Omari Banks: 12 lesser-known facts about the cricketer-turned-musician from the Caribbean

Born July 17, 1982, Omari Ahmed Clemente Banks is a former international cricketer who represented West Indies. He was the first Anguillan to play Tests for West Indies. Son of a reggae musician Bankie Banx, Omari was a natural musician but took cricket as first priority in his career and later focused on music once again after retiring at a very young age of 29. Omari is one of those rare cricketers who retired in their 20s. On his birthday, Abhishek Kumar lists out 12 lesser-known facts about the former West Indian.

1. Worked at hotels as musician: Before becoming cricketer, life was never easy for Omari as he once revealed that he used work at hotels to earn money. Before I played West Indies cricket I played music. I played at local hotels and that was how I earned my money. All the time I was training and preparing myself for my ultimate goal of making the West Indies team and succeeding on that level. Cricket was my focus then so it wasn t very difficult for me to balance. As I made the West Indies team and travelled, playing music was more relaxing and a positive distraction, said Omari.

2. International call from a legend: According to Omari, he had that little intuition of getting selected in the West Indies after they lost the first two Test against Australia in The Frank Worrell Trophy of 2003. At that time, the Caribbean side was in need of a spinner in the playing XI and Omari had once got the wicket of Brian Lara in a domestic match. When he got the international, Omari was at his girlfriend s place and it was none other than Lara who called him. “I was at my girlfriend’s house when the captain called me. I knew Brian Lara somewhat from earlier – I had got him out once! He rang and said, Congratulations , and I said, For what? even though I knew exactly what it was for. I was really excited inside, but wanted to appear calm, said Omari to ESPNCricinfo.

3. First Anguillan player to represent West Indies: On May 1, 2003, Omari got his international cap and made history by becoming first player from the tiny Leeward Island of Anguilla to play for West Indies in Tests.

4. Decent Test debut: He played his first Test against Australia in The Frank Worrell Trophy of 2003. That was the third Test of the series which was played at Bridgetown, Barbados. Omari bowled most of the overs for West Indies in the first innings by bowling 40 overs but conceded 204 runs which was the most number of runs conceded by by a Test debutant at that time and later Jason Krejza in 2008 and Suraj Randiv in 2010 surpassed him. Omari also took three crucial wickets in the first innings including Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Andy Bichel.

5. Involvement in highest successful chase in Test history: In the next Test of Omari s life, which was the fourth match of the series, West Indies were given a huge target of 418 runs. Such a big total was never chased in the history of Tests but thanks to captain Lara s half-century followed by Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul s centuries, West Indies got some hope of a win. After them, the match was in the hands of Omari and Vasbert Drakes. Both added 46 runs and won the historic match for West Indies. Omari s contribution was very crucial as he went on to score 114-ball 47 with six boundaries while batting at number eight position.

6. How Omari celebrated the historic victory: After winning that epic Test against Australia, the entire Caribbean side was delighted and Omari too. As Omari said to ESPNCricinfo, he celebrated with Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson s band and said, That night, I celebrated by playing with Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson’s band – my dad is a musician, and I play some guitar too.

7. Signed by Somerset: In October 2007, Somerset County Cricket Club signed Omari with a two-year contract from the beginning of 2008 season. Omari already had British passports as an Anguillian and was eligible to play as a domestic player.

8. Banned for ball tampering: In July 2009, Omari was banned for 12 days with a fine of 500 by Somerset after he was found guilty of ball tampering. He was seen deliberately changing the condition of the ball during a Somerset XI and Essex match on July 1, 2009. Later, Omari accepted and regretted on his actions by saying that he did that out of boredom.

9. Retirement: At a very young age of 29, Omari announced his retirement from all forms of cricket on January 30, 2012.

10. Taught physical education: After playing international cricket and county cricket, Omari also worked as physical education teacher in Anguilla.

11. The reggae star: Post retirement, Omari started focusing on his career as a musician as he is the son of reggae musician Bankie Banx. His first album Move On released with 10 singles in June 2013.

12. No. 1 music video rated in the Caribbean: Omari probably got more success in his music career than as a cricketer and one of his videos named Unafraid was rated no. 1 in the Caribbean. In one of the musical charts, it remained in top 10 for 17 weeks.

(Abhishek Kumar is a cricket devotee currently staffing with Criclife.com. He can be followed on Twitter @abhik2593 and on Facebook at abhicricket.kumar)