“Rovman Powell is a Jr Andre Russell.”
That was what Kolkata Knight Riders’ Twitter handle quoted the franchise’s CEO, Venky Mysore, saying during the 2017 IPL auction. Mysore is no stranger to Caribbean cricket talent, with KKR having a sister franchise, Trinbago Knight Riders, in the CPL.
Such sentiments about the exciting young Jamaican were regularly expressed during the 2016 CPL, which Jamaica Tallawahs won. In the Caribbean Super50, Powell couldn’t have timed his eye-catching all-round performances any better – they came in the semi-final and final, just before the IPL auction.
You made your domestic debut in 2015, but it was during the 2016 Super50, when you were playing for the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC), that people started taking notice of you, particularly the Jamaica Tallawahs franchise.
Yes, I started playing in Jamaica for a club in St Catherine Parish, and for the last two years I have been a University of West Indies (Mona Campus in Jamaica) scholarship athlete. After that tournament I wasn’t expecting much. But a month before the 2016 CPL draft, representatives from the Tallawahs said they had heard about me and I eventually got picked by them.
Tallawahs coach Paul Nixon told ESPNcricinfo last year that your biggest driving factor currently in cricket is to use the sport as a means to help your mother, who has been the main parent in your life. Can you elaborate on that?
Absolutely, that’s the case. I grew up in a small town in St Catherine, where my mother worked hard to support me. Certainly I see cricket as means where I can express my god-given talents and bring my mother and family out of poverty.
During CPL and at the IPL draft when you were picked, the talk was that you are the next Andre Russell. At this stage of your career, are you intimidated by that comparison or do you embrace it? Also, what is your relationship with Andre like?
I fully embrace the comparison, to be honest. If knowledgeable people in the game believe I have the ability to match up with what Andre has done, considering he is already a world-beater, all I can do is keep improving my game to be at that level. Andre and I are very close and he’s certainly a mentor to me. On tour with West Indies recently, he regularly sent encouraging messages and game tips.
Ignoring all the controversies, how did you find the atmosphere in the West Indies camp during the recent tours to the UAE and Zimbabwe?
As a young player, experiencing what it’s like to be around the senior West Indies team was an eye-opener. We have a lot of talented youngsters and if we can grow together, I believe we all have great futures ahead of us for the West Indies team.
I’m not too worried about whether the team is made up of seniors or youngsters or what composition. All I can do, if the selectors pick me again, is continue improving and translating my domestic form onto the international stage.
Tell us about your semi-final performance versus defending champions Trinidad & Tobago, where you produced both your best batting and your best bowling performance so far in domestic cricket.
In that game our openers and Blackwood gave us a brilliant start. I just went out there with about 15 overs to go and just decided to express myself, since it was clear the pitch was excellent for batting.
Did you think the Trinidad & Tobago bowlers bowled to your strengths?
Probably a combination of both. You look at world cricket these days and we, the Caribbean, probably lead the world in this, which is why we are T20 world champions – it’s very difficult for bowlers in the shorter formats to restrict power-hitters. That is type of player, as a batsman, I’m trying to be.
Having taken your first career five-wicket haul, do you feel going forward at international level that your bowling is a reliable fourth- or fifth-choice option?
Right now I would say my bowling is still a work in progress. I’ve been regularly working with Jamaica coach Robert Samuels to improve all aspects of my bowling.
In the final, it seemed for a while – especially during your partnerships with Jerome Taylor and captain Nikita Miller – that you were potentially about to play a great one-man rescue innings, similar to what Marcus Stoinis also almost did for Australia versus New Zealand last month.
Honestly I felt confident at the time. Always thought that if those guys were able to stay with me for a little bit more, I could have played an innings to help Jamaica win. But that is cricket, and winning the final wasn’t meant for us.
A big aim for West Indies in one-day cricket for the remainder of 2017 is to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup by the September 30 cutoff date. What are your personal goals for 2017?
I’m a lover of cricket and certainly always wanted to play Test cricket for West Indies growing up. So far, I’ve been selected in the limited-overs formats, so I hope to use it as a stepping stone to eventually playing Tests and, of course, help the team achieve the World cup qualification objective.