Sheldon Cotterel

Sheldon Cotterrell’s celebratory salute after every wicket and every catch is a gesture to his colleagues in the Jamaican army, letting them know he is thinking of them and that although he is away playing cricket he continues to be a soldier © Getty Images

By Garfield Robinson

There is something about the military that engenders pride within its members. A few months ago I met an ex-military man who, despite being a schoolteacher, a father, a hunter, and racking up quite a number of subsequent achievements, the thing he was especially proud of, the thing that defined him most, is that he was a member of the United States Marines.

We realized this soon after he picked us up. A few of us were invited to a small gathering and he graciously agreed to transport us from the train station and to return us home later the evening. When asked the time he gave it to us military style — 1600 if hours if I remember correctly — but was kind enough to also give us the more conventional four o’clock, and he never missed an opportunity, in conversation, to mention that he was a Marine. He didn’t do this in any kind of boastful or condescending way. Quite simply, he was a Marine and was proud of it.

Left-arm pacer Sheldon Cotterrell is a member of the Jamaica Defence Force and he is proud to let everyone know. His celebratory salute after every wicket and every catch is a gesture, he said, to his colleagues in the Jamaican army, letting them know he is thinking of them and that although he is away playing cricket he continues to be a soldier.

Judging from his performances in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), however, it is doubtful he will be able to remain one for very long. On Tuesday, August 13, playing for the Antigua Hawksbills against the Barbados Tridents, he sent down four overs of such high velocity that some deliveries must have singed the grass on the track at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. The sturdy 6’5″ pacer, seemingly bursting with energy and raw physical power, finished with figures of four for 20, totally undermining the Tridents’ innings as they limped to 96 off their 20 overs.

His second delivery struck Jonathan Carter in a very sensitive area and brought him down like a felled ox, writhing in pain. The Barbadian was also lucky to survive the next delivery. According to Hawk Eye, the still unsteady batsman was struck in line and the ball would have crashed into the stumps, but the umpire was not moved to raise his index finger. The resultant leg-bye must have come as a relief.

Mumbai Indians star Dwayne Smith was late on a pull shot to Cotterel’s fifth ball, and could only lob an easy return-catch off his glove, which the soldier was only too happy to collect.

In his second over, he accounted for Carter, who received a delivery that lifted sharply from just short of a length, and Shakib-Al-Hasan who landed a cut from another short ball right in third man’s lap.

By then the Tridents had slumped to 25 for three, all three falling to the bustling Jamaican. He was reintroduced later in the innings to bowl his third and fourth overs, uprooting the stumps of Ryan Nurse with his second to last delivery to end with excellent figures of four for 20.

In the 10th over of the game, bowled by captain Marlon Samuels, Cotterel unsheathed the salute again after flying to his left at square-leg to take down what will surely be one of the catches of the tournament. Viv Richards, coach of the Hawksbills, was delirious with excitement. It was a catch that the West Indian legend, a spectacular fielder in his day, would have been very happy to take.

It was no surprise then when the pacer received the man-of-the-match award. Nobody else was really in contention for the prize. He had bowled with high pace and aggressive intent. And if, as some have suggested, he needs a bit of smoothing out, that should not be beyond the capabilities of the West Indies cricket authorities. Many a fast bowler, some of the great ones even, went through a period of refinement before becoming masters of the craft.

In June 2011, when India visited Jamaica for the fifth and final match of the One Day International (ODI) series, Cotterrell, decked in camouflage and beret, was one of the army personnel guarding the square during the innings break. “It is an overwhelming feeling, just being there looking around and actually being on the pitch and seeing the fans,” the pacer gushed. “It was just like me seeing the future to tell you the truth; I just have to work hard.”

When the aforementioned gathering came to an end and it was time to leave we asked our transportation provider if he was sure he’d be able to find his way back after taking us home. “Oh I’ll find my way,” he smiled, “I was a Marine.” Being a man of the military, Cotterrell too will find his way.

(Garfield Robinson is a huge fan of West Indies cricket, but attributes VVS Laxman as the reason behind taking to writing. You can follow him on Facebook)