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Feature

Akeal Hosein takes strong stride towards fulfilling all-round ambitions

With new-found hitting muscle to go with his guile as a spinner, he's turned himself into a compelling package

Deivarayan Muthu
31-Jul-2022
Khary Pierre and Akeal Hosein go back a long way: "We're always willing to help each other"  •  Randy Brooks - CPL T20 / Getty

Khary Pierre and Akeal Hosein go back a long way: "We're always willing to help each other"  •  Randy Brooks - CPL T20 / Getty

When left-arm fingerspinner Akeal Hosein was stifling India's top order with the new ball in the T20I series opener in Tarouba, it reminded Daren Sammy, who was on commentary at the time, of the control Samuel Badree provided him when he was West Indies' captain. Hosein's accuracy and courage to bowl the tough overs at the CPL earned him a T20I debut, against South Africa, in July 2021. He has since translated his CPL success to T20Is, establishing himself as one of the thriftiest spinners going around.
Since his T20I debut last July, only Mahedi Hasan (5.70), Shakib Al Hasan (6.30), Adam Zampa (6.56) and Simi Singh (6.93) have a better economy rate than Hosein's 6.98 among spinners who have bowled in at least 20 innings. And on Friday, he stood out amid West Indies' rubble with outstanding figures of 1 for 14 - his most economical four-over spell in T20I cricket.
Although Hosein has a deceptive, swinging arm ball and carrom ball in his repertoire, he largely relies on his stock ball and subtle variations in speed and length to trick batters. Hosein could have had Suryakumar Yadav out first ball on Friday, but Kyle Mayers dropped the catch at extra-cover. Hosein then slowed down his pace and found just enough grip and turn to have Suryakumar skewing a leading edge to short third.
Then, when Rohit tried to manufacture a scoop, Hosein smartly shortened his length and darted in an arm ball to hit his inside edge. Hosein held his own against India's IPL superstars even as the rest of the West Indian attack was taken to the cleaners.
Khary Pierre, who is also an accurate left-arm spinner, isn't surprised by Hosein's international success. They go back a long way: from studying at the same school at Success Laventille in Port-of-Spain, to sharing dressing rooms at the Queen's Park Cricket Club and winning CPL championships at Trinbago Knight Riders. According to Pierre, Hosein's smarts have helped him stay ahead of the batters in the age of quick wristspin and mystery spin.
"I think his [Hosein's] accuracy and his variations [have been crucial to his rise]," Pierre tells ESPNcricinfo. "It's a big part of fingerspin not only for him but for all fingerspinners. Only you have that control, you can stay ahead of the batsman. Akeal is a guy who thinks batsmen out. He watches plenty of videos and is a very smart cricketer. He is a student of the game, I'd say. He tends to watch batsmen and see what they're doing or what they want to do."
Hosein and Pierre have often had to compete for the same spot at various levels but that hasn't affected their friendship and has instead promoted a healthy exchange of ideas.
"Club cricket at Queen's Park, then TKR at CPL... we're always willing to help each other," Pierre says. "Sometimes, we [are] maybe competing for the same position but that has never hampered our friendship, no matter what. If he sees something in my game that needs fixing or maybe if I see something in his game that needs a fix, I'll tell him and that's how our friendship has always been. It was never about cricket only - we're best friends off the field as well."
Hosein had started the last T20 World Cup in the UAE as a net bowler and was then roped into the main squad after an injury to Fabian Allen. In this T20 World Cup year, he has grown leaps and bounds to become a frontline spin option for West Indies - with or without Sunil Narine. He has also dominated the ODI Super League, with a chart-topping 35 strikes in 20 games at an average of 23.37 and economy rate of 4.46. Ian Bishop has been so impressed that he felt Hosein had the tools to succeed in Test cricket as well.
"From a very young age, Akeal has had that determination and that mindset [to succeed]," Pierre says. "No matter what the opposition he comes up against, he's always determined to back himself and be the guy for the team. So, I think he has taken it upon himself to be one of the best players in the world and he's a hard worker also."
Hosein has an electric presence in the field and can seamlessly slot into any position there. Of late, he has added power to his batting in his quest to establish himself as an international allrounder. In the Bridgetown T20I earlier this year, Hosein flexed his muscles with an unbeaten 16-ball 44 from No. 11, giving England an almighty scare along with Romario Shepherd. More recently in the Multan ODI in June, he clattered a 37-ball 60 from No. 7.
Pierre believes that Hosein has the game to add to the wealth of all-round options for West Indies.
"Akeal is a genuine allrounder. I think he has been one from since we were kids. Growing up probably the bowling took over at some point, but he is always an allrounder. He has worked really hard on his batting.
"His all-round abilities will only get better. The more cricket he plays at the international level, the more you would see him batting and bowling and being a genuine allrounder for West Indies and by extension the rest of the world."

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo