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Test whites the ultimate dream for fiercely driven Jayden Seales

On World Cup debut, the fast bowler bagged a match-winning four-for in front of his adoring family

Jayden Seales celebrates  •  Getty Images

Jayden Seales celebrates  •  Getty Images

The moment Jayden Seales was born in September 2001, he was destined to be a fast bowler. How could it have been otherwise?
His grandfather Nigel played club cricket in the Caribbean as a left-arm quick. His father Larry and uncle Neil were fast bowlers too. His cousin Jalarnie is a 140kph fast bowler who played for Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) in West Indies' Super 50 tournament last year. None of them, however, have worn the West Indies maroon.
And therefore, as Seales walked out with the rest of his team for the anthem ahead of West Indies' first game of the 2020 U-19 World Cup, against Australia, there were some moist eyes in the West Stand of the Diamond Oval, where his family was present to witness the moment.
"Brought tears to my eyes," father Larry says. "Very emotional. I'm an emotional guy."
From the time he was handed the new ball, it looked like Seales belonged to the big stage. Off his fifth delivery, an outswinger, he got the opener Liam Scott to chip a catch to cover. In his fourth over, he parried a drive from Jane Fraser-McGurk onto the non-striker's stumps to send back Mackenzie Harvey, Australia's captain. A wicket and a run-out in your first World Cup spell. Can't ask for too much more.
When Seales returned for his second spell, Australia had recovered from his early breakthroughs and were cruising towards a big total. He went full and straight, forcing Fraser-McGurke, who was on 84 at that stage, to hole out at mid-on, ending a fifth-wicket stand of 91. Thereafter, Seales cranked up his pace and dismissed two more lower-order batsmen finish with his best Youth ODI figures of 4 for 49.
He marked each of his wickets with a different celebration. The first one was of uninhibited joy, running across to his captain Kimani Melius at point and delivering a high-five of enough force to make his hand ring for days. Then came the salute, now trademarked by Sheldon Cottrell, followed by a cheeky shoe-shine jig in tandem with keeper Leonardo Julien.
The last one was minimal: no smile, no sprint, just a puffed-out chest.
His father Larry was celebrating with equal fervour. Seales' second wicket made him jump out of his garden chair on the grass banks. The third one brought out a raw cry of joy, and, just like his son's, his celebration of wicket number four was muted. It was as if an invisible thread connected him to his son on the field.
What makes Seales stand out is his ambition: he wants to wear the West Indies whites, not just the maroon. Test cricket is his only ambition, says his father.
"He's really not about getting a contract in the IPL or Big Bash to make money," Larry says. "He wants to represent West Indies in Test cricket. He has always said to me that the pinnacle of his career will be the day he plays cricket for five days straight wearing the West Indies cap. And if that's what he wants, as a father, that's what I want.
"What I like about my son, and I shouldn't say it - but he's humble. Jayden's a guy who takes five wickets, but when he goes back home, he's just normal. He wouldn't be full of himself. He's an excited young guy, but before today's game, he told me, 'Dad, I just want to hear the West Indies anthem.' That was the only thing he wanted to do here at the World Cup. His thing is that even if West Indies Test cricket is on the down, his dream is to resurrect it. Other forms of cricket come after."
Jayden's parents have been with him at every step of his development, and both his father Larry and mother Ann-Marie have sacrificed weekends to drive him to far-flung grounds and help him in various ways to excel at the sport he so dearly loves.
"If I couldn't drop him to cricket, his mum would," Larry continues. "We ensured we went with him to watch his games and support him.
"Sometimes I show him recordings of games we've taped for him. We run back the tapes at home, and we discuss what he needs to do, whether to bowl yorkers or variations. We discuss how he should bowl in the first five and the back five, and importantly he listens. Jayden is a thinking bowler. He's always thinking."
Seales couldn't have made a better start to his World Cup. A match-winning four-for against Australia isn't an everyday event. But he knows it's just the start, and his sights are already set much higher. If he can fulfill his burning ambitions, West Indies will have quite a player on their hands.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo