Cricket: Adams accentuates the positive: Tony Cozier on the Jamaican all-rounder who is poised to fulfill his potential

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The Independent Online
JIMMY ADAMS has spent all his adult life battling for the right to a permanent place in the West Indies Test team.

Even given the universal unpredictability of sporting selectors, he is likely to have finally achieved his goal in the space of a dramatic few days at Sabina Park, the ground he has called home since he was a boy.

The Jamaican left-hander's contrasting man-of-the-match performances in the first Test (95 not out spread over five and a half hours, a wicket and a record-equalling six catches) and the second one-day international (52 not out off 46 balls in the hectic rush for victory after keeping wicket capably) have confirmed him as a cricketer for all seasons. Even though he had a quiet game in the rout at St Vincent, he is an essential element in a team stacked with brilliant but mercurial batsmen and aggressive fast bowlers.

Adams takes nothing for granted: 'It was a great feeling to do so well before my home crowd and to contribute to the team's success,' he said. 'But that's done now and there's the next match to look forward to. One day at a time.' And so on to another 'one day' in Trinidad today.

This philosophy has developed over long years of waiting and disappointment. It is pertinent that, in spite of an average of just under 60 from his previous four Tests and 54.5 in the preceding domestic Red Stripe Cup season, he would not have been in last week's Test XI had not Carl Hooper strained his back.

Other Hooper injuries and late withdrawals were responsible for two of his earlier Tests, including his first against South Africa in 1992 when he was a central figure in a remarkable West Indies victory. His unpractised, underestimated left- arm spin-bowling earned him four wickets and limited South Africa's first-innings lead to 83 when it appeared likely to be double that; his second-innings unbeaten 79 raised South Africa's winning target to 201 when it looked certain to be half that.

Yet in the series in Australia that followed, room could be found for him only when the fast bowling numbers were reduced to three, and when Hooper pulled out on the morning of the first Test.

All this emphasises the keen competition for middle-order places that has evolved since Viv Richards retired and Richie Richardson started rebuilding the team. Hooper's all-round, if unfulfilled, potential, and the left-handed flair of Brian Lara and Keith Arthurton, appealed more to the selectors than Adams's level-headed solidity.

'He does exactly the job Larry Gomes used to do so effectively as a foil to the big stroke-makers like Richards, Gordon Greenidge and Clive Lloyd,' Michael Holding

observed. 'Adams is very similar in style and temperament to Gomes, even down to being left-handed, and is very adaptable as we saw last week. He strengthens the side.'

Adams's credentials have long since been recognised as he graduated through the well-ordered structure of West Indies cricket.

He was a heavy scorer at Kingston's Jamaica College where he was academically bright enough to qualify for university entrance. ('It really was never an option for me,' Adams can say now. 'Cricket was always my ambition.')

He made his first-class debut for Jamaica aged 17 and a few weeks later was scoring 104 for the West Indies in an Under-19 Test against England at Sabina Park, where, as a member of Kingston Cricket Club, his game had developed. He was the leading West Indies batsman in the Youth World Cup in Australia in 1988 and toured Zimbabwe with the B teams in 1986 and 1989.

Somehow a first-class century eluded him for six years and 22 matches, the kind of inexplicable lapse that selectors sometimes note negatively. Since 1991 he has compiled six in the limited Red Stripe Cup. His bowling - his six Test wickets include such illustrious victims as David Boon, Hansie Cronje and, last week, Graeme Hick - and wicketkeeping have clearly been

assets, but Adams wants it known that these are his bit parts.

'I just enjoy the game, period, and I'm happy bowling or keeping wicket or fielding,' he said. 'But that's once I can bat, because that's what I see myself as, a batsman.'

Adams's father, Newton, is a doctor in rural Jamaica and a former weekend club batsman who has

encouraged his son's cricket from the earliest days. His Canadian-born

mother, Caroline, a radiologist, shows keen interest, in a game with which she was completely unfamiliar.

But Dr Adams has seldom seen his son in action, not even against England last week. 'My dad has followed me closely since I was at school but he's too nervous to come and watch me,' Adams said. 'He doesn't even listen on the radio and will only tune in after play to hear how I got on.'

Adams joins Nottinghamshire

after the current series is over in April for his first season of county cricket. It has always been an ambition of his and now, as an established Test player, he is keen to prove himself as a day-to-day professional. He has had a few seasons in the Northern League but recognises it is not the same thing.

'County cricket tests your ability in all conditions,' he said. 'It's a new challenge and I'm really looking forward to it.' Before that, he has some overdue business to settle such as claiming that elusive place in the West Indies team.

(Photograph omitted)