In March 2012, Hayden Walsh Jr. made his first-class debut for Windward Islands. The opportunities were few and far between there, and he also had to juggle cricket with his day job as a physical education teacher at an Antigua school. Walsh Jr. then switched allegiances to USA in 2018 and after a bumper CPL 2019, which he won with Barbados Tridents, he has broken into West Indies limited-overs sides.
After doing fairly well while bowling defensively in the T20I series opener against India in Hyderabad, the 27-year-old legspinner assumed a more attacking role in the second match in Thiruvananthapuram, and showcased his variations - probably to IPL talent scouts as well.
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Walsh Jr. picked up the wickets of the big-hitting Shivam Dube and Shreyas Iyer, but his best ball of the night was one that didn't fetch a wicket. It was one that left India captain Virat Kohli overbalanced. In the 13th over, Walsh Jr. drifted a perfectly-pitched ball in towards off stump, tricked Kohli into playing for the in-drift, but then found enough turn to nearly scratch the outside edge.
In Hyderabad, too, Walsh Jr. came within touching distance of claiming Kohli's wicket. He unleashed a slider and rushed Kohli for pace, but the batsman just about avoided dragging the ball back onto the stumps.
In Thiruvananthapuram, Walsh Jr. was brought into the attack when India were 93 for 2 in ten overs, with Dube accounting for 50 of those runs in a mere 27 balls. Walsh Jr. immediately dangled a wrong 'un that broke further away from Dube's reach. He dared the batsman to hit against the turn and clear the long leg-side boundary. Dube didn't hold himself back, but could only drag the ball to long-on, where Kieron Pollard lost the ball in the lights.
The next ball was a wrong 'un again, but this skidded under the swing of Dube. Walsh Jr.'s third ball was a wrong 'un again, and Dube took the bait again, splicing a catch to extra-cover. The plans to Rishabh Pant and Iyer as well were simple: just take the ball away from their swinging arcs.
"No, no [I wasn't intimidated bowling to Dube]. I practice a lot bowling to left-handers," Walsh Jr. said at the post-match press conference on Sunday. "When we were in Mumbai [before the start of the series for a camp], I practiced bowling to Evin [Lewis] and Nicholas [Pooran]. I just bowled googlies that I bowled to Dube. So, I was pretty confident coming to bowl at him."
While Pant did read two of Walsh Jr's wrong 'uns and cracked them with the turn over extra-cover for boundaries, Iyer spooned a tossed-up legbreak to point while aiming to slog against the turn. Walsh Jr. came away with 2 for 28 in his four overs, helping West Indies pin down India to 170 for 7.
"It's been like a rollercoaster for me," Walsh Jr. said. "As you can see, I've been working hard on my way to the top of international cricket. And just to be here to perform in a game is… I'm over the moon."
It was the CPL stint that propelled him back into West Indies' radar. After Sandeep Lamichanne left Tridents and returned to the Nepal side for international duty, Walsh Jr. dashed out of the bench and scooped up 22 wickets in nine games at an average of 12.68 and an economy of 8.28, despite playing just nine games. He was also electric in the field, particularly at backward point, and it was his rocket throw that ran Pollard out in the second qualifier and denied Trinbago Knight Riders another tilt at a CPL trophy.
Then, after making his international debut for West Indies against Afghanistan in India, Walsh Jr. jetted to the UAE to play in the T10 league. Having shown sparks of brilliance in his short international career, Walsh Jr. is among the 971 names to have registered for the IPL 2020 auction. He, however, downplayed his aspirations of making the IPL and said that his immediate focus was to extend his form and help West Indies win the decider in Mumbai.
"Well, yeah [the auction is at the back of the mind]. But the main thing is to win this series," he said. "The whole goal and everything for me right now is just winning this series and to help the team do their best."
Walsh Jr. also conceded that people often mistakenly think he is related to the great Courtney Walsh and joked that during his Global T20 Canada outing with Vancouver Knights earlier this year, some even referred to him as Courtney Walsh.
The ultra-short boundaries at the Wankhede Stadium can spook bowlers, but if Walsh Jr. spins West Indies to a series-clinching victory, he can carve out his own identity.