Meet Rahkeem Cornwall: The West Indies cricketer who is becoming a fan favourite vs England

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England yesterday began their quest to regain the Wisden Trophy with a win over West Indies in the third Test at Old Trafford.

The visitors made one change to their side that lost by 119 runs earlier this week, off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall replacing seamer Alzarri Joseph.

Cornwall has made headlines for being the heaviest cricketer to play international cricket – he weighs in at around 22 stone and stands at 6ft 6in tall.

But the 27-year-old is arguably the finest spinner in the Caribbean, having taken 54 wickets at an average of 17.70 in the 2018/19 domestic season.

His run-up is unconventional, taking just a handful of strides forward before releasing the ball, but his action is solid and economical.

Cornwall is also an excellent fielder and positions himself predominantly in the slips. He took a sharp one-handed catch to dismiss Rory Burns on day one of the current Test, a game in which West Indies need to avoid defeat to retain the Wisden Trophy.

His batting has also been commended. During the 2019 edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Cornwall smashed 75 off just 30 balls to guide St Lucia Zouks to a five-wicket victory over Chris Gayle’s Jamaica Tallawahs.

Despite his growing reputation in the Caribbean, however, Cornwall had still not featured in international cricket for the West Indies as of August 2019.

That was in part due to the insistence of Windies chief selector Courtney Browne that the spinner would not be selected until his fitness improved.

But when you look at his fielding ability, as well as his strong bowling record, it is hard to say that detrimental arguments about his size have any real value.

Cornwall, who made his domestic debut for Leeward Islands in 2014, has faced doubters throughout his career.

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It seems they have never impacted negatively on his performances – if anything, perhaps, they have motivated him to produce the goods.

His debut first-class season for Leeward Islands in 2014/15 saw him take 27 wickets at an average of 26.9, before adding 54 and then 64 wickets in the subsequent two campaigns.

That first season also saw Cornwall notch his first century, scoring an unbeaten 101. He has a total of five centuries across his career, with the other four coming in the List A format.

Whilst bowling for a West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI during a tour match against the Indians in 2016, he took the scalp of India captain Virat Kohli. When Cornwall finally received a call-up to the national team in August 2019 for a Test series against India, Kohli specifically requested to face the spinner in the nets.

After a disappointing 318-run defeat in the first Test in Antigua, Windies drafted in Cornwall for his debut in Jamaica.

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Cornwall performed well, taking four wickets in the opening innings of the Test, and featured again when the West Indies hosted Afghanistan in November.

With Windies captain Jason Holder electing to bowl first, Cornwall took full advantage of a turning pitch to record figures of 7 for 75. He then followed that up with a further three in Afghanistan’s second innings to take his first Test ten-for.

That was the final Test that West Indies played until their tour of England began this month, with Cornwall’s exclusion from the XI that started the first Test at the Ageas Bowl met with slight surprise from some quarters.

Holder and coach Phil Simmons have repeatedly praised the spinner, however, and his inclusion for the ongoing third Test gives him a chance to make an impact in English conditions.

With the series poised at 1-1, and West Indies looking set for a fourth innings chase, Cornwall could play a key role in deciding the series result.

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