In-form West Indies middle-order batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, has credited brief advice received from top-class India batsman Virat Kohli as helpful in changing his mindset towards scoring runs.

The 29-year-old scored his first century against England in 2015, a plucky 112 unbeaten in a draw in Antigua.  Following that impressive achievement, however, Blackwood seemed unable to cross the double-digit threshold.  In fact, before finally breaking the streak with 104 against New Zealand, in December, Blackwood had managed to score 10 half-centuries in-between but always fell short of a triple-digit score.

Included in that number were some figures frustratingly well clear of the 50 mark, but falling just short of the 100 mark, when for all intents and purposed the batsman seemed well set to do so.  The tally includes three scores in the 90s.  He scored 92 against Sri Lanka, in Galle, in 2015; 95 against Pakistan, in Abu Dhabi, in 2016, and 95 against England, in Southampton, in July of last year.  Prior to that, Blackwood also registered 85 against England, in Bridgetown, in May 2015.  During India’s tour of the West Indies, Blackwood took the opportunity to seek the advice of run-machine Kohli when the two briefly interacted off the pitch.

“I just asked him how come all the time I score so many half-centuries and just one century, and he just replied, ‘What did you do when you scored the century? How many deliveries did you face?’ I said I faced 212, and he said that’s it, once you can bat some balls you will score runs,” Blackwood recalled.

“I took a lot from that and I’ve always told myself, after that conversation, once I can bat over 200 balls or 300, I’m going to score runs.  Once I’m there, the way I bat, I’m going to score runs regardless of who I’m playing against or where I’m playing.”

Out of favour West Indies batsman Shai Hope and brother Kyle will be among three players to miss out on the CG Insurance Super50 Cup, after returning positive COVID-19 results in the latest round of PCR tests.

The Hope brothers, who would have represented Barbados Tridents, will be joined on the sidelines by left-handed opener Trevon Griffith who was part of the Guyana Jaguars batting line-up.  The latest round of tests was conducted on Sunday.

The Barbados Pride have already named Zachary McCaskie and Tevyn Walcott as replacements for the Hopes, while Kemol Savory has been named as the replacement for Griffith in the Jaguars squad.

The trio will remain in their respective territories where there will be required to follow local COVID-19 protocols.

All other members of the Barbados Pride and Guyana Jaguars squads returned negative COVID-19 tests and will undergo second tests on Thursday, January 28 before travelling for the tournament, as part of CWI's established protocols.

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup will be played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua from Sunday, February 7 to Saturday, February 27. On opening day, Leeward Islands Hurricanes will host arch-rivals Windward Islands Volcanoes at CCG.

 

West Indies fast bowler, Kemar Roach, insists he is ready for the challenge of trying to take wickets on Bangladesh pitches, despite the surfaces being more suited to spin-bowling.

Despite the presence of several spinners in the squad, the 32-year-old is expected to lead the West Indies bowling line-up, along with fellow pace bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.  If the dominance of spinners in the One Day International series, on pitches that offered very little assistance to pace bowlers, is anything to go by they will certainly have their work cut out.

Having been in Bangladesh on two prior Test series, Roach would know first-hand what it takes to succeed on spin-friendly terrain.

In 2011, he claimed 0 for 52 off 9 overs and 1 for 49 off 13.2 overs in the second Test of the series.  When he returned in 2018, he claimed 1 for 74 off 18 overs in the first Test and 2 for 61 in 25 overs as Bangladesh made a mammoth 500 in the second Test.

“It mostly favours the spinners but I think there is enough there for fast bowlers to get something as well.  It’s just about having your plans, executing, and being disciplined,” Roach told members of the media via a press conference from Bangladesh on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be tough, we know we have to bowl a lot more overs to get our rewards but once you are willing to put the work in you can get some rewards over here…so it’s going to be tough but I’m up for the fight.”

The Windies have had recent success with pace bowling in Bangladesh with Tino Best claiming a five-for in 2012 and Fidel Edwards claiming 8 wickets in the 2011 series.

 

West Indies spinner, Rahkeem Cornwall, believes the unusually long preparation time before the start of the Bangladesh Test series has been beneficial for players needing to get used to ‘difficult’ conditions.

The regional team arrived in Bangladesh on January 10 and was required to quarantine for 7 days based on the country’s COVID-19 protocols.  Since clearing that hurdle, however, the Test team has been free to train and will not start the series until February 1.

