The potency of what West Indies believe is their best fast-bowling attack since the halcyon days of the 80s and 90s will dominate the agenda ahead of the Test series against England. But there is another intriguing, very different bowler in their ranks who is carrying the weight of expectation on his broad shoulders.
Certainly it is not easy for Rahkeem Cornwall to slip under the radar for he is unique in the modern cricketing world of supremely fit athletes, epitomised by the likes of England’s Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. Cornwall, at 6ft 5in and around 22 stone, is the ultimate throwback.
He actually surpasses anybody from any age — Cornwall is believed to be the heaviest cricketer in Test history, bigger even than Warwick Armstrong, who was known as the ‘Big Ship’ when he captained Australia in the 1920s.
For Big Ship read Big Jim, as Cornwall is known to his West Indies team-mates, a nickname given to him by his late grandfather when he was growing up as a cricket-mad young batsman, and then a spin bowler good enough to make quite an impression.
The trouble for Cornwall is that his size has always got in the way of him being recognised as a Test-class performer. It threatened to stop him fulfilling the huge potential he has shown in taking 303 first-class wickets, with an off-spin style compared to Graeme Swann’s.
That was until Courtney Browne, who had vowed not to pick Cornwall unless he shaped up, was replaced as chief selector last year and West Indies finally appreciated they have a potentially world-class slow bowling all-rounder in their midst, whatever condition he is in.
And Cornwall immediately showed what he could do when he was finally called up last year, taking 13 wickets in his two Tests, including seven for 75 in a 10-wicket haul against Afghanistan.
Now he will be looking to show a much wider audience that he deserves attention for all the right reasons, if he gets a chance against England at two venues — the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford — that have provided encouragement for spin in the past.
Cornwall, 27, is a quietly spoken man of few words, at least among those he doesn’t know, but retained his self-belief and confidence throughout the years since his debut for the Leeward Islands in 2014 when he was cruelly written off because of his size.
“Yes I think my size was held against me for a long time but I don’t see it as an issue,’ Cornwall told Sportsmail from West Indies’ Manchester base.
‘Everyone has their own opinion but I just have to make sure I do what I do and that I’m in the right frame of mind to compete.
‘”I feel I can contribute with both bat and ball and that gives the team an extra plus. The most important thing is for my cricket to speak for itself and then everything else will fall into place.”
There were plenty who felt Cornwall would never be taken seriously at the highest level but he was never among them.
“I always felt that my chance would come and when it did I’d have to make sure I was ready to take it,” he said. “I just wanted to keep playing, keep performing and concentrate on my game.
“I knew if I did that I would get the chance to show West Indies what I could do. I never lost faith. I just kept playing and enjoying cricket. It’s what I love.”
Not that West Indies have given up trying to get Cornwall to more resemble a modern international cricketer. They have provided him with a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach, and even sent him to a specialist fitness environment in the United States.
“I think I’ve improved a lot in that regard and I have a lot more understanding of the fitness side of things now,” said Cornwall.
“I haven’t missed many games through injury but I do have to work on it. The team don’t get me doing any extra work now with the squad on tour but I have to put in the work on my own.”
It has to be a positive that Cornwall was not lost to the game at the highest level, because cricket has always been inclusive of players of various sizes and there is no question that he is a highly talented multi-dimensional player.
He has always given the ball a big whack with the bat, is easily the best spinner in the Caribbean and will be West Indies’ first-choice slow bowler on this tour ahead of Roston Chase, who freakishly took eight wickets in an innings against England in Barbados last year.
And Cornwall has a very safe pair of hands at slip. It is just in the outfield that he needs to be hidden and his lack of athleticism has unquestionably stopped him cashing in on Twenty20 leagues around the world, as otherwise he would be the perfect short-form cricketer.
“I prefer Test cricket anyway,” he said. “It gives you longer to execute your skills and show what you can do.”
That talent has always been known. Eight years ago a teenage Cornwall made such an impression on Kent when they visited Antigua on a pre-season tour that their then-captain Rob Key insisted he would have been good enough then to play county cricket, if he had wanted to gain Kolpak status.
“He was so quiet that his mate answered for him when I asked him what he did,” remembered Key. “But when he batted against us he was bashing it everywhere. I couldn’t stop laughing at what he was doing to our bowlers. He could bowl, too.
“And when he finally did speak he had a bit about him. He just turned to me fielding at slip and said, ‘Are you guys the Kent second team?’ I had to tell him we were professionals.
“There’s no doubt we would have put him straight into our set-up if we could have done,” Key said.
And Cornwall has no bitterness about being kept waiting long for a chance at the international level.
“I don’t think the treatment of me has been harsh,” Cornwall admitted. “Courtney Browne just wanted me to go along with the system and I had to do that.
“When my chance came I had to grab it with both hands. It’s up to me how long I want my career at this level to last. I’ll have to keep pushing and see how far I can take it.” (Adapted, DailyMail)
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.