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Dwayne Leverock: Bermudan heavyweight

    Dwayne Leverock is Bermuda's most successful ODI bowler © Getty Images
Dwayne Leverock is Bermuda’s most successful ODI bowler © Getty Images

Born July 14, 1971, Dwayne Leverock is, somewhat unfairly, remembered more for his bulk than his impressive numbers with the ball. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at Bermuda’s greatest bowler.

Ask any cricket follower about Russell Dwayne Mark Leverock, and the first response will inevitably be “Oh, the man who had caught Robin Uthappa in that World Cup match!” The catch at Queen’s Park Oval indeed was a spectacular one, and to many, the fondest memory of Bermuda cricket; young Malachi Jones was in tears of joy after snaring Uthappa; but the most enduring memory of the dismissal remains Leverock’s catch and his sprint around Queen’s Park Oval that followed.

Contrary to popular beliefs, the 127-kg (weights, unlike heights, vary) Leverock was not the heaviest international cricketer: that “crown” goes to Warwick Armstrong, who was referred to as The Big Ship for obvious reasons, who is believed to have weighed approximately 140 kg at his prime. Some also believe that WG Grace weighed close to Leverock in his later years.

Despite the fact that he is largely (no pun intended) known for his bulk, Leverock had carved out an impressive career with his accurate, probing left-arm spin. A tally of 34 wickets from 32 ODIs at 33.02 is not spectacular, but an economy rate of 4.00 is. He has taken most ODI wickets for Bermuda, well clear of the 23 of Kevin Hurdle and Saleem Mukuddem. He has taken the only ODI five-for in the history of the country, and is also the most economic of them all.

Leverock had also played two T20Is with ordinary results, but his First-Class numbers read 71 wickets from 15 matches at 26.74 with six five-fors and two ten-fors, which are impressive by any standard. His slip fielding earned him 12 catches, though it must be admitted that the Bermuda attack seldom yielded edges.

He never pretended to be a batsman, though he never hesitated in putting his entire bodyweight behind a violent thwack or two. When it did not clear the ropes, unfortunately, “Sluggo” did not seem interested in a lot of running. In his own words in an interview to Jamie Lillywhite of BBC, Leverock said: “My batting is OK, I have a solid defence but I know I can do a little bit more.”

Early days

Yes. Though it is hard to believe, Dwayne Leverock did have early days. Born in Hamilton, Bermuda, Leverock was initiated into cricket by his uncles. He had idolised Abdul Qadir and Muttiah Muralitharan. Despite his physique, Leverock was also a competent footballer who had played “powerhouse striker” for Zebras (a Bermudan club) at Hull City.

Leverock had an opportunity to play for Bermuda Board President’s XI against an extremely strong Australian outfit. Australia were touring West Indies, and for some reason, had decided to field their first XI against the hosts in a delightful ground that was named — of all things — Lord’s. Leverock went for 49 in seven overs but ended up snaring David Boon.

Those were difficult days for Leverock. When asked in an interview for BBC whether he had ever been left out of the team for his girth, he answered: “Early in my career yes I was, by the national team. What I’ve done is used it to my advantage to train harder and believe I am good enough to be at that level. Once I got through it there was no turning back.” When asked about his weight by Lillywhite of BBC, Leverock responded: “I don’t get upset about that (his body mass), it’s what the Lord gave me and I just use it to my advantage.”

Competitive matches in Bermuda were rare in those days. Leverock played random matches here and there till he made it to the Bermuda squad for the ICC Trophy 2001 Division One Group B. He had decent outings against Argentina, Denmark, and Ireland, before finally making it big against USA (10-2-18-3) and Hong Kong (7-3-15-4).

Unfortunately, Bermuda finished fourth in the group and did not qualify for the Super League. Leverock finished the tournament with outstanding numbers of 10 wickets at 12.40 with an economy rate of 2.81. Unfortunately, like most giants (once again, no pun intended) his feat went unnoticed.

Leverock rises

When ICC introduced the Inter-Continental Cup, Leverock eventually got a taste of First-Class cricket. The Americas Group consisted of Bermuda, USA, and Canada, and Leverock made his First-Class debut against USA at Hamilton. He shone alone in a crushing 114-run defeat, finishing with figures of two for 93 and a career-best seven for 57, and even adding 26 not out and 23 for good measure. With four more wickets against Canada at Toronto, Leverock suddenly became one to watch out for.

