Former Budleigh cricketer carving out new career as a musician

Flashback! It
Flashback! It's June 2008 and Omari Banks is standing at slip for Budleigh Salterton in the derby clash with Exmouth. James Burke is batting and Sandy Allen keeping wicket

By Richard Walsh

Click here to see Omari Banks performing with his father in Anguilla

There can’t be too many cricketers who go on to become pop stars when they retire from the First Class game, but Omari Banks is one of them.

Banks, who turned out for Somerset in 2008-09, played in 10 Tests and six ODIs for the West Indies between 2002 and 2005.

Budleigh Salterton benefited from having Banks in the side during both seasons he was with Somerset, although not as often as they would have liked.

The club and the league were in dispute over Banks' eligibiilty to play under the one-per-club overseas rule. Budleigh already had Australian Steve Spoljaric on board at the time. Banks was eventually cleared to play as Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory in the same way as Gibraltar.

Talking from his home in Anguilla the tall all rounder told me how he came to join Somerset in the first place?

“Somerset has a long history of great players including Ian Botham, Andy Caddick and Marcus Trescothick, which I was aware of, and I wanted to come over to England to play county cricket,” said Banks.

“I played a lot of club cricket in England from the age of about 15 years old. I played for Carnforth as well as in Birmingham and with Leicestershire where I trained with the squad when I was growing up

“I had a couple of trials, at Hampshire and then with Somerset where I did well in the two matches I played for them and Brian Rose offered me a contract that I gladly accepted.

“It was a great opportunity for me to enrich my cricket and become part of a team I had so much respect for over the years.

“There was nothing like my time at Somerset where they’d had of West Indian players like Viv Richards and Joel Garner playing.”

Banks went on: “When I was there Somerset had a strong side including Alfonso Thomas, Zander de Bruyn, Ian Blackwell, Craig Kieswetter, Andy Caddick, Pete Trego and myself as well as a lot of younger players like Jack Leach coming through the Academy.

“It was a star team and everybody was pushing each other to be part of it.

“I have nothing but fond memories of my time with Somerset and I just want to wish them all the best of luck.  I feel that I have had a role to play in the whole Somerset story.”

One of the first things that Banks did after joining Somerset was to go out and buy a new guitar, which he used to take on away trips. 

Music was in his DNA as his father is Reggae singer Bankie Banx, known to his fans as the Anguillan Bob Dylan.

“Music has always been something that has been right up there with me and I grew up in an environment where music was always around me,” he said.

“Ever since I was five years old I would perform in talent shows- I played the bass and the drums and a bit of piano so music is something which I have always used to help me get that inspiration going into a match.”

On one famous occasion out in India at Bangalore during the Champions League in 2009, Omari got on stage and played while the band had an interval.

“We had a great time in India and made it through to the quarter-finals stages, so what better way was there to celebrate than with some music!”

Banks retired from professional cricket in 2010 aged 29 having made 80 First Class appearances and roughly the same number in one-day and twenty20 cricket.  He wanted to concentrate on music instead.

 “I wanted to become as good as possible so now it is my career and what I work on everyday to become a better musician and play great music to entertain people as much as possible,” said Banks.

Omari’s music has taken him all over the world as he explained: “I have played in the USA, I was in Europe last year and was in the UK where I released my album. I then toured into Europe and into France. 

“I want to get myself known as much as possible and get over my positive message and I think that this is just the beginning of great things that are to come.”