the ones who raise their hands at the time when most needed.

It must be duly considered that when Kyle Mayers walked down the pitch to bat for the very first time donning the whites, the West Indies never looked certain at 75-3, in pursuit of their opponents’ first inning score of 430.

What makes Kyle Mayers’s incredible effort stand out?

In the first essay, he showed remarkable maturity for a first-timer in international Test match cricket, holding his ground for 80 minutes!

Next up, when the chance came, bringing along with it, a tall ask to chase down 395, the West Indies were a lot worse than they were in their first outing.

When Kyle Mayers walked out to the crease on Day 4, his team had lost exactly the same wickets as when he first took guard, but were also sixteen runs shy than the first innings.

And for generations to come, every West Indian who wears his heart on the sleeve would recount a tale that unfolded in three stages- taking stock of the pressure, soldering on for long periods of concentration, and eventually, the fightback!

What happened from 3 down for 59 (when Moseley departed and Mayers entered) until the completion of the hurried single off Nayeem Hasan to raise the win was brave batting for a period of 103 long overs.

 

And in doing all of that, Kyle Mayers, a new spark of joy in West Indian cricket, scored no fewer than 250 runs (40 in the first innings) on the whole and spent 495 minutes in the middle.

Perhaps which is why, you are compelled to think, had the iconic Lara been a witness to the live proceedings, he’d have danced down the wicket to give another fellow left-hander a mighty hug.

And needless to say, if the familiar grinder of West Indian cricket, the irreplaceable Shivnarine Chanderpaul had witnessed the fightback from the stands, he’d have broken into a wide smile embracing another dogged batsman from his West Indies.