He picked out USA again for his first List A success in the ICC Trophy 2005 encounter at Waringstown, winning the match by 113 runs with figures of four for 39. Bermuda came second in Group A and qualified for the 2007 World Cup. Once again Leverock played a major role, finishing with nine wickets at 26.67 and an economy rate of 4.36.

Then came his big performance —at Toronto in the 2005 Inter-Continental Cup — when he single-handedly skittled Cayman Islands with figures of five for 56 and six for 16, bowling unchanged in the second innings. The match figures of 11 for 72 remained his career-best.

A step ahead

The big break came when ICC arranged for a triangular tournament at Canada for three of its teams: Bermuda, along with a politically battered Zimbabwe was supposed to tour Canada. The matches were given ODI status, and Leverock played Bermuda’s first-ever ODI.

Bermuda beat Canada but lost to Zimbabwe, and lost to Zimbabwe again in the final. Leverock bowled an outstanding spell of 10-5-14-1 in Bermuda’s only win of the tournament. Playing in the ODI series in Kenya, Leverock opened bowling with Mukuddem at Mombasa. He finished with figures of five for 53 — the only international five-for by a Bermudan.

A week later he took three for 119 in the ICC Inter-Continental match against Netherlands at Pretoria, but on a side note, scored a subdued 157-minute 51. He was eventually given leg-before off Peter Borren, expressed dissent (what a terrifying sight it must have been!), and was fined. He also allegedly threw his bat (!) once he was back in the dressing-room.

World Cup

The World Cup warm-up matches went well. With the wickets of Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood against England and two more against Zimbabwe, both at Kingstown, Leverock was ready to take on the giants. The Englishmen had never seen anyone of Leverock’s dimensions in recent past. They were amused.

“He (Pietersen) was chuckling at certain deliveries, same as (Andrew) Flintoff and (Jamie) Dalrymple,” Leverock later told BBC. Lillywhite later wrote: “(Kevin) Pietersen wasn’t smiling quite so much when he was lured out of his crease by the deceptively wily (Dwayne) Leverock and stumped.” Michael Vaughan later said: “He (Leverock) bowled very well. Any spinner that drags Kevin Pietersen out of his crease and does him in the flight — you know it’s a good delivery. He bowled his 10 overs really well.”

Unfortunately, barring the much-acclaimed catch at slip and the spectacular run that followed, there was not much to write home for him. Bermuda were comfortably beaten in all three encounters, losing to Sri Lanka by 243 runs and to India by 257. Leverock returned figures of 10-0-96-1 against India — the second-worst by anyone in a spell of 10 or more overs in a World Cup innings (Ashantha de Mel had conceded 97 in 10). A defeat against Bangladesh rounded off the dismal World Cup show.

Later days

Shortly after the World Cup he scored a First-Class career-best of 52 against Netherlands at Amstelveen, topping it up with three wickets. He had an extraordinary run in July 2008, when he won an ICC Inter-Continental contest at King City on his own: he crushed Canada with five for 69 and five for 60. Three days later he claimed six for 107 against Scotland at Hamilton, but Bermuda lost the match.

With time Bermuda’s performance faded, and they lost ODI status. Leverock announced retirement from all cricket in April 2009. He came back for a solitary performance in a Twenty20 match at Hamilton when MCC toured Bermuda in 2011. It was not the strongest touring party, and Leverock bowled them out for 75 with figures of 4-0-13-3.

Outside cricket

A policeman and a prison van driver in Hamilton by profession, Leverock admitted that bowling to Pietersen was harder than driving criminals. Pietersen, as Leverock told BBC, was “more unorthodox.” Leverock thrives on beef curry. He lives atop a curry house in Bermuda, and as he told BBC in sheer delight, “there’s another one next door too!” He remains single, and is also a keen golfer.

His nephew Kamau Sadiki Leverock (who does not have the slightest resemblance to Dwayne as far as girth is concerned) — a left-arm all-rounder — has also represented Bermuda in Twenty20 cricket, but his opportunities came after Bermuda were stripped of international status.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)

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