West Indies’ squad announcement for the 2022 T20 World Cup had – as always – angles to discuss and debate over. It included the decision to pick the unheralded Yannic Cariah from Trinidad: here is all you need to know about the leg-spinning all-rounder.
At 30, left-handed batter Cariah’s can be termed as a slightly belated entry into international cricket. He made his List A debut back in 2009, for the West Indies Under-19s that also had the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, Evin Lewis and Jermaine Blackwood. The following year, he \represented the West Indies junior team at the Under-19 World Cup. The only centurion for West Indies in the tournament, he also took eight wickets at 20 with his leg spin. At that time, though, the batting strike rate of 67 hardly suggested that he was cut out for Twenty20 cricket.
The following year, he made his first-class debut, but it was not until 2013 that he played his first Twenty20 game. It is bizarre to think, though, that Cariah has not featured in a T20 game since 2016.
That debut – a Caribbean Premier League clash – saw him represent Trinbago Knight Riders under Dwayne Bravo. He did not bat. Coming on as third change, he bowled one over for nine runs. He has played a total of four T20s, picking up one wicket and scoring no runs. In many ways, the T20 World Cup selection can be deemed bizarre. West Indies lead selector Desmond Haynes termed the pick ‘wildcard’.
Cariah’s route to recognition has been through first-class and, to some extent, List A cricket. He has played 71 red-ball games, averaging 28.37 and scoring five centuries. Leg-spin has fetched him 57 wickets at 32.87, two five-wicket hauls included. He has featured in 27 List A matches, but none between April 2013 and October 2018. Until his ODI debut last month, he had not played a 50-over game since December 2019.
His red-ball exploits probably paved the way for Cariah’s entry into senior contention. In the 2021/22 West Indies Four-Day Championship, he top-scored for Trinidad & Tobago, scoring 314 runs at 44.85 (one hundred, two fifties) to end eighth in the season’s run charts. With the ball, he was not as successful, fetching four wickets in five games with a best of 3-33.
In August, Cariah was called up for the ODIs against New Zealand, replacing the injured Gudakesh Motie. The selection came on the back of the ‘A’ series against Bangladesh. “It’s the right time,” said Haynes. “He is someone that has been performing well on the regional circuit and we feel now is the right time to integrate him into the senior team set-up.”
Against Bangladesh A, Cariah played unbeaten innings of 13 and 18, and picked up a couple of wickets. He did not feature in the one-day leg of the tour. Before that, he led the Board President’s XI against the touring Bangladesh side, scoring 56 in his only innings.
The ODI debut came in the series opener against New Zealand. It was the second game where Cariah made a notable contribution. Chasing 212 in 41 overs, West Indies were down to 27-6 before No.8 Cariah and No.10 Alzarri Joseph hung around to delay the inevitable, stitching together an 85-run stand. Cariah ambled to 52 off 84 as West Indies won by 50 runs as per the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern Method. So far, he has picked up three wickets in as many games.
Nearly a month on, Cariah has found a spot in the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup, led by Nicholas Pooran, four years his junior. It has come at the expense of Hayden Walsh Jr, another 30-year-old with an interesting journey. Since his debut in November 2019, Walsh Jr has been West Indies’ lead spinner, picking more T20I wickets (25 at 28.16) than any other slow bowler from the side – but the selectors are not convinced about his consistency at the top level.
“I think Yannic has impressed us from the time we picked him for the A team,” said Haynes after the T20 World Cup announcement. “And then we gave him the opportunity to play against New Zealand in the 50-overs competition, and I think going to Australia, I know we’ve got a lot of confidence in him, we think that he’s bowling well enough that [he] can play in the T20 format. It’s a bit unfortunate that he’s not in the CPL, we have no control over that, but we think that he is a guy who we feel that can do a job for us. I don’t think you can underrate his batting either.”
His ESPNcricinfo bio is still one line long, dating back to the 2010 U19 World Cup. It has been an atypical journey, but Cariah now has a chance to add a lot more to his resume. Given how unpredictable West Indies cricket can be, it might just end up going that way.