Shamar Joseph’s rise into the Test arena was indeed a swift one, but it was certainly one that had plenty of risks associated with it. Hailing from Baracara, Guyana, Joseph quit his job as a security guard to pursue his dream of playing cricket at the highest level, and 18 months down the line, here he was at the Adelaide Oval, getting one of the greatest batters of this generation Steven Smith out first ball.
Moreover, he also got rid of Marnus Labuschagne, Cameron Green, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon to end up with five wickets in his very first innings in Test cricket. He also smashed 36 runs with the bat as well, coming in at No.11 to take West Indies close to 200.
His village did not have internet access until 2018, but whatever little resources he had, he was inspired by watching the likes of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose ripping it apart for West Indies.
As luck would have it, all-rounder Romario Shepherd was his neighbour, and he introduced the pacer to the Guyana team. Joseph never looked back from there. A CPL debut, a List A debut, and a first-class debut for Guyana and for the West Indies A side followed. Impressing in every step, Joseph was handed a Test cap by another tearaway pacer, Ian Bishop, in Adelaide to complete a circle of sorts. However, the 24-year-old is just getting started and has already gone on to show what passion and dedication can do, even if it is against all odds.
Here’s a look at a few other players who had to do other jobs before shifting their complete focus to cricket.
You may have noticed Sheldon Cottrell, yet another West Indies pacer, performs the salute every time he gets a wicket. It symbolises a sign of respect that he shows to his previous employers, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), whom he credits for his discipline over the years. In fact, as part of the force, Cottrell was among those who were manning the pitch at Sabina Park pitch ahead of the ODI between India and West Indies in 2011. This despite already playing three first-class and one T20 for Jamaica already.
His hard work earned him a Test debut against India in 2013, and in the next two years, he would go on to make his bow in white-ball cricket as well. He was West Indies’ leading wicket-taker in the 2019 World Cup in England and continues to be part of the set-up, especially in T20 cricket, most recently playing in the series against South Africa in March 2023.
Former India captain MS Dhoni worked as a Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) at Kharagpur under South Eastern Railway Zone of Indian Railways before making it big in cricket. However, his passion and ability gave him the confidence to take a leap of faith as he quit his job to focus all his time on the sport, much against his family’s wishes.
While he was never technically gifted, his ability to read the game like no other, coupled with the fact that he could strike the ball and his sharpness behind the stumps, enabled him to make progress in Indian cricket and become one of the greatest captains of Indian cricket. To this date, the fanfare he garners wherever he goes remain unmatched.
Moreover, the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and others thrived under his leadership and guidance and are today among one of the best cricketers in the world.
While he may not have a long or prolific international career for Australia, Brad Hodge – a late bloomer certainly ensured that his professional cricketing career would be a good one. Before he turned to cricket, he worked at a petrol station near his house in Melbourne, and according to certain reports, he was paid AUD (Australian Dollar) 9 an hour.
He played 36 matches across formats for Australia but was a beast in the domestic circuit, smashing over 17,000 first-class runs and more than 9,000 List-A runs, and when he later on turned to T20s, he hit nearly 7,500 runs, playing in tournaments across the globe until as recently as 2018. He has since turned to coaching, including a stint with Gujarat Lions and Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) in the IPL.
Had he managed his body better, Shane Bond would today be remembered as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time. However, injuries cut short his career for New Zealand, but he certainly had an impact.
In his initial days, Bond was a policeman with the New Zealand Police, based in Christchurch. He made his debut for Canterbury in 1997, but since taking up the job as a policeman, he missed over a year of cricket.
However, when he returned, he gradually impressed and was drafted into the New Zealand team, making his debut in 2001. He was fast, accurate and deadly, and many saw him as the best pacer from New Zealand since Richard Hadlee. His knee and, largely, his back issues forced him to give up the game early. His average of 20.88 in ODIs is the fifth-best for any bowler (Min 100 wickets). In Tests, his average of 22.09 is the best ever from his country, even better than Hadlee's (22.29) among those who have picked up as many wickets as Bond (87).
Later in his career, he would go on to flourish as a T20 player and remains connected with the game even today as a coach.
Remember this catch?
That is Dwayne Leverock of Bermuda, who took a stunning catch against India. That really was his claim to fame. Before taking to cricket, Leverock was a jailer back home in Bermuda and looked up to legends like Abdul Qadir, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
His World Cup wickets include that of Kumar Sangakkara and Yuvraj Singh and, of course, a world-class catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa. In fact, in the warm-up match before the 2007 World Cup, Leverock, a left-arm orthodox spinner, had also dismissed Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood.
A “giant” killer in every sense.
Australia fast bowler Mitchell Johnson is just one of seven bowlers from his nation to breach the 300-wicket mark. However, for someone who was not afraid to intimidate the opposition with just a word or two, he did it aplomb with deliveries whizzing past their ears consistently. Johnson rode a delivery van to meet ends meet before he terrorised the batters with intense spells of fast bowling.
His best years were between 2008 and 2010, when he picked up 166 wickets at 29.65, 10 more scalps than the next best, Dale Steyn. Following a minor blip, he bounced back to pouch 37 wickets at 13.97 in the 2013-14 Ashes, which Australia won 5-0. He eventually finished with 313 wickets at 28.40. Only three other fast bowlers from Australia have more wickets than him.
Nathan Lyon, who recently surpassed 500 wickets in Test cricket, started off as a groundsman at the Adelaide Oval but gave that up to focus on his playing career fully. Today, he is considered to be one of the greatest bowlers of all time, on par with Shane Warne or Muttiah Muralitharan.
India’s Yuzvendra Chahal had already represented his country in the World Youth Chess Championship. But he gave up when he could not find a sponsor and turned his attention to cricket. He has been India’s lynchpin in many victories over the years in white-ball cricket and is also the highest wicket-taker for them in T20Is.
Zimbabwe pacer Eddo Brandes was initially a chicken farmer before taking up cricket professionally. He played four World Cups between 1987 and 1999, accumulating 10 Test and 59 ODI caps for his country. He moved to Australia later on due to the political turmoil in his country, scalping nearly 100 wickets across formats.
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