The St Lucia Zouks made three changes to their line-up ahead of their CPL 2020 fixture against Guyana Amazon Warriors. The most notable one of the lot was 19-year-old Kimani Melius replacing Rakheem Cornwall at the top of the order.
The man who led the West Indies at the ICC Under-19 World Cup earlier this year walked out to the middle with an air of confidence about him. Kimani Melius flicked a Chris Green delivery square on the leg side to get off the mark in his first-ever CPL game for the franchise.
The right-hander launched the next ball he faced over Chandrapaul Hemraj’s head and into the sight screen for a massive six. What a way for young Kimani Melius to announce himself to the tournament, wasn't it?
The euphoria would not last too long, however, and the Zouks opener was dismissed when he looked to slog one from Imran Tahir, and only managed to find Shimron Hetmyer at mid-off.
The Kimani Melius express had broken down at the first stop in this game, but that six might just have been a sign of things to come.
The youngster recognises the opportunity that has been placed in front of him. And, Kimani Melius aims to make the most of it and use the experience to become the best player that he can.
“My target for the CPL in this season is to learn as much as possible, and when given an opportunity to play, grab it with both hands and show what I’m capable of doing,” Kimani Melius told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
As a youngster that is looking to make an impact at the tournament, Kimani Melius understands that he may not be batting at his preferred position in every match. However, he aims to help his team out whenever called upon.
“As long as I’m in the XI, it doesn’t matter where I bat. As long as I’m playing my role for the team, that’s the most important thing,” the 19-year-old added.
Melius making the world take notice
Brilliant unbeaten innings by West Indies U19 captain Kimani Melius (103 off 34 balls, 4x4, 11x6) and Tarryck Gabriel (58, 26, 7, 2) to claim victory for Gros Islet (166/0) over Vieux Fort North (103/5). pic.twitter.com/uVQHzGu5Iv
— 🆃🅴🆁🆁🆈 🅵🅸🅽🅸🆂🆃🅴🆁🆁🅴 (@terryfinisterre) June 24, 2020
If he wasn’t too well-known back home and across the world as the West Indies under-19 skipper, Kimani Melius made sure that changed in June, 2020.
Playing for the Gros Islet Cannon Blasters, the right-handed batsman mauled the Vieux Fort North Raiders on his way to a blistering 34-ball hundred in the St Lucia T10 Blast.
Batting alongside Tarryck Gabriel, the skipper of the Cannon Blasters hammered 4 fours and 11 sixes, as the two openers put up an unbroken 166-run stand for the first wicket in just ten overs. The Gros Islet-based team would ride on the incredible innings from their captain, and win the tournament opener by 63 runs.
Although not many batsmen have scored a T10 century in the past, Kimani Melius wishes to stay grounded and build on the ‘great experience’ that the innings was.
“It’s always great to score a hundred, especially in a T10. Not many players have done it before. It was really a great experience but I would like to build on that and learn as much as possible in the future,” Kimani Melius said.
The St Lucian teenager is, however, confident that the century may be a sign of what lies ahead. He believes he can only improve in the company of his established senior teammates and he looks to go home a ‘completely different player’.
“Yes, definitely. Like I said, I would like to build on it and learn as much as possible. Especially while I’m here at the CPL, learn from the senior players, and when I go back home, be a completely different player,” Melius added.
CPL is a learning experience: Kimani Melius
Kimani Melius comes into CPL 2020 with minimal prior experience, even at the domestic level. With the Zouks seemingly intent on promoting young St Lucian talent, Melius aims to use the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of seasoned veterans like Daren Sammy and Andre Fletcher and understand the sport better.
The lad from the Helen of the West Indies is also looking forward to playing alongside the widely-travelled Afghan duo in the team - Mohammad Nabi and Najibullah Zadran.
“I must say it is a learning experience in the CPL. Being among guys like Sammy, Fletcher, who have played a wide range of T20 cricket all across the world, I look to learn as much as possible from them. Especially the Afghan players like Mohammad Nabi, and Zadran, learn how to play spin better. Like I said, it’s just a learning experience while I’m here.” Kimani Melius said.
Daren Sammy is an inspiration: Kimani Melius
St Lucia Zouks’ skipper Daren Sammy was also the captain of the West Indian team the last time the Men in Maroon won an ICC trophy. Sammy led his team to victory in the 2016 T20 World Cup when a Carlos Brathwaite-led blitzkrieg took the West Indies home against England in the final.
Kimani Melius believes he has plenty to learn from his more experienced colleague, both in terms of leadership and his overall game. The explosive opener says that akin to most St Lucians, he derives inspiration from Sammy.
“Being around Sammy is always an inspiration. He is the sort of inspirational figure to many St Lucians, and to many across the world. I’d like to learn a lot from him, especially in terms of leadership and going forward, in my overall game,” Kimani Melius told us.
Everyone loves to be around Chris Gayle: Kimani Melius
After stints with his home franchise, the Jamaica Tallawahs, and the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, legendary batsman Chris Gayle was all set to turn out for the St Lucia Zouks in CPL 2020.
The former West Indian captain, however, pulled out of the tournament citing personal reasons in June. Kimani Melius, like most young West Indian batsmen, looks up to the big Jamaican, and understands that Gayle’s experience will be a miss for the St Lucia-based franchise.
“Everyone, especially youngsters, would love to be around Chris Gayle. The type of man he is - he is a very calm individual. And he has a lot of experience to give to youngsters, if they want to take their cricket forward,” Kimani Melius added.
Having already impressed the top brass at St Lucia Zouks, the lanky teenager will only be aiming higher. While Chris Gayle rides into the sunset of his career, this may just be a new dawn for this 19-year-old and his dreams of playing for the West Indies.
And, as far as passing the baton is concerned, Kimani Melius' batting traits could just make that transition seamless.
St. Lucian🇱🇨 opening batsman Kimani Melius is a real prospect. He was the West Indies U-19 captain for the 2020 World Cup.
Watch this innings from 2018, when he was just 16! He’ll be looking to impress for the Zouks in the CPL.
Please RT/share for reach. DM to contribute. pic.twitter.com/G7NCUENvAG
— Cricket Talent Scout (@scout_cricket) August 16, 2020