WINDIES IN BANGLADESH, 2018
Powell has played 31 ODIs and 17 T20Is for Windies so far. © Getty
Them see the glory and no one know me story, reads the description of a post on Windies all-rounder Rovman Powell‘s Instagram account. It is, by and large, an account whose narrative is gratitude – for “small things, big things and everything in between”.
Among those, is a post where he recounts a chance meeting with a former schoolmate who said, “ugly boy getting cute”, to which he responded that he was never ugly. Just that, he never had the money.
It was the truth; a rather harsh reflection of the times we live in. And who better than Powell to know what that was like being brought up in extremely modest conditions, much in contrast to what is seen of him today. Not having had ever met his father, his mother solely brought up Powell and his little sister. His mother put in the hard yards to make ends meet, providing for them to the best of her abilities.
Yet, there were days when Powell didn’t have lunches or dinners. Or had to walk back from school. Until he found cricket. Or cricket found him.
The sport eventually became the means for him to pluck them out of poverty. It was, is and will always remain his motivation in playing a sport he has come to make a name for himself for. And take over the baton from his mother.
“When I started playing international cricket, I told her that, ‘Mum, I’m going to have a successful career and you won’t have to work again,” Powell tells Cricbuzz. “So far, I haven’t been as successful as I want, but I’m continuing to work hard and continue to believe that one day and at one point, the hard work will pay off.
“Growing up wasn’t particularly easy, but it wasn’t the worst. That’s natural growing up in the Caribbean. When you have a single parent, a single mother, doing all those things… She means the world to me. I try my best to ensure everything is taken care of. Even for my younger sister. I ensure I do everything to take care of her. When my mum isn’t there, I cook for her and do other stuff too.”
It was at the Old Harbor Junior and High School where Powell first took to cricket. Spotted and encouraged by his physical education teacher, he kickstarted a journey that has fetched him dividends aplenty, in what he describes, as a steady climb and a learning process.
Powell watched clips of Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting growing up, but it was Jacques Kallis who had caught his eye; one whose career he had kept a keen eye out for given his all-round skillset. Starting out as a bowler who bats, he has evolved into a batsman who bowls, and a pretty destructive one at that. It’s not for nothing that he earned the tag of ‘Jr Andre Russell’ and at quite a nascent stage.
“The tag is just a tag. They say I have a similar game… I see some similarities. Andre is a world beater, so if I can take a few things from him, I’ll be a world beater someday.
“That doesn’t add pressure. The pressure I feel, comes from within. It’s internal. I want to do well; I train hard, so I pressurize myself to come out and do well. I’ve played over 50 international games. The pressure is always there, but I try to use that as motivation to silence people and make my mother and my friends proud. That’s what keeps me going.”
And she had her moment of pride when Powell made the Jamaican side for the first time. “You know, that’s the first time I saw my mum cry, literally cry, because she felt proud of me,” he says. “That will always live with me that she cried when I made the Jamaica team. And the first time that I was starting out to play cricket. It was a special moment.”
Powell had his second ‘special moment’ after belting his first one-day century against Ireland in the World Cup Qualifier earlier this year, to lead Windies to not just a win, but a place in the Super Sixes after which they eventually sealed a spot in the global event next year.
“Scoring my first international hundred was special,” Powell says. “That’s one of the proudest moments of my career so far. As a young boy, I dreamed about scoring a hundred and to get to tick off the first one is a special feeling.
“I was under some bit of pressure. The team needed somebody to stand tall and I tried to bat as many overs as was possible. I handled the pressure well there. I know that once I bat a lot of balls, I’m going to score. The runs will come.” In what could be another significant milestone for Powell in a career that has spanned 31 ODIs and 17 T20Is, he was entrusted the responsibility of leading the Windies against Bangladesh in their upcoming three-match ODI series. It could even, however, fall into the category of the ‘worst-ever starts’, having a duck against his name, right after. Powell, though, can take solace from the fact that it was just a tour game where he copped a five-ball duck against the Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, only days after he was handed reins of the one-day side.
On the Windies’ tour of India, Powell had a poor tour, scoring just 61 runs in five innings, in the ODI series. However, in the T10 League in Dubai, he turned that around with 177 runs at a strike-rate of 226.92, that also included a dynamic 25-ball 61 in the final that led the Northern Warriors’ to a title win.
It is a reflection of his resilience, a trait that would’ve come good, had he followed his childhood dream of being a soldier – one that he put to sleep after high school, opting for the scholarship at University instead. It’s a decision that doesn’t evoke regret because cricket gave him and his family a new lease of life; a new perspective, fuelled by his thirst for knowledge, self-improvement and the endless journey of learning. Also, of the toughest task of finding oneself.
It also could be a major factor that contributes to him giving back. “With the little that I have and I accumulate, I try help a lot of people. I give back. When I go back home, I give back to my primary school. I give back to my high school. I give back to people around me. I have a few scholarships in my name that I sponsor. I believe sincerely in giving back, especially since I was in a situation where a person was generous to help me to reach here, so I try to help people in turn.”
The current book he’s reading, A Fistful of Love by Om Swami, is one that he got in India when he was here for the Indian Premier League. It’s one that “teaches one about life, and the facets that come with it,” he says. “I know what it feels like to have nothing. You can be at the top of the world today and tomorrow you fall off. So I try to remain calm and humble and look at each man (as an) equal.”
It’s easy to be fooled by the flamboyant pair of gold chains, the upmarket watches, the pair of shades or even the conspicuous sneakers. Powell is just 25, and despite his discernible desire for “fancy”, his isms are driven by a banal need for improvement – whether on a cricket field or off it. If he feeds off the experiences of others on the field, off it, he’s in the pursuit of a balanced disposition – a factor that could bode well for him when he takes the field as the Windies skipper on December 9.
It will, however, come down to what he chooses to focus on – the start of the five-ball duck, or just the privilege of being picked to lead your country. If anything in the 15-minute chat was to go by, or the 146 posts on Instagram even, the question would be rendered redundant.
This is Rovman Powell, and a fragment of his story.