'Once I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything'

"Every World Cup I go to I will get a tattoo. All will be on the neck" Associated Press

Fabian Allen's left elbow has a network of scars that could well be a Rorschach inkblot test. Those marks are not remnants of a tattoo - of which Allen has quite a few, with plans to get more.

"In 2016, I had a car accident," he says. "I almost lost my arm. I have to just give God thanks that I'm still alive and I'm here. It was a situation that could have happened to anyone. I was trying to protect the other driver, who was coming from the opposite side. Unfortunately, the car lost control and turned over. The doctor said I'm lucky, because I almost lost my hand. But God kept me going."

From that jolting experience to three years later, Allen has had quite the journey. He caught the world's attention at the 2019 World Cup with a blazing half-century against Sri Lanka, albeit in a losing cause when his partnership with centurion Nicholas Pooran was cut short by a run-out. That World Cup, though, is etched on Allen. Literally - he has the tournament logo tattooed on his neck.

"A lot of people would wish they had been to the World Cup, and I got the opportunity to go and showcase my talents. It's a pleasure. And I love tattoos," says Allen. "Every World Cup I go to [including T20 World Cups] I will get a tattoo. All will be on the neck."

It may sound like a lot of pain to go through, but Allen is no stranger to it. A resident of St Elizabeth in Jamaica, he didn't have it easy growing up. But it's not something he wants to talk about much. "I grew up in rough areas. We are tough and can bear pain. Where I live, it's very tough to play. We used to play cricket on the dirt," is all he'll say.

What that upbringing has wrought, though, is a player who lights up cricket grounds with his dynamic batting and electric fielding. Throw in his handy left-arm spin and you've got a proper allrounder. It's not surprising that Allen is already a crucial part of West Indies' limited-overs teams despite having played only 21 List A games and 27 T20s, almost half of which have been for West Indies.

His T20 strike rate of 165.70 is an indication of his ability, and the reason he was fast-tracked into the West Indies team.

The man just above him on the list is a T20 colossus - Andre Russell. Allen sports a mohawk, just like Russell. He doesn't aim for four when he can hit a six, just like Russell. He can bat, bowl, field - and make a game-turning impact in all three disciplines, just like Russell. "Just like Russell" could be Allen's tagline.

"Yeah, he's my brother," Allen smiles. "He's my idol, so I'm going to be taking a lot of notes from him about my game. He inspires me a lot, how to go about my game, how to focus, how to relax… stuff like that." Is the haircut then a tribute to Russell? "Yes, everything."

When asked to explain his power-hitting technique, Allen doesn't think there's anything to break down.

"I think it's a natural West Indian thing," he says about the ability to clear fences. "You don't need to do nothing, just stand properly and get bat on ball. Yes, we practise our strengths. That's the major aspect of the game."

Surely Russell would have shared tips on some of the finer aspects of power-hitting? "Just need to get bat on ball. Keep your base, keep your shape. That's all."

Look, if it were that simple, a lot more people would have been hitting it at the strike rates he and Russell do. Allen shrugs. "It's all about determination, you know? If you're not determined to do something, you're not going to."

What about the secret to his gravity-defying fielding efforts, like this one or this one? Allen acknowledges that he was always a very good fielder, though he says that if people put their minds to it, they could fly through the air like he does.

"I started playing cricket from when I was nine years old," he says. "Fielding was my main focus. I used to field first before I started batting and bowling. It's not hard. Very simple. Just train. Train properly, do what you have to do. And the main thing is to be focused, dedicated.

"Whenever I'm fielding, I give my 100%. I expect the ball to come to me, and I expect to do crazy stuff on the field. It's just me."

Allen's talent was first spotted during the 2018 Global T20 Canada tournament, where he was part of the West Indies B team that reached the final. He had the highest batting average (42.25) and strike rate (181.72) for his team, and the second best economy rate (6.56). About three months after the final, he made his ODI and T20I debuts.

"Well, the selectors saw something in me," Allen says. "The Global T20 brought my career into the spotlight, made everyone see me. I think I did pretty well. I have to give credit to West Indies. They saw the talent and future in me. I was playing against the best in the world, lots of different guys from different countries. I got a lot of experience from them, seeing how they move, how they go about things. It's a good feeling to be around guys like Chris Gayle and others."

The T20I series against India comes right before the IPL 2020 auction. "It's everybody's dream to play IPL, and it's my dream too," Allen says. "I just have to do what I have to do [on the field] and look to get into a team. You know, money's not everything. It's just that I want to get into the action. Once I do the job, money's going to come.

"My goal is just to contribute to my team, in any competition. Just be Fabian Allen and achieve the best I can. Whatever any team asks me to do, I'll just lift up my hand and do it."

And what if he comes up against Russell in an IPL match? "So be it! I would love that challenge."

How would Allen the bowler bowl to Allen the batsman? "I won't tell you that!" he says with a full-throated chuckle. "Basically, I would just try to build pressure and try to keep the pressure on me."

Perhaps surprisingly for someone who is making headlines in white-ball cricket, Allen made his first-class debut in 2016, before his List A (2018) and T20 (2017) debuts. In his first seven first-class matches, he racked up runs and averaged 58.30. But around that time, he began finding success in the shorter formats, where his career really took off. Since then he drifted away from the red-ball game somewhat.

"It's just that I'm playing more shorter formats now, I'm focusing on the shorter formats," Allen explains. "I still love red-ball cricket. Red-ball cricket is my dream. It gave me the opportunity to be here, so I have to give thanks for it. Everyone has a goal. Everyone's looking to play as long as possible. I wouldn't mind if I play a long, long, long time till I hang up my boots. Once you put in the work, you're going to get the results and the selectors are going to look at you."

So is Test cricket still on the cards? "Definitely. Once I put my mind to it, I can achieve anything."

It sounds like a cliché, but when you've grown up in a rough neighbourhood, had a potentially life-threatening accident, kicked off an impressive first-class career before changing lanes and skyrocketing in limited overs, who would dare argue that Allen the cricketer cannot achieve whatever he wants?