“When I was small, my father and my eldest brother used to play on the same team,” recalls West Indies Under 19s all-rounder Bhaskar Yadram. “I was about nine and my brother was 16 or 17. I’d usually sit on the step and watch the game, and I used to have a backpack on my back with white clothes inside just hoping that when an opportunity comes I’ll take it.
“Later on in the same year, at the age of nine, a player didn’t show up, and that was my first game. I took one wicket, scored 12 not out, and from then on I knew I had the ability.”
Cricket in Guyana is often a family game. Clive Lloyd and Lance Gibbs, West Indies most successful captain and off-spinner respectively, are cousins who hail from the country. Mahendra Nagamootoo, who played five Tests for West Indies in the early noughties and played for Guyana for a decade can count West Indian and Guyanese legends Alvin Kallicharan and Rohan Kanhai among his uncles. Most recently West Indies second-highest Test run-scorer Shivnarine Chanderpaul attracted headlines for playing in the same Guyana side as his son Tagnarine. For Yadram, it’s no different.
“My brother [Kamesh] was the vice-captain of Guyana Under 19s, my sister [Kavita] plays for the senior Guyana team,” he said. “It’s a family of cricketing. From my father’s side and my mother’s side, everyone is cricketers.”
Playing alongside his family is something Yadram relishes. “In the same year [that I played that first game, aged nine] I ended up batting with my father at the crease together,” he said. “It was a pleasure batting with him. I’ve batted with my brother a lot in recent times. It was like I was being mentored, him watching from the other end, telling me what to do, what not to do, to play the ball on its merit. Most times I was batting with him I would score a century.”
His father would give similar advice when they batted together, although perhaps with a hint of paternal admonishment. “If I play a bad shot my dad says, ‘Come on, you cannot play this shot’,” said Yadram. “When I was small I used to try and hit the ball over cover, and most time I’d get caught at cover. He was like, ‘you have to shelve this shot, because you will get out a lot of times there’. And that was it.”
His family have helped him with more than just on-field cricket advice; Yadram credits them with helping put entire periods of poor form behind him.
“In 2016 I played a regional Under 17 tournament, I didn’t score many runs in three games, I think my highest score was 11. I had a bad tournament,” he said “But the same year I got picked for the [Guyana] Under 19s. I went back home and my father and brother came and had a talk with me. They said, ‘Whatever happened happened, you need to forget the past and keep moving on. Whenever you get a chance to bat just put on your head and bat’. That same year for Guyana Under 19s I scored the most runs.”
Yadram continued his good form through 2017 – he was West Indies Under 19s top run-scorer during both their series against South Africa U19 and Zimbabwe U19, and has scored four fifties in his last seven U19 ODIs. He appears to have carried his form into this tournament, striking a 23-ball 37 not out in West Indies' warm-up victory over Papua New Guinea.
“It was a decent knock for the first time on New Zealand soil,” he said. “I think the ball comes on nicely to the bat here and I’m looking forward to scoring as many runs as possible.”
His ability to do so could prove key to West Indies U19s hopes of defending the title they won two years ago, and you wouldn't bet against Yadram having a big tournament; he appears to be a player who knows his game, and most importantly knows what it takes to recover from periods of bad form.
“Holding my shape when batting is what makes me successful,” he said. “Back home when I wasn’t scoring that many runs, I just decided to go out and play my natural game, which is playing aggressive, looking at the gaps and trying to score runs.
“Back home I open the batting. Most of the time when things aren’t working out for me I step down the order, give other people a chance and see their mistakes.”
Aged just 18 years old, Yadram has already had to fill a variety of roles in his various teams. He was picked for Guyana Under 19s as an off-spinner, batting in the lower order until, in his words, “the coach realised I could bat,” and he was promoted to No.4, and has batted everywhere in the top four for West Indies Under 19s. He can also bowl seam up at around 80 miles per hour.
You believe him when he says “I don’t have a favourite position, wherever the coach puts me to bat I am willing to go and bat”. There’s a selflessness there for sure, but what shines through most is that nine-year-old self, sitting on the step, who loves cricket and is desperate just to get on the field. It’s an uncomplicated joy that’s worth celebrating.