Nyeem Young: the diamond from Barbados' Gold Coast

Playing in his second U-19 World Cup, the allrounder is one of the early pace-setters for the tournament's MVP

Getty Images/ICC

Getty Images/ICC

Nyeem Young spent most of his formative years at his grandparents' house at St James, a parish in Barbados, while his parents worked. After taping up a rubber ball, he would bowl at the garbage can in his backyard to bide time. His grandfather was a bit of a cricket nerd, and Young grew up watching all kind of cricket games on television at his house.
From watching cricket on TV together, these days Young senior wakes up at 4am to watch his grandson live at the Under-19 World Cup. So far, Young has made his grandfather's effort worth it by winning the Player of the Match award in both games he has played so far.
Remarkably, both the performances have come in different circumstances. Against Australia, Young walked in to a tricky situation, with West Indies 73 for 4 in chase of 180. He fought through difficult periods against spin before finding his own in a composed innings of 61 in 69 balls to seal his West Indies' first win against Australia in the tournament's history.
Against England, Young had the liberty to display his full array of strokes. He smashed a 41-ball 66, his fourth fifty in five games, to lift West Indies to 267. To cap off that batting performance, the medium-pacer ran through the England batting line-up to take his maiden five-for in the West Indies maroon.
Young appears a confident young man, not daunted by media attention or press conferences. He looks at you in the eye and answers, a rare trait among teenagers at the tournament. What is the secret to his confidence?
"When you see a tweet from Ian Bishop calling you a 'future star', it relaxes the nerves," Young tells ESPNcricinfo. "For him to acknowledge my performance, speak to me, tweet about me, it means a lot."
Young's journey began as a nine-year old when his school teacher asked him to play an Under-11 match. Before long, he made the Barbados U-13s and 15s, playing alongside fellow allrounder Rahkeem Cornwall. Now, in 2020, he finds himself playing in his second Under-19 World Cup.
The journey has been far from a smooth sail, though. Despite making 299 in a school's game as a 15-year old, he had failed to make a mark the next few years. It appeared, to him, that the transition into the under-19s would not be possible, but an arm around his shoulder changed everything.
"After that summer, I was a bit down," Young continues, "because I couldn't believe my form could drop so significantly within 12 months. I felt depressed at a very young age. Very hurtful. I thought it would be hard to go into the Under-19 team.
"That's when Corey Collymore, my coach back then, came to my rescue. He had trust in me and calmed my anxiety by telling me that he believed in my potential. I haven't watched him play, and yet he's my favourite cricketer, just because of the person he is. He is very honest with me and still messages me here before games."
Nyeem considers himself to be in the Ben Stokes mould. The higher the pressure, the more he thrives. That's why he's grown as a bowler once he moved from taking the new ball.
"At the last World Cup, I was the new-ball bowler. Now been a middle-overs and death bowler," Young says. ". I enjoy this more because when I bowl middle overs, it's all about containing and I get to use my variations.
"Bowling at the death, I can show my slower balls and bouncers. I enjoy bowling at the death more than anything else. To have that confidence of bowling in the hardest part of the innings is a good asset. Chatting with Chris Jordan, who visits Barbados often, has also helped me."
Despite his hard-hitting batting style, evidence of which is the cracked glass window at the media centre at Kimberley's Diamond Oval, Nyeem has aspirations to play all three formats and not just white-ball cricket.
He admits he doesn't watch much Test cricket but believes he's a very adjustable character. He also understands why specific senior players from the Caribbean prefer white-ball formats to Test cricket.
"Each player looks at things differently. Those who want to play specific formats, it's because they know their strengths - like (Nicholas) Pooran and (Kieron) Pollard," Young says. "I enjoy playing the faster game, and I'll be honest, sometimes I don't even watch Test cricket, but playing multi-day cricket is something different.
"Players within the Caribbean do tend to play limited-overs cricket, and that's just their choice. And then there are people who just want to play Test cricket like Kraigg B(rathwaite). If we show teenagers and kids how enjoyable three-day cricket is, then that will help them develop a love for red-ball cricket.
"My next aim is to play in the Barbados first team and maybe get a CPL gig. Barbados are a bit like Mumbai Indians in the IPL, so many good players that they can field three teams. We have around eight-nine Test players from Barbados, so when the national team isn't playing, it's difficult making it to the first XI.
"I learnt patience after watching a documentary on Mumbai Indians on Netflix. Seeing how hard some of the players train despite not playing in the Mumbai Indians XI has inspired me. I thought it may be easy playing franchise cricket, but seeing the documentary has shown that making it to the XI of an elite team is more difficult than it looks."
St James in Barbados may be known as the 'Gold Coast' of the country, because of the rich and famous people living there, but from within that parish, it appears that a rough diamond has been discovered instead. Where Young goes after the World Cup only time will tell, but for now, he's made himself one of the early contenders to become the World Cup's Player of the Tournament.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo