The U.S. Virgin Islands isn’t a cricket hotbed, but one of the rising stars of white ball cricket is a native Virgin Islander — Hayden Walsh Jr. He is a pioneer, the first Virgin Islands native to adorn the West Indies maroon in international competitions.
Walsh, 29, born on St. Croix to Antiguan parents but raised in Antigua, capped off an auspicious 2021 limited over season by being selected to the West Indies squad for the 2021 T20 World Cup championship recently held in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, he was touted as a potential game changer for the defending champions at the World Cup by none other than former West Indies T20 captain Darren Sammy. But that was not to be, as the men in maroon underwhelmed, failing to advance to the semifinals. Walsh wasn’t given the opportunity to shine, playing in only two of the team’s five games.
Walsh is a special talent, a gifted leg spinner and a fabulous fielder.
“I think it’s a unique package that I offer. I take wickets with my fielding as well ... I am taking 2 for 20 with a run out. It’s a plus,” he said in a recent interview with Cricket West Indies.
Walsh has been brimming with confidence of late, and for good reason. When given the chance this summer he has excelled in the shorter and more entertaining formats of the sport. In July, he was named Player of the Series in a five-match T20 competition in which the West Indies hosted — and routed — the recently crowned 2021 World Cup champions Australia, taking 12 wickets. Hence, he was one of three players nominated by the International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body, as Player of the Month internationally for July.
Walsh is no Johnny come lately. He created a stir two years ago when he propelled the Barbados Tridents franchise in the Caribbean Premier League to a T20 championship. Serving up bedeviling leggies, he snatched 21 wickets, the league’s most successful wicket taker. Appropriately, he was named the CPL’s Most Valuable Player.
West Indies cricket administrators took notice of Walsh’s CPL exploits, selecting him to represent the region in a series of ODI and T20 matches later in the year against Afghanistan in India. In television interviews, he choked up when asked about wearing the maroon, something he aspired to as a child.
“It’s [playing for the West Indies] one of the boyhood dreams of me and my brother Tahir. He went on to be star in track and field and I stuck to cricket. When I got the call-up, my mind flashed back to when we played in the yard with my father, and we were imagining what roles we would play in the West Indies team,” he told Cricket West Indies at the time of his selection.
Walsh’s father, Hayden, who is deceased, and his uncle Vaughn both represented the Leeward Islands in first class matches, so cricket is in the younger Walsh’s DNA.
Since Walsh has dual citizenship, he had the opportunity early in his career to represent Cricket USA in international competitions, and he impressed his bosses.
“Hayden has been nothing short of outstanding on and off the field for USA since his first selection in 2018,” Iain Higgins of USA Cricket said in a Cricket West Indies interview. “His all-round talent with bat and ball, allied with world-class fielding, were crucial factors in the USA team gaining ODI status.”
Walsh, hardworking and ambitious, is not resting on his laurels.
“I really want to be the best in the world,” he said during an Instagram interview.
West Indies men, Sri Lanka face off next week
The West Indies are currently in Sri Lanka preparing for a two-test series that begins Sunday in Galle. The teams are evenly matched talentwise, but the hosts are favored slightly, as they are familiar with the spin-friendly home pitches.
— Contact Curtis Walcott at 340-714-9108 or email cwalcott@ dailynews.vi.