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Analysis

Ruthless IPL brings high-flying Joseph back to earth

On IPL debut, the West Indies quick leaked 47 runs while missing his lines but also had catches dropped off his bowling

Shamar Joseph's first over on IPL debut went for 22, Kolkata Knight Riders vs Lucknow Super Giants, IPL 2024, Kolkata, April 14, 2024

Shamar Joseph's first over on IPL debut went for 22  •  BCCI

Take the emotion out. Subtract the vicarious living. Utilise only the left brain. Pull yourself back before you get too deep.
This was, at some point, bound to happen to Shamar Joseph. Right?
This was Joseph's 12th senior men's match, his fifth major limited-overs game, his third T20 ever, and (the way cricket is going, this might be the most important) his first outing at the IPL. For the first time in the global cricket consciousness, Joseph had a bad one. Four overs, 47 runs, no wickets, two sixes and four fours conceded.
Earlier this week, one voice out of the West Indies had this to say: "Hype without substance is still overrated". Daren Sammy, West Indies' white-ball coach, was likely not trying to knock Joseph down; he was attempting to temper some of the buzz around Joseph.
Sammy was asked whether Joseph could gain a place in the T20 World Cup squad, based on the borderline miraculous spells he bowled in Australia. "Test cricket and T20 cricket brings two different dimensions," Sammy said.
But as much as Sammy maybe right, as outcome-oriented as he is being, pragmatism is still not why many fans come to the game. It is certainly not what makes Joseph such a draw.
The highlights so far: Joseph grew up in Baracara, which is a settlement on the Canje River in East Berbice Guyana that can only be reached by boat, which did not have the internet until the last 10 years, where he grew up bowling with fruits and balls made of tape and melted plastic, and where his most likely career was in chopping trees down and then transporting them down the river to the nearest "Big Place" - New Amsterdam. Through the course of his journey to the IPL, he has worked as a construction worker, and a security guard.
Then he took 5 for 94 in the first Test innings he ever bowled in, and a little over a week later, took 7 for 68 as he bowled his team to their first Test win in Australia in 27 years.
Sammy is trying to be the adult in the room. The rest of us want wickets for Joseph.
Partly this might be because Joseph seems so likeable. Before he bowled his first ball at the IPL, Joseph was all over social media on video congratulating West Indies team-mate Romario Shepherd on his 39 off 10 to take Mumbai Indians home against Delhi Capitals. Partly this might be because he is so fresh on the scene, his life is a blank enough canvas on which we are free to project our dreams for him.
(Plus - and this is no small thing in the mind of a cricket fan - Joseph is quick. Breaching 150kph quick. Of all the genres of young cricketers to get behind, this is the most getbehindable of them all.)
On Sunday: reality. As Kolkata Knight Riders cruised to a modest Lucknow Super Giants total, Joseph got spanked. At least as far as the scoreboard told the story. His first over went for 22. His last for 14. He missed his lines too often, and top-quality batters took advantage. Joseph has won West Indies a Test match at the Gabba, arguably breaching the greatest fortress in cricket. But at Eden Gardens, in a bigger stadium than he has ever played in, with more eyeballs on him than he has ever had, he had his first high-profile failure.
"Probably the figures didn't show he was a bit unlucky," Sunil Narine said of Joseph. Narine is both an IPL superstar, as well as a cricketer from the West Indies, who though from a different part of the region (Tobago), has some sense of what is going on for Joseph. He also smoked the first four off Joseph at the IPL: a shortish, wide delivery, slapped through cover point. "But he still bowled four overs, and I still think he gave energy in every ball, even though he was going for runs. It's his first game. It's a learning process. I'm sure he will come back strong."
At points in the game, LSG captain KL Rahul had his arm around Joseph. If you've followed Joseph's story so far, perhaps you would have liked to do the same. He had the opposition's best batter on the evening, Phil Salt, dropped twice off his bowling, the first time coming in the first over, before Salt had made a single one of his eventual 89. On another night, those catches are taken, and Joseph ends with 2 for 30 from his four overs.
But the universe does not always cater to you. You come from Baracas, you win your team a Test at an unwinnable venue, you have planet Earth at your feet.
But sometimes Earth brings your feet right back down to it. And the rest of us are reminded, however much we've invested emotionally, that real life is not fantasy.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf