On the 3rd of June, earlier this month, resident red-ball wicketkeeper, Shane Dowrich, marked the five-year anniversary of his Test debut for the West Indies. The, then, 23-year-old received his Test cap in Dominica, against Australia as a specialist batsman, while, then, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin still led the team. Dowrich was called into the team after a commanding 2014/15 season in the Regional 4-Day competition, scoring six hundred and fifteen (615) runs in ten (10) matches, averaging an impressive 51.25 with the bat. And as the Caribbean side, now in England, continues preparation for their pending part in the historical reintroduction of international cricket, following the devasting COVID-19, we take a look at five times the Barbadian has stood tall for the men in maroon.
Dowrich was thrown into the deep end when Australia came a-calling in 2015, being asked to bat at no.4 in his first Test. And if the psychology of taking guard at the fall of the second wicket—for a wicketkeeper-batsman who typically resides further down the order—wasn’t enough, the reality of the West Indies finding themselves 63 for 2, on the day, was sure to get his nerves working. And to that point, he was eventually bowled by Josh Hazlewood for fifteen (15) in a relatively short-lived first innings display. The West Indies were bundled out for one hundred and forty-eight (148), thus trailing in the second innings by one hundred and seventy runs (170). This, following the Aussies’ first innings total of three hundred and eighteen (318).
A familiar story was being penned when the hosts were 21 for 2 at Dowrich’s turn at bat in the second innings. Except, he would find a partner in Marlon Samuels, this time around. And the pair would put on one hundred and forty-four (144) runs for the fourth wicket. In regards to Dowrich's innings, it was a courageous display of patience, resilience, and talent, in the form of an innings which frustrated the Australians for the entirety of the seventy (70) runs it produced. This performance, which spanned fifty (50) overs on Day 3, was silhouetted by determination, with 63% of his tally coming in ones and twos. Dowrich would be undone by Hazlewood once again, but he had time—the diminutive figure—to construct the blueprint for the role he would fill in the WINDIES team in the coming years.
Still, no other West Indian batsman opted to stick around after Samuels followed Dowrich back to the dressing room, seventeen (17) runs later. And with that, the West Indies slumped to a 9-wicket defeat inside three days.
Against India at Sabina Park.
Though Dowrich was not to feature in the series to follow—neither against Sri Lanka nor against Australia—he would, however, return for India’s tour of the West Indies in 2016. This time as the first-choice wicketkeeper, as Denesh Ramdin was relived of both leadership and gloves, over the course of the aforementioned series. India eventually left the Caribbean as winners of the four-match Test series, despite two drawn games—the first of which was a memorable encounter.
India had claimed the series lead in Antigua a week prior, courtesy of an innings and 92-run victory. Dowrich was guilty then of gifting a life to Ravichandran Ashwin while the spinner was still in his 40s. Of course, Ashwin went on to claim his 3rd Test century on his way to one hundred and thirteen (113). So, heading to Sabina Park for the second Test, Dowrich must have had one eye on redemption greater than his first-innings fifty-seven (57) not out in Antigua.
However, the West Indies were slow out of the blocks once more, being bowled out for one-hundred and ninety-six (196) after choosing to take first bat. The visitors, on the other hand, amassed five hundred (500) for 9 declared in their first innings response. India had taken their time in getting to that massive total—over three (3) days to be precise. But with the West Indies 48 for 4 at the end of Day 4, with Jermaine Blackwood unbeaten on three (3) and the no.6, Roston Chase, to join him on the fifth morning, that didn’t matter. The two went on to share in a ninety-three (93) run partnership, yet the West Indies were 141 for 5 when Blackwood fell for sixty-three (63), leaving the hosts with just five (5) wickets in hand with three-quarters of a day still to save the Test.
Cue Shane Dowrich, and along with Chase, the two would prolong the West Indies’ fight to worrying lengths for the Indians. And at the end of it, the pair had a one hundred and forty-four (144) run partnership to show for their troubles. A partnership in which Chase got to his maiden Test ton and more importantly, a partnership that lasted two and a half hours. Dowrich staved off the attacks of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, and Ravi Ashwin, spell after spell, appeal after appeal to get to a, then, career-best, and stubborn, 74.
By this, the West Indies were cruising along in the driver’s seat, the right-hander surely eyeing up his maiden Test ton—all to be adjudged lbw off an inside edge by Ian Gould. The series was being played without the services of the DRS. Translation: Dowrich would have to wait for his maiden Test century. Still, he and Chase brought the deficit of three hundred and four to within twenty runs before the wicketkeeper’s demise. The fightback, however, was completed in Holder joining Chase at the crease, with the all-rounders seeing the day through unbeaten on 64 and 137 respectively, to sure up a well-deserved draw for the West Indies.
Back Against the Wall in Africa
Following his Sabina Park heroics, Dowrich managed only two half-centuries in his next twenty innings, averaging 17.66 during that period. It was during the 2017 two-match series against Zimbabwe, that the West Indies won their first Test series under the leadership of Jason Holder; taking the series one-nil, by way of winning the first game and drawing the second.
Zimbabwe’s initial response, following a disheartening one hundred and seventeen (117) run defeat in the first Test, was a solid first-innings total of three hundred and twenty-six (326) in the second encounter. The West Indies were ninety-six (96) runs behind in their response when they lost the seventh wicket, just five (5) runs after Dowrich had walked to the crease at 225 for 6.
Now he and his Captain had two jobs: first, to reduce the deficit and second, to set a reasonable lead. The pair rose to the challenge, sharing in a two hundred and twelve (212) run eighth-wicket stand. It was a watchful innings from Dowrich, who again exhibited patience and graft when it was required. This time, with his back against the wall, playing for his place during a miserable vein of form, the Barbadian trudged to a maiden Test ton of one hundred and three (103). The partnership between Dowrich and Holder accounted for 47.6% of the West Indies’ total of four hundred and forty-eight runs (448), which wiped out the remaining deficit and gave the West Indies a lead of one hundred and twenty-two (122) runs heading into the second innings of the Test.
Zimbabwe would fight back to save the Test as the West Indies ran out of time searching for wickets on Day 5.
Sri Lanka in the Caribbean
Dowrich’s second Test century came upon West Indies’ return home, to contest the Sobers/Tissera trophy against Sri Lanka in 2018. WINDIES’ victory in the first Test was largely in part to Shane Dowrich, for which he was credited with the Man of the Match award. Yet, on Day 1 in Port of Spain, Lahiru Kumara and company had the West Indies on the ropes, late into the second session, at 134 for 4. Twenty minutes prior to Tea, at 147 for 5, Jason Holder joined a struggling Shane Dowrich at the crease. Batting at no.6, Dowrich was being roughed-up by the pace of Lahiru Gamage, but somehow he managed to survive until the interval, on three (3) from thirty-three (33) deliveries.
The break did not provide any let-up for the right-hander, who then faced up to the pace of Lahiru Kumara immediately upon resumption. But time at the crease to be treated to a few loose deliveries was precisely what the doctor ordered, as Dowrich and Holder, once again, set about some repair work for the West Indies.
The pair charted familiar territory, sharing in a ninety-run (90) partnership before Holder edged Kumara through to the keeper for 40. Then in a remarkable display of leadership, Shane Dowrich marshaled the West Indies lower-order to new heights, constructing partnerships of one hundred and two (102) and seventy-five (75) with Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach, respectively, on the way to guiding the home side from 147 for 5 near the Tea interval on Day 1 to four hundred and fourteen (414) declared, an hour away from close of play on Day 2.
With an unbothered attitude and deliberate unemotional display, Dowrich took a workmanlike approach in dragging the West Indies out of the ditch they found themselves in. In retrospect, the fact that he remained unbeaten on 125 was befitting of the struggles he faced early on in his innings and the fact that he overcame the same—victorious in his battle against the Sri Lankan bowlers.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, never recovered, as the WINIDES seamers ran rampant to dismiss the visitors for one hundred and eighty-five (185), eventually setting them four hundred and fifty-two runs (452) for victory. And although the match went into Day 5, the very important wicket of Kusal Mendis from Shannon Gabriel, early on the day, set the ball rolling in the last chapter of the Test, as Roston Chase cleaned up to put Holder’s men one up in the three-match series.
The three-match series was drawn 1-1.
The Wisden Trophy: First Test, England at Kensington
While Dowrich was being dismissed for a duck in the first innings, Shimron Hetymer was busy clearing land for the platform Kemar Roach was to build, the same on which Dowrich and Holder would stand in the second innings. His most mature and, no doubt, most important Test match innings to date: Hetmyer’s eighty-one (81) took the West Indies from 174 for 4 to two hundred and eighty-nine (289) all out, as the five batsmen below him contributed a combined five runs. The potential of his innings was fulfilled when Kemar Roach’s five-wicket haul decimated England for seventy-seven (77), giving the West Indies a lead of two hundred and twelve (212) runs.
However, there was still the matter of three days of play remaining when the West Indies were caught napping at 61 for 5 late on Day 2. Hetmyer helped Dowrich form the line of defense from which Dowrich and Holder would subsequently attack. For now, though, all Dowrich and Holder could do was to see the hosts to close of play at 127 for 6. Before the small matter of batting all but the last hour of the following day, that is.
Again, Dowrich reached for his thick skin—unbothered in attitude—as Stokes plugged away at him. He was beaten outside the off-stump more times than he would have liked to admit in his battle with Stokes. Fortunately, he got the ‘putting it out of the head’ part right, as he moulded himself, anchor, to Holder’s ship. Finding his own pace for his own unbeaten knock of one hundred and sixteen (116), as his captain raced to a double-century at the other end. Together, the pair put on a two hundred and ninety-five (295) run seventh-wicket stand. And the West Indies were well on their way to claiming the Wisden Trophy with a 2-1 series victory.
It is fair to say that Shane Dowrich is found wanting in nothing behind the stumps: neat, tidy, and mostly invisible—which means he is doing his job. He’s not particularly chatty, yet he is not averse to catching up with a bowler on his way back to his mark to share a few observations. And with a career average of 30.08, Dowrich has not looked back since being drawn into the team five years ago.
A fighter, a counter-attacker (when necessary) and a grafter—as wicketkeeper batsmen should be—he has come out swinging whenever he has found his back against the wall. And for his troubles, he boasts the highest average for wicketkeeper batsmen in Tests since the start of 2018, with 40.00, while scoring 720 runs in the same period. With the 28-year-old moving into his prime, this might just be the beginning of something great.