JOSHUA Da Silva played football up to fifth form at St Mary’s College, when he made a choice or a “leap of hope” as he described it, one which would propel him to become one of the most recognised young cricketers in the country today.
Many would describe West Indies wicket-keeper Da Silva as a late bloomer, taking up the sport “seriously” at an age when young potential future professionals would have played competitive cricket for years.
Like others with strong Portuguese titles, Da Silva grew up with a passion for football. And he was good at it, making his debut for the Saints in Form Three and playing up to the InterCol level. “All I wanted to do was play football. Cricket was always there but I grew up playing football and I always wanted to represent Trinidad,” Da Silva said, speaking recently with an audience of young sports enthusiasts from various disciplines.
Da Silva is the latest of a long list of active and retired talents who have contributed to the series of motivational seminars hosted by the TT Football Association’s Normalisation Committee, titled There is Hope.
He offered the children context into his rise in the sport, saying it meant a major sacrifice of letting go of the sport he preferred, football, if it meant living up to his best potential.
“I moved up the ranks at St Mary’s College and I got into Form Five and there was a decision to be made,” Da Silva explained.
“Do I play football or do I play cricket?
“I weighed the odds and hope was very important (in making this decision) because I never was a cricketer. I had never played at the youth level for Trinidad and Tobago yet.
If he were to excel at either sport, based on history, he said it felt safer to go with cricket.
Needless to say, in his words, it didn’t immediately work out.
“A year or two later, I made the TT under-19 team. I stopped school after Form Five and took a year just to focus on cricket.”
Da Silva went on to score most runs in the club season that year and was subsequently selected to play regional first-class cricket, another step up.
“My first year wasn’t too great...
“Moving up, the next year, I scored 500 odd runs and that earned me (selection) to a West Indies tour to England. I knew I wasn’t going to play; I was a reserve. But it was an opportunity that presented itself.
By chance, Da Silva replaced Shane Dowrich, the starting wicket-keeper, who was injured after being hit in the face with a ball.
“I can still remember this to date. The coach told me, ‘Josh, you might have to go in.’ And, I was scared,” he said.
“I ran to put on my gear and I could just remember thinking, ‘What am I doing? How did I end up here? And I said, ‘Just believe in yourself. You’ve been training, doing well. Just go and put your best foot forward.’
“So said, so done. I went out there, I did all right.”
Da Silva was referring to his West Indies Test debut last December, when he scored a half-century in the second innings against New Zealand, drawing plaudits from regional and international commentators.
He is now a fixture of the West Indies team, which is preparing for another upcoming tour against Australia.
Incidentally, he developed his basic football skills at the popular but inactive La Foucade Soccer Clinic, which operated for years out of Goodwood Park, St Mary’s College Grounds, St Joseph’s Convent Ground and other locations. The Director of the clinic, Dion La Foucade is currently the TT Football Association’s technical director, who has been instrumental in organising the series of webinars for schoolchildren who play sports.
Former national footballers Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards each shared their experiences in past webinars, as well as Olympic-bound sailor Andrew Lewis, Para world champion Akeem Stewart, West Indies legend Brian Lara and several others.
The intention, La Foucade told Newsday is to inspire children at home and across the region to aspire for greatness, through sport and/or academics, saying the word hope in the title of the series is particularly crucial in the context of the pandemic and its potentially negative effect on developing minds.