Death bowling is an art and those that have mastered it, are the superstars of the T20 cricketing format. Last week it was announced that master death bowler, Alfonso Thomas, would take up the role of bowling coach for the West Indies national cricket team.
Born and raised in Ravensmead (Cape Town), the 41 year old Alfonso is listed as the ninth most successful T20 bowlers of all time. His journey to cricketing greatness started at the Tygerberg Cricket Club and his first professional cricketing stint was for the Western Province B during the 1998/99 season. He moved to North West where he set two century partnership records and where he took out the wickets of the 5 top Eastern (now known as the Titans) batsmen. He also claimed a 5 wicket victory against Boland, Western Province and Griqualand West and became North West’s leading wicket-taker.
After leaving North West, he achieved similar success at the Northerns, and the newly formed Titans. At the time, it was perhaps a mystery as to why he was never really considered for the national team.
It was perhaps this lack of recognition in South Africa that led him overseas where he signed up with Warwickshire in the UK in 2007 and then with Somerset in 2008. It was at Somerset that he honed his skills as a death bowler and since then, he has become a darling of the English cricketing scene. His time in the UK saw him becoming the UK’s fifth most successful domestic T20 bowler, playing 89 matches and taking 118 wickets.
In 2014, he became the first bowler in Somerset’s history to take four wickets in four balls in a first-class game. In total, he took more than 550 wickets in all formats for the club and by the time he retired, he was immortalized as Somerset’s highest T20 wicket-taker. He was also the club’s limited overs captain.
Up until his retirement, Alfonso also played for the Pune Warriors, Dhaka Gladiators, Adelaide Strikers and Perth Scorchers. Between 2004 and 2015, he played 225 T20 matches, taking 263 wickets in the process. In 2017, he joined the Kent cricket club in the UK as a coaching consultant in preparation for the UK’s domestic T20 matches.
Of his appointment as the West Indies bowling coach, Alfonso says that he is really honored to be appointed and he hopes to make an impact on what he considers to be a really talented bunch of players. He is one of many changes made to the West Indies side as part of its goal of introducing younger players into the team and qualifying for the World Cup. The West Indies management team is confident that the former death bowler is the right man for the job and will help strengthen the team.
At this point, some might be wondering what a death bowler is. During the last few overs of a game, when the opponents are close to winning, it is the job of the death bowler to destroy them. Death bowling isn’t about playing on instinct. It takes extreme planning and the ability to perform under extreme pressure. Alfonso was a pioneer in the art of death bowling and as noted above, he was a master. It is these qualities that have turned him into a sought after bowling coach and it is these qualities that he hopes to impart on the next generation of master cricketers.