Indian Premier League 2012

Cooper's fairytale journey

Kevon Cooper thought his career might be over after doubts were expressed about his bowling action, but he's now reaping dividends in the IPL

Tariq Engineer

April 10, 2012

Comments: 13 | Text size: A | A

Kevin Cooper took three wickets, Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders, IPL, Jaipur, April 8, 2012
Kevon Cooper has surprised everyone, including himself, with his performances in the IPL so far © AFP
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Kevon Cooper did not expect to be here. Before the IPL began, the 23-year-old allrounder from Trinidad & Tobago was just hoping he would get a game with Rajasthan Royals. But having picked up seven wickets from his first two matches, he now finds himself in possession of the Purple Cap as the tournament's leading wicket-taker. For good measure, he hit his first ball in the IPL for six. And the second for four. It was a start beyond his wildest expectations, and is a far cry from where Cooper found himself a little over a year ago.

Following the 2011 Caribbean T20, match officials raised concerns about Cooper's bowling action, placing his cricketing future in doubt. Luckily the Trinidad & Tobago government stepped in and sent him and team-mate Sunil Narine to the University of Western Australia in Perth to remodel their actions under the supervision of ICC-approved experts in biomechanics.

Over the course of ten days, using a combination of biomechanical tests and remedial exercises, Cooper practised mornings and evenings to re-learn the seemingly simple art of bowling a cricket ball. He recalled sitting in his room confused and depressed, wondering whether his career was over before it had even really begun. "That was a very difficult time for me," he told ESPNcricinfo. "[But] it taught me to never give up."

Cooper comes from a footballing family. One of his brothers, Kevin Molina, was part of T&T's squad that played in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for the London Olympics.* Cooper grew up playing football as well but was persuaded by his father, a cricket fan, to switch his allegiance. When he was picked for the T&T Under-19 squad, he left football behind. Then he found himself in Perth, his cricket career hanging in the balance.

His determination paid off and a rejuvenated Cooper was cleared to play in the Champions League T20 for T&T later the same year. His spinning team-mates, Narine and Samuel Badree, may have grabbed the headlines during that tournament, but Cooper was almost as effective. Mixing up the speeds of his medium-pacers to good effect, he took five wickets in six games while conceding just 5.29 runs an over. "The wickets in India suit my bowling," Cooper said, explaining that though they are slow, so are the wickets in the Caribbean. "It's not like when Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall were bowling." Cooper was explosive with the bat too. Coming in at No. 7, he posted a Gayle-esque strike rate of 191.17, with an average of 21.66.

It was these attributes that drew the attention of the Royals, who bought him for $50,000 in the IPL player auction earlier this year. "We had done a thorough analysis on him, especially on his Champions League performances," Raghu Iyer, the franchise's chief executive, said. "The coaching staff was extremely impressed. It was based on their insistence that we bid for him."

With so many better-known cricketers in the side though, Cooper wasn't about to get carried away with earning an IPL contract; he was prepared to wait his turn. But the Royals had other plans for him.

The team lacked a big hitter down the order last season. When Cooper met Rahul Dravid and the coaching staff, he was told that was the role they wanted him to fill as an allrounder.

Cooper admitted to being nervous in his first game. "Any player will tell you there are a few butterflies when you take the field, especially in front of such big crowds," he said. A wicket in his first over - Paul Valthaty sliced a full toss to third man - quickly settled his nerves and Cooper proceeded to strike in each of his next three overs to finish with 4 for 26, ensuring the Royals got off to a winning start. He followed that up with 3 for 28 against Kolkata Knight Riders as Rajasthan climbed to the top of the points table (albeit very early in the season).

Cooper simply wants to build on his first few performances and contribute to the team in any way he can. He would like to avoid being classified only as a T20 specialist, however, as some have come to think of him. Cooper harbours ambitions of playing international cricket in all formats (his idol is fellow Trinidadian Brian Lara).

Having played 31 T20 matches before making his first-class debut in March, though, he is aware he will have to overcome that stereotype. While he had a forgettable opening game against Jamaica, he made a crucial 58 in the first-innings against Guyana to ensure T&T picked up the six points for a first-innings lead. "I hope that showed Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies that I can play first-class cricket," he said.

