Dominic Drakes on red-hot Sharjah debut: ‘I've never experienced anything like this'

West Indies pacer talks about playing in UAE in June, and following in his father’s footsteps at Middle East’s oldest cricket venue

West Indies' Dominic Drakes bowls during the first ODI against the UAE in Sharjah on Sunday, June 4, 2023. AFP
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At last, Dominic Drakes has some happy memories to remember Sharjah by.

The last time he played in the city, the Barbadian pace bowler had ended the evening in hospital. Playing for Gulf Giants in the DP World International League T20 back in February, he face-planted in the outfield in the course of taking a fine diving catch, and suffered concussion.

The bad vibes he had felt for the place stretched back a long way before that, though.

Back in 2008, Drakes’ father, the former West Indies all-rounder Vasbert, served a short-term stint as UAE coach and was based in Sharjah.

Vasbert’s three-month spell in charge is fondly remembered in these parts for both the successes he brought to the national team, as well as his amiable character.

But less so by his son, who was just starting to comprehend what touring life meant for a cricketing father.

“I was starting at school, so when he came over here, that was when I started to understand about him travelling,” Drakes said, after making his one-day international debut for West Indies against the UAE on Sunday.

“That was very painful for me. He was over here for a little while and I couldn’t see him. It was very, very painful.”

He said the physical pain of his head injury at the ground five months earlier did occur to him at one point during the game against the UAE, while he was stationed in the same part of the field.

“I try not to dwell on the past, even though it is something you must remember,” Drakes said.

“I went down on that side to take a catch, there was a 50-50 chance, and I pulled out. I suppose I did have it in the back of my head at that point, but other than that I don’t think about it.”

The 25-year-old left-armer was handed his cap before the game against the UAE by Shamarh Brooks, his Barbadian teammate.

Although Drakes had played a handful of T20 matches for West Indies previously, as well as in many of the leading franchise competitions around the world, he acknowledged he still felt nerves ahead of his ODI bow.

“Everyone knows T20 to 50 overs is a massive step, a big difference,” Drakes said.

“You bowl so many different spells with the ball. In T20 you bowl four overs and are out there for an hour and 30 minutes. Here, you are out in the field for three hours in 40 degrees.

“To say I was a little nervous? Yes, because you always want to do well. Especially on your first game, you want to make a lasting impression.”

Drakes excelled in his side’s seven-wicket win. He took 2-29 in nine overs, showing fine control despite the sapping conditions.

It was the 245th ODI Sharjah has staged, but the first ever in June. After the 4.30pm start, Drakes bowled four overs off the reel with the new ball, then headed straight for the dressing room for a change of clothes and a cool down.

“I have never experienced anything like this, ever,” Drakes said of the weather.

“[On Saturday] in the nets I only managed to bowl 19 balls. Today, in my third over I said [to Shai Hope], ‘Skip, have I got one more?’

“He said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ Then, three balls into it, I thought it was the worst decision I have ever made in my entire life. My head got light, my eyes got dark, and I just tried to get through it.

“During the day it did get a little cooler, but even during the night, in my second and third spells, it was hard to breathe. It was really humid.

“Normally I just have the wash cloth there for aesthetics as an accessory, but today I had to finally use it. My palms were drenched.”

While the defeat was a chastening one for the home team, many home observers would have been glad to see a Drakes excelling on the field at the UAE’s oldest venue again.

Vasbert now coaches Barbados, where his son is one of his charges.

“Of late, I listen a lot more because it is my profession,” Drakes Jr said.

“Before, there used to be a bit of horseplay and I would say, ‘Yeah, OK, sure’. Now, when we have one-to-ones it is about taking it seriously, realising he is not just my coach, he is my dad.

“That firmness comes in. He means well and I love him.”

Updated: June 05, 2023, 10:14 AM