The Barmy Army are clearing their throats ahead of the series decider in Grenada and for Joshua Da Silva, the young wicketkeeper in what is an ambitious West Indies team, the noise they have generated so far on tour has been hugely welcome.
“Playing in front of the English fans has been an absolute pleasure,” says the 23-year-old, during a chat at the team hotel on Grand Anse beach. “I love the songs, the jokes, the laughter. This is what I want Test cricket to be like all of the time.
“Unfortunately we don’t get that here too often. It’s asking a lot for people to leave jobs during the week, not many in the region are financially able to do so. But the Barmy Army has pushed us on to play hard Test cricket in this series.”
This was in evidence in Barbados, when the stump mics overheard Da Silva joining in with the signing from the stands, tweaking the lyrics of “We are the Army” to “We are the West Indies Army” and chuckling along to his favourite song about Jonny Bairstow. Even while batting for over an hour on a tense final day, helping his captain, Kraigg Brathwaite, seal the draw, he couldn’t help but enjoy the English supporters willing his wicket to fall.
All square with one to play, the Botham-Richards Trophy now comes down to a single Test match and West Indies sound emboldened. Brathwaite’s epic innings of 160 and 56 not out over a combined 15 hours at the crease have inspired his players. Though a cool captain and one of few words in front of the cameras, Da Silva reveals he is a very different character in the dressing room.
“It would be a huge achievement to win this series. Kraigg has shown us the way and as a leader, he’s been brilliant,” says Da Silva. “I wish I could bat as long as him – that’s the application we all want. But off the field he is a prankster. He throws pop rocks on the floor, he has a remote-controlled rat and he has a centipede he puts down to scare people.
“Once he crosses the rope he’s one of the most serious players you’ll meet. Although I wish he’d bat with his sunglasses on during this series though – he’s done it before and it’s a treat to watch.”
Compared to Brathwaite, 10 years into his Test career, Da Silva is a rookie, winning 13 caps since his debut in late 2020. A right-handed keeper-batsman not dissimilar to Bairstow in build, Da Silva is a talent who has been backed early by the selectors after rising up the ranks in club cricket in Port of Spain and displacing one of his heroes growing up, Dinesh Ramdin, in the Trinidad and Tobago side.
A down to earth character trying to establish himself as the drummer in the current West Indies band, Da Silva is also an example of a region which remains a fascinating melting pot of cultures, being of Portuguese descent and with it the first Caribbean-born white cricketer selected since Geoff Greenidge in 1973. Not that this felt remarkable to him.
“I was just happy to be playing and didn’t think anything different about it,” he says. “I’m a white West Indian, born and raised in Trinidad, and I’m just so proud to represent the region. I play my cricket, have fun with the boys while I’m doing it and enjoy a few beers afterwards.
“There was a little bit of ‘here and there’ about it in youth cricket in Trinidad but it didn’t deter me; I don’t want to say racial … there were only a few white boys playing in cricket at the time. But I’ve never had any issues during my time in professional cricket. Everything is perfect.
“I’d love to go to Madeira one day, which is where my dad’s family is from originally. I’m not quite sure when my family first came to the Caribbean but I know my background is Portuguese, Lebanese and Canadian. I’m a Pelau, which is a dish in Trinidad, a mixture [of meat, rice, peas and spices].”
Da Silva’s parents were in Barbados last week, their first time watching him play for West Indies in the flesh. His father, Michael, sparked his passion for Test cricket, sneaking him into the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain as a child, while his mother, Caroline, from Canada, is a late convert. “She used to watch movies on the iPad when she came to see me play as kid, “ he says. “But now she’s fully engaged and says she’s always praying for me. We’re a very religious family.”
The last two pitches have been cause for not just fast bowlers to look to the heavens, but the wicketkeepers who have had to crouch down every ball. Da Silva describes it as his most physically demanding series to date but, a perfectionist, is still grumpy with himself for dropping a tough chance down leg when Joe Root was 34 runs into his eventual 154 In Bridgetown.
“I hold myself to high standards, I should be taking those,” he says. After the final Test he intends to pick the brains of an opponent whose career he has tracked since playing in the Surrey League for Old Wimbledonians back in 2017 aged 18; the summer he also credits for developing his game on the field and maturing from a self-confessed “momma’s boy” off it.
“I really look up to Ben Foakes,” he explains. “I love his wicketkeeping and his batting. He’s my favourite keeper in the world. I began following his progress when I played in Surrey and when he made his debut in Sri Lanka the year after, I thought his wicketkeeping was absolutely phenomenal. You don’t tend to talk technique mid-series but I’ll try to have a conversation with him after this Test.”
Before then comes one last blast of noise from a set of supporters he hopes will one day return to Trinidad after a 13-year absence in Test cricket. “That’s the dream,” he says. “It’s the capital of soca music and food in the region; it’s a beautiful place and I’d like everyone to experience it.” Amen to that.