When he decided to pursue cricket at the expense of football, Cooper said, there were plenty of people who questioned whether he had made the right decision. After his performances in the Champions League and now the IPL, his choice is clearly turning out to be the right one.

07:13 GMT, April 12: The article has been updated to reflect that the T&T football squad didn't qualify for the 2012 Olympics

Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Randy_Wilson on (April 13, 2012, 0:31 GMT)

@true.trini How can you drop Sammy now and say he don't fit in the Team? it's shame. sammy isnt doing that Bad nowaday Since the Australia Series Begin with With his Own performance Wise as Captain unlike Gayle, Sarwan,etc. he have Move the Team from been a team who had No confidence in winning, he have Change that. We can see the signs of this, it's unfortunately people is failing to Realize that. Imaging Playing without Gayle and Sarwan, yet The Team's performance isnt that bad like what people think this young team is and Sammy is leading from the front. There is NO DIFFERANCE between Gayle's West Indies (which had our best 11 out there) than Sammy's West Indies. Go back into pass matches. Sammy West Indies have a never give up attitude which Gayle Team didnt had. Imaging Aussie 100 for 1 Chasing 194 in a Test Match. And they had Lost 6 Wicket before they could of win. WI vs Pak. 16 from 5 ball, bowler J Taylor, and Pak win with 1 ball to spare. and WI best Team was playing

Posted by true.trini on (April 12, 2012, 18:18 GMT)

looking at kevon's performances in bangladesh and so far in india, with the world t20 in sri lanka not to far away, WI selectors would do well to consider him, he at least deserves a chance. WI possible team for world t20, gayle,simmons,d.smith/samuels,dmbravo,djbravo,pollard,ramdin,russell,sammy,cooper,narine. reserves-f.edwards,bishoo,k.santokie,j.charles. i would let ramdin and simmons alternate the wk. in order to play an extra bowler or batter as the need arises( ideally, on statistics and merit, with an abundance of seam-bowling allrounders on the team, Darren sammy should only be playing if one of them gets injured, but more than likely he's gonna be the captain so he's gotta play)

Posted by fuzziduck23 on (April 11, 2012, 17:40 GMT)

Keep fighting Kevon. Really proud of you and all that you have achieved so far. Your dedication and humility will continue to take you very far. Big up my Arima brother!!!

Posted by TATTUs on (April 11, 2012, 13:33 GMT)

This guy is just an ordinary player, who is getting wickets on full tosses and those 'caught at long on' wickets. But being simply hyped because of IPL. Not surprisingly, this will die down after one or two not so lucky days.

Posted by rama_krish on (April 11, 2012, 13:00 GMT)

All this talk about WI cricket. The reality is that several Trinidadians are making significant contributions to T20 cricket as well as the IPL. The list includes Bravo, Pollard, Narine, Cooper and, in time will expand to include Bharat, Simmons, Rampaul and Bravo (DM). Of course, not to forget the entire TnT team and their performances in the CLT20. GO TnT.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2012, 12:57 GMT)

Dashgar - humph! Your opinion is certainly not related to recent news on that issue (Gayle). With so many players in this format being offered big money to play the game, it should be a shoo in that the Windies do well - but then, many other teams have 'specialists' at this level (e.g. South Africa, Australia, India) that we may just have a team with ability on paper.

Posted by zaw04 on (April 11, 2012, 12:32 GMT)

may be a good adition but his first piority should be is playing for w indies

Posted by Cricket_Observer on (April 11, 2012, 11:19 GMT)

Tariq Engineer: "One of his brothers, Kevin Molina, is headed to London as part of T&T's Olympic squad."

The statement above is incorrect. T&T's Olympic Team did not advance to London 2012.

Posted by   on (April 11, 2012, 10:59 GMT)

From one Kevin Cooper to another....great work Kevon!

Posted by Dashgar on (April 11, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

Sammy, Bravo, Pollard, Russell and now Cooper. The Windies have so many pace bowling allrounders these days. This will serve them well in the T20 World Cup. They'd be even stronger with Gayle although I hope he doesn't play as he doesn't deserve to. Hasn't played for West Indies since the 50 over world cup. Clearly he has no intention to put the national team first so they're better off without him.

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