… Afruica Gentle slams her way to the top
WHEN Afruica Gentle made her way into Sabina Park, it was mid-2018 and she was a national tennis player, who was very good at her craft, but curiosity and patriotism had gotten the better of her.
Her Guyanese cricketers were battling their Jamaican counterparts and Gentle wanted to see the action live. Over the years, she had seen numerous cricket matches but this one was different; this one was a female regional encounter.
Seeing national skipper Shemaine Campbelle manoeuvre the willow ignited a passion in the teen and she fell in love with cricket all over again, but this time as a player – not as a spectator.
A little over eight months later, Gentle will now join Campbelle in the national team when they play in the Cricket West Indies (CWI) Regional 50-over and T20 tournament which bowls off tomorrow in Guyana.
Gentle has always been a natural at sports and her tennis exploits prove just that.
She started to play that sport at the age of four. She was inspired by her sister and was driven. By the tender age of seven, she had already made the national team and since then has become a regular member of the national squad.
In 2013, she won the Caribbean Junior Invitational and the St Vincent ITF Singles Title. Two years later she became the youngest tennis player to win three titles at the GBTI Open.
Additionally in 2017 and in 2018 she won the Bakewell Junior Championship, and in July in Jamaica, she won the Quest Super Series. Her most recent major conquest was done last November when she won the U-18 Girls Inter-Guiana Games title.
For Gentle, who turned 18 earlier this month, cricket is a new and exciting challenge. “I was encouraged by Devon Gonsalves and my family to start playing because they told me they think I will do well and I took their advice and with the help of my father, who bought my cricket gear, it took off from there.”
Prior to making the national senior team, Gentle’s time in the middle was impactful.
In U-17 franchise cricket last year, she made 322 runs (including 109 against West Berbice) and took 10 wickets with her left-arm spin-bowling.
The right-handed batter then went on to represent the Select U-19 team in last month’s Guyana Cricket Board Senior Female Inter-County tournament.
Outside of hardball cricket, Gentle was the MVP at the just concluded NSC Al Sports and Tour Promotion Forbes Burnham Windball School Championships, where she exploded in the five-over competition, hitting a tournament-high 150 unbeaten runs in one of the games for Mae’s Schools.
For the teen, she hopes to use the competition to gain some valuable experience, which she can use in the future to transition to the West Indies team.
“I am grateful and I am also excited, I hope to gain a lot of experience from the players on the team so I could better my cricket.”