Cricket

U19 Cricket World Cup Final: Jacob Bethell’s journey from Barbados to Warwickshire

U19 Cricket World Cup Final: Jacob Bethell's journey from Barbados to Warwickshire

Jacob Bethell was born in Barbados
Location: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound. Time: 13:00 GMT
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On Saturday, England will play in the final of the Men’s U19 World Cup for the first time since winning in 1998. And in the person of the versatile Jacob Bethell, they have one of the players of the tournament.

It was a thunderclap from the 18-year-old, who announced himself on the world stage with a stunning array of moves.

His 20-ball half-century got England flying in what might otherwise have been a tricky chase at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua.

A strike rate of 209.52 was the highest for an Englishman in an inning of at least 50 runs in U19 World Cup history.

“I’m always looking to try to start positive and get the team off to a good start. After taking a few out from the middle of the bat, I realized I was seeing the ball pretty well. It was just a from those days when nothing was premeditated,” says Bethell.

Barbados-born Bethell grew up learning the trade with the influences of big Bajan names like Franklyn Stephenson and Sir Garfield Sobers.

In fact, the youngster was once recognized as one of the best cricketing prospects in the Caribbean by Brian Lara, who after watching him beat remarked: “You’re better than I was when I was 11 years.”

He spent time as a young child at Stephenson’s academy working on his technique and frequently speaks with Sobers at home or at the occasional round of golf.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to have conversations with Garry Sobers, which have been momentous from a mental standpoint. He always tells me to give myself a chance and most of the time when I go to bat, I think like this,” Bethell says.

Bethell’s trajectory into England cricket isn’t too different from those of current England internationals Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer and Phil Salt, all of whom spent time growing up on the island.

As Bethell, Jordan and Archer were born in the Caribbean, with Jordan receiving a sports scholarship to complete his education in England. Jordan then helped Archer make the move.

Archer, who holds British citizenship through his father, played for the West Indies at U19 level.

He made the decision to move to England and make himself available for selection, before winning the 2019 World Cup with England.

Salt spent six years in Barbados between the ages of nine and 15 and identified this as when cricket became his focus, before also receiving a cricket scholarship to England.

The Lancashire hitter played age group cricket in Barbados and qualified for the West Indies through citizenship.

Bethell is another talent who opted to play for England due to the abundance of opportunities in the UK as opposed to Barbados. He admits it was a tough decision, but the right one in the end.

“I was born in Barbados, lived there until I was 13, my parents still live there. It’s not a bad place to grow up, the weather is always nice and the people are lovely. It’s just a shame that the opportunities get fewer and fewer after about 13 to 15 years,” Bethell says.

“There were definitely some players who had a bit on them, but they weren’t playing much anymore because there wasn’t really a lot of cricket to play. It’s a bit of a shame.”

This love for cricket within Bethell was instilled from childhood and is something that runs in the family.

His father and grandfather played first-class cricket for Barbados while his father Graham was also captain of a Sheffield Collegiate side which included Matt Root, father of England Men’s Tests captain Joe .

His ambitions and passions were set in stone from an early age. Bethell would wake her mother when she was a child and ask her to go bowling.

He joked in an official ICC video that “she’s gotten pretty good at old armpits.”

His childhood ambition was realized last year when he signed for Warwickshire and made his debut in all three formats.

Former England striker Ian Bell called Bethell “the best 17-year-old” he had ever seen and cited his emergence as one of the contributing factors to his own retirement.

Simply put, he didn’t want to stop young players from qualifying.

In the World Cup, Bethell’s performances at the top of the order justified the praise: 203 runs at an average of 41 and a success rate of 110 helped propel England to their first final since 1998.

“That would be a dream, wouldn’t it? says Bethell, on what it would mean to win the World Cup

“Me and a few guys were playing golf the other day and we just hinted that he [winning the World Cup] could be a possibility and we all got goosebumps.

“It’s amazing to get this far and there are still a few steps to get there, but hopefully on February 5 we bring it home. It would be a dream come true.”