The Asian team is known for being particularly difficult to beat on their home turf and easily dispatched the West Indies 2-0 on their last visit in 2018.  One of those advantages is said to be the team’s pitches.

“It has helped (extra time) you have to adapt to these conditions. These conditions are difficult to play in, so the more time we get to understand the conditions is the better it is for us,” Cornwall said.

“It spins a bit more here.  It is always going to be drier than the Caribbean.  So, we just have to adapt to it and play to the best of our ability,” he added.

The inexperienced West Indies team will be hoping for a better showing than in the recently concluded One Day International (ODI) series where the team was summarily swept aside 3-0.  The ODI batting line-up found the top class Bangladesh spinners on the surfaces a difficult task to cope with.   

West Indies head coach, Phil Simmons, insists the upcoming Test series against Bangladesh will be a chance for inexperienced players to prove their mettle by doing well for the short-handed team.

If the play in the One Day Internationals (ODIs) is anything to go by, the regional team could have plenty of cause for concern as they have been unable to compete with Bangladesh to date.  In two matches so far, in which they batted first, the team was bowled out for 122 and 149 before Bangladesh easily chased down the target.

Facing off against the Asians next week, in what could be considered their weakest format, and with just as many inexperienced players in the line-up, it is likely to be a stern challenge.  Simmons sees an opportunity.

“It’s chance that guys get to show what they can do at this level.  It’s a chance for them to put their names in the hat for 2023 and put their names in the hat for Sri Lanka and later this year.  So, it’s good to see what people are made of,” Simmons said.

The coach predicts the four-day contests will be good for the team, as it should prove to be a test of strength.

“Playing in these conditions, playing in the environment that we are in and everything, you have to be strong.  You have to get stronger than just playing a cricket match.  So, you will see who are the strong ones and who leads from the front.  Let’s see who takes up the challenge and who comes out best in the two-Test matches.”

Jamaica Premier League football club, Harbour View, where recent departed national striker Luton Shelton spent his formative years, has described his loss as heart-wrenching.

Shelton died on Friday after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was 35 years old.  In its release, the club chronicled the player’s rise from an eager youth representative to becoming the country’s all-time leading scorer.

“His late father, Luton Shelton Snr., brought him by the hand to coach Ludlow Bernard at an All-Prep vs All-Primary Final at Sabina Park in 1997 to play for Harbour View Football Club (HVFC) in the Under 14 Competition. The Tivoli Gardens resident began his journey, then accelerated his development through Under 16 Colt's, Manning Cup, and All Manning while attending Wolmer's Boys School. He quickly climbed the ladder to KSAFA Minor League, Under 20, and Premier League, attracting the glare of the national coaches,” it stated.

“International football came calling early and he embraced it with scoring a record 4 goals on debut. From there he never looked back as the goals flowed in buckets to surpass then-leading national goalscorer Paul 'Tegat' Davis, to hold the current record of 35 goals.”

Shelton represented Harbour View in Jamaica’s National Premier League between 2003-2006, scoring a healthy 44 goals in 43 appearances.  During his time at the club, he was part of the 2006-2007 Premier League championship team and also helped capture the CFU Club Championship in 2005.

The forward signed for Sweden’s Helzinberg, in 2007, and went on to play nine years abroad at various clubs, including a brief stint in the English Premier League with Sheffield United.  He returned to Harbour View in 2017 but was forced to retire soon after suffering injuries and later being diagnosed with the disease.

“As he returned home to HVFC, he battled training and match preparations as injuries interrupted, but at the National Stadium on February 20, 2017, he lit up the floodlights with a goal made in heaven as the bright 'Star Of The East' shone one more time to equalise against Tivoli Gardens FC. He never returned to the field after halftime.

Fond memories of a career filled with scorching runs, dribbles, and a ton of goals remind us of the man, the goalscorer, and the legend Luton George Kieshawn Shelton. Rest in eternal peace; your goal was well scored."

West Indies legendary wicketkeeper, Jeffrey Dujon, is convinced that out-of-favour Shai Hope remains the team’s best batsman, despite recently running into a rough patch of form.

The 27-years-old Hope was dropped from the team last year ahead of the West Indies tour of New Zealand.  The decision followed several months of off-colour form, which saw the player return scores of 16, 9, 25, 7, 17, and 31 during the team’s three-Test tour of England in July. Overall, in Test cricket, Hope averaged 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019.

The decision to drop the player, however, still stirred vigorous debate around the region, with many arguing that he should have been allowed to play his way back into form.  For his part, Dujon has backed the player to figure things out sooner, rather than later.

“There’s no question in my mind that he is the best batsman that we have,” Dujon told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Technically he is very good, from the very first time I saw him, I thought he was very good and talking to him and getting to know him, I know he is smart enough to work it out when things aren’t going right,” he added.

“He might have gotten his technique a little bit mixed up because of the competitions he was playing in, but I don’t see that lasting very long because he has quality.  You don’t go to England and be immortal and not be able to bat.”

Hope grabbed headlines around the world in 2017, becoming the first batsman to score twin hundreds in a match at Headingly in first-class cricket.

West Indies stand-captain, Jason Mohammed, admits the team’s inability to cope with top-class spinners has been the primary reason it has been unable to post higher totals.

Batting first in both ODIs played to date, being inserted to bat in the first and choosing to bat first in the second, the regional team fell below 150 runs on both occasions.  The stifling spin bowling of Mehidy Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan proved to be a major contributing factor in keeping the West Indies batsmen in straitjackets on both occasions.

Al Hasan claimed a jaw-dropping 4 for 8 runs in the first ODI, with an extraordinary miserly economy rate of 1.09 as the West Indies were restricted to 122.  In the second, it was Mehidy who applied the restraints, claiming 4 for 25 with an economy rate of 2.59.  The West Indies were restricted to 148 before Bangladesh easily chased down the target.

“They are two quality spinners, especially Shakib, one of the best in the world and Mehidy has been playing very well for Bangladesh as well,” Mohammed said of facing off against the pair.

“They have been good, and we haven’t been able to manage them, that’s why we have been getting those low totals.”

Rovman Powell was the team’s top scorer with 41 in the second ODI, while Kyle Mayers led the way with 40 in the first ODI.  The West Indies and Bangladesh will face off for the final ODI on Monday at 12:30 am.

West Indies fast bowler Alzarri Joseph has ambitions of someday blossoming into an all-rounder but, for now, he is content to be focussed on providing whatever the team needs to succeed.

With 13 Test match appearances and 29 One Day International (ODI) games under his belt, the 29-year-old fast bowler has done most of his damage with the ball.  Joseph has taken 32 Test wickets and 48 ODI wickets, on occasion, however, he has shown plenty of ability with the bat.

In the recent series against New Zealand, the bowler’s 85 in the first Test was one of the batting highlights in an overall poor showing at the crease for the West Indies.  Despite showing flashes of ability, the player is yet to display any type of strong consistency with the bat, but he admits he is working towards it.

“Personally, I’m aiming to be an all-rounder, but, as of now, I’m just taking everything step by step,” Joseph told members of the media from Bangladesh on Thursday.

“I’m looking to first do my main attribute, which is to contribute with the ball, and then when it comes to batting, I will give my best, whatever performance I can put in with the bat I will put it in,” he added.

Noted West Indian cricket analyst Fazeer Mohammed believes India’s triumph over Australia, at the historic Brisbane Cricket Ground, could indeed be the greatest moment in India cricket.

Of course, the Asian team has claimed the ICC World Cup twice, first in 1983 and then again in 2011.  the special circumstance surrounding the team’s spirited defense of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, for this particular series, however, will put this historical result right alongside the best of them.

Shorn of some of its most experienced players, due to injury, and having seen inspirational captain Virat Kohli head back to India after just one Test, for the birth of his daughter, few expected India to be able to make the series competitive, let alone retain the trophy.

In addition, the team allegedly faced racism from the crowd during the second Test in Sydney, which no doubt added fuel to the fire.  Perhaps it was fitting it came down to the last hour of the final day with all four results a possibility.

Spurred on by Rishabh Pant who stayed not out and hit a wonderful 89, young opener, Shunhman Gill also contributed with 91 at the top and the gritty Cheteshwar Pujara who held up his end for 56.

Prior to the unlikely triumph on enemy territory, no team had chased more than 236 at the Gabba, a ground where Australia had not lost a Test since 1988.

“It wasn’t just solid, it was inspirational,” Mohammed told the SportsMax Zone.

“All of the experts when it comes to Indian cricket, I can’t fault what any of them have said…when you try your best and put it into context with all of the different issues and primarily the loss of almost all of their prominent players throughout the four-Test matches, and being routed for 36 in the first Test.  Everyone had written them off with the departure of Kohli," he added.

 “To see Ajinkya Rahane holding the trophy, not with a drawn series but with a historic victory, they don’t win at Brisbane, no one beats Australia at Brisbane.  When you lump everything together, when you put all of the contexts of the individual players and their own personal journeys, to this point it has to be the greatest moment in Indian cricket, certainly when it comes to Test cricket”

 

 

Indian Premier League (IPL) club Kings XI Punjab are expected to predictably retain West Indian star batsman Chris Gayle but will release his compatriot Sheldon Cottrell ahead of the new season.

The 31-year-old pace bowler was bought for a sizeable INR 8.5 crore ($US1,156,239) during the IPL 2020 auction but failed to justify the price tag.  In six matches, Cottrell bowled 20 overs, claiming 6 wickets for 176 runs at an expensive economy rate of 8.80.  Unfortunately, perhaps the player's biggest moment came after being on the wrong side of thrashing from Rajasthan Royals Rahul Tewatia, who smashed 5 sixes off one of his overs during a record run chase.

Gayle, on the other hand, was sensational.  Despite starting the season on the sidelines, the big left-hander became the driving force behind the team's push for a playoff spot, although it ended with the team narrowly missing out on 6th spot.  The West Indian had been left on the bench for the first seven games of the season.  He was not picked for the first five, and food poisoning ruled him out for the next two.  He ended with 288 runs at an average of 44.14 and a high score of 99.

India batsman Karun Nair is also expected to be released but the team remains undecided on Australian Glenn Maxwell, who had a mediocre IPL season but had a splendid series against India.

  

Legendary West Indies batsman, Brian Lara, has pointed to a performance that emanated from one of the uglier, darker moments of a largely sparkling career as one of his most memorable.

In one of a few instances the batting star was not greeted by applause and gestures of widespread adoration on his sojourn to the crease, Lara was booed by the Sabina Park crowd when strode out for the second Test of the 1999 Australia tour of the West Indies.

During a tumultuous period for the Windies, the issue for some home fans stemmed from what they believed to be disrespect shown to bowling legend Courtney Walsh in what they deemed to be a hostile takeover of the captaincy by the Trinidadian.  Walsh, who was appointed captain in 1994, served as captain for 22 Test matches before being replaced by Lara in 1998.  On the back of a heavy loss to Australia in the first Test and having also previously been whitewashed by South Africa, The Prince found himself occupying the unusual status of public enemy.

His response, a classy, shot-filed 213, which would go on to underpin a massive 10 wicket win at Sabina Park to level the series, it must be said, went a long way in lightening the mood.

“Everyone says the 153 was second maybe to Sir Don Bradman’s (Against England at Melbourne in 1936-1937), maybe post-war, one of the better innings, but a week before that I was in Jamaica where we played against Australia in that second Test match,” Lara told 7Cricket.

“We came off scoring 51 in the fourth innings in Trinidad and I stood there in Jamaica, I was given the captaincy for two Test matches, on probation, never before had that happened in the history of West Indies cricket…that 213 in Jamaica was for me (special) in terms of not just batsmanship but my inner strength to come out of that situation I was in,” he went on.

“I was facing expulsion as the captain, of course, I was going to be playing, the captaincy was not that important to me that I wouldn’t play, but the threat of the expulsion and the fact that everyone was sort of jeering against me, in the Caribbean, was just unbelievable.”

West Indies captain for the upcoming One Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh, Jason Mohammed, says the team will draw inspiration from India’s surprise triumph over Australia, at the much-vaunted Gabba fortress, on Monday.

The relatively inexperienced India team ended a 32-year unbeaten run for the Aussies on the back of a stellar innings from Rishabh Pant.  The team’s performance broke Australian hearts, and records as well, with the mammoth target of 328 runs representing the highest ever successful runs chase at the venue.  It was achieved with 3 wickets remaining.

Heading into the series as huge underdogs, the team owed a large part of the victory to resilience, Shubman Gill's crucial 91 and the dogged determination of Cheteshwar Pujara who faced 211 deliveries and 10 body blows to defend the Border-Gavaskar trophy on a dramatic final day.

For, Mohammed, who will lead a hastily assembled and likewise inexperienced squad against Bangladesh, starting on Wednesday, there is plenty about the India performance to draw encouragement from.

“It’s obviously something we will look to.  It depends on the day and how you play,” Mohammed told members of the media via a press conference call on Tuesday.

“A lot of the guys will be making their debut, but once you have that belief and belief within the team that you can do well and that you can win games then these things are achievable and it showed in the India versus Australia series,” he added.

“We have the same mindset.  We