The Life and Times of Xavier Marshall

Sun, Mar 27, '05

by MICHELLE MCDONALD

Jamaica

Xavier Marshall's name has been associated with the good and the bad in cricket. On the one hand, he sets the cricket field alight whether he's batting or fielding. On the other hand, his mouth has been heard to utter words that many consider offensive and he has been branded to have a temper that is easily flared.

After the eighth round in the 2005 Carib Beer series, a report was made by the team Manager to the Jamaica Cricket Association about his behaviour during the three away games. This resulted in the teenager's suspension for the ninth round and his being put on probation for the rest of the season, putting another blemish on a career that cricket lovers are waiting, wanting, and longing to see flower and blossom at the international level.

Since interviewing Marshall during the regional U-19 tournament in Summer 2004, Michelle McDonald has sought out many of the persons in his circle with a view to making readers hear other people's perception of him. His mother, his high school coach, his U-19 manager for two years ? readers will hear from them all.

Today, on Xavier Marshall's nineteenth birthday, CaribbeanCricket.com brings you the first of these articles with Xavier's mother speaking about her first born:

Mother and son have made a pact with each other. Her side of the agreement is to pray for him. He will hold up his end by scoring hundreds. And perhaps it was Winsome Jones' prayers that ensured the international cricket debut of her first born against Australia in the recently concluded VB one-day series. In a little cubicle overlooking the Kaiser cricket field in St Ann, this beaming mother shared aspects of Xavier Marshall's nineteen-year life.

At the very beginning is the naming of young Marshall. As Miss Jones tells it, her son went without a name for many weeks. "When I carried Xavier to the first 6-week clinic, a clerk there said to me 'that little boy cute eeh, him don't have any name?" said Jones. He did not so the clerk offered the name 'Xavier' to her. Jones accepted, and so this uncommon name was bestowed on 'Baby Marshall', along with the middle name of Melbourne ? also the name of the venue where Xavier made his international debut. She expresses surprise at the coincidence. Ordained? The God-fearing Jones will probably say yes.

Growing up in Queenhyde, about five miles from the Kaiser ground in Discovery Bay, Jamaica, Jones says that Xavier was a good boy. "Xavier don't give any trouble. From he was growing up him don't talk a lot. He's friendly, he's a loving little boy, love his brothers, even now," gushed Jones. Marshall has two brothers, one fourteen and the other nine years old. As a single parent, Jones couldn't ask for anything more of her son. According to his mother, Xavier always helped with the various chores that needed to be done around the house, including offering to tidy his young siblings.

The economic situation in Jamaica has as its reality, a difficult life for many. Jones struggles to make ends meet, but because of Xavier's attitude to the situation, it is made that much easier. Punctuating every sentence with praise for the goodness of her god, Winsome Jones explained how Xavier would be satisfied with whatever money she had to give him. He dried up her limited resources for his cricket activities.

Jones remembers how "I was quarrelling you know and saying to him 'every day you want money to go to cricket, every minute cricket cricket.' One day him say to me 'mummy if you don't give me the money, me will hang myself you nuh.'" Surely he was joking? "I don't know you know, the way how him love the ball," said Jones who didn't then, and still doesn't understand the rudiments of the game her son is so passionate about.

Unlike many mothers in such situations, Jones has always stressed the value of education to her son. She says "there is life after cricket and he is pretty young now. You don't know what could happen so you have to have that. Every day that God send, I sent him to school. The money never plenty you know but ah said it better ah go and juggle to make Xavier go to school. Ah didn't want him stop from school because ah didn't want him mix up with the boys at Queenhyde." Jones was charting a sensible path for her first-born.

We hear today about the penchant of young cricketers for fast food, but as a growing boy, Xavier ate his vegetables. Mother Jones made sure she bought them, along with 'roots' drinks and Irish Moss ? both of which are believed to have fortification properties. Fresh juices featured instead of sugary drinks and sodas. Two of the regular ones were pine drink and carrot drink with ginger ? all good stuff for the making of an international cricketer. Xavier didn't make a big fuss about food. "You know say anything you give him he eats it," said Jones. There is only one rule. Don't give him the same thing two days in a row. And like many young men in Jamaica, Marshall hasn't yet acquired the skills needed to function in a kitchen.

Because of his abilities as a cricketer though, the son was leaving home often. Many regional U-15 and U-19 tournaments overseas, the U-15 Cost Cutter challenge in England, the Youth World Cup in Bangladesh and the VB series in Australia. Each time he left, Mummy's tears supply was depleted. "Oh my, every time him going away I cry, and he say 'mummy don't cry, why you crying for mummy, don't cry mummy, mummy I have to go you know, ah can't stay with you, don't cry'," says Jones.

But she can't help herself, especially when she talks about the love that Xavier displays for her. The day she knew that his love was unconditional came one day when she was sick with the flu and Xavier tended to her. Jones knows she needs to stay in good health because she says "right now if I'm sick or anything, him not going bother play any match again, how him would fret."

Jones has youth on her side; in fact she could easily pass for Xavier's older sister. Is that why they get on so well? Could be, she says, but "although them say me and him is sister and brother, he hears me. Anything I tell him, he hears what I say man, him don't go over the rope. He says 'mummy you know anything that you tell me I have to hear what you say.'" Xavier's mother backs that up with a story about her telling him not to go to a fun day to play cricket, the Saturday before he was to leave for Australia the following Wednesday. What did he eventually do? "He went and lay down and sleep, him don't worry to go to no cricket," said Jones. If you can get Xavier Marshall, who eats, sleeps and breathes cricket, to stay at home instead of going to play cricket even though as his mother says "him love ball you see", then you know he respects you.

At this point, I have to tell Winsome Jones about the talk that Xavier is hard to manage. "No, that is not Xavier with me," she counters, then adds "sometimes people don't like you and them talk a lot of things about you. Right now where I am living, nobody up there don't like him. If he was down here playing the match, you don't see anybody come and watch him, maybe only two people."

Miss Jones goes on to say this. "I'm his mother and I'm not telling any lie. Xavier don't give me any trouble. But if me go and trouble him, and mi say 'why this and why that,' him say 'mummy how you miserable so man?' That is the only problem I have with him, but to come and curse and get irritable and so, not him. Sometimes him up there and people have to ask if he's in the house."

Xavier is more away than he's at home. Every time he is called up to represent a team, he says to his mother 'mummy, I make the team you know and ah going to leave' and then, always seeking his mother's approval, will ask 'mummy how you feel?' Winsome Jones always has the same answer; "I feel proud son, I always feel proud of you and you keep it up and you don't worry about anything." Xavier is constantly being told by his mother to "put the Father before and God will deliver you. And you mustn't leave out your Bible." Jones says that Xavier prays and reads his bible. When he was living with his paternal grandparents from about 12 years old until when he left school, he would go to church with them sometimes.

After a stellar performance in the 2004 regional One Day tournament, Xavier Marshall was invited to a preparatory camp led by new Australian coach Bennett King in Barbados. When Xavier told his mother, she remembers "I was saying to him 'Xavier I wonder if you going to get pick to go to Australia?' and him say 'mummy why you worried, just pray for me let me go there and make a hundred.' " Then, there was that reminder of her side of the agreement. Miss Jones said "Xavier said 'pray for me; is just that I want to do, hit a hundred.' Is pure hundred him talk about. Him don't think about no 50 or no 30, just a hundred, he thinks big."

Now big things are happening for Winsome Jones' first boy, who is still a baby in her eyes. He was included in the final 14-man squad and jetted off to Australia at the end of 2004. Jones knew before the rest of the public but was sworn to secrecy. She tells me how she found out. "The day when him come from Barbados he said 'mummy, I have visa in my passport to go to England.' So I say 'how you have visa to go to England?' He said him going to leave from England and go to Australia. Me say 'you sure? No man, ah well want to hear them announce it first.'"

So Xavier's mother spent the next few days soliciting opinions from all the cricket people she knew. Mr Anderson, manager of Xavier's St Ann parish team got the question. He had no doubt, but the still unsure Jones said at the time "no sir, me don't think so, for ah don't think that him can manage them there bad man up ah Australia."

The Christmas Eve evening sportscast confirmed the news she was so anxious to hear. Winsome Jones had seen her son earlier in front of the police station in Discovery Bay. "I saw him and called to him, and him come across and hug me up and say 'mummy your son made it' and I started to cry. I went in a car and when I go in there is Xavier's name I hear on the radio." Her reaction? "I said 'oh God'. Only God me call upon all the while. God is very good," affirms Jones.

Mother had some advice for her son before he departed his rural village in the north of Jamaica. "Especially since you going amongst different people and you are in the big side now, so you must know how to control your attitude, if you have any attitude, know how to control it, because the least little thing..?.you know how that go, because watch _______." Jones names a young Jamaican cricketer whose West Indies career was presumably truncated because of unruly behaviour and tells me that she talks to Xavier about that particular cricketer every day.

Asked if she was happy with how her 'Baby Marshall' has turned out, Jones said "Oh God, it can't be better, I give God thanks every day. Well I didn't know he was going to turn ?.you have to call it a big cricketer now because him gone on the West Indies team. But I'm really really happy to know about the cricket and the way how him keep up himself. He's not a bad boy, he doesn't give any trouble like some out there would give them parents trouble and in jail and all those things, so I am very very proud about him, and his cricket. Him love me bad and I'm proud of it."

Down-under, Marshall negotiated the likes of Lee and Hogg, but only managed to score 11, 1 and 5 in the two practice matches and one ODI he played in.

When the television cameras in Australia first focused on the teenager, one person's heart, more than anyone else's in the world, would have been bursting with pride. In life, you win-some and you lose some when it comes to raising children. Winsome Jones feels she has definitely won. The love between the two is born out with Xavier declaring "mummy if you dead mi a dead too you know." If you're a mother and you hear that, you'd have to say "good pickney that." So says Jones. Who's to disagree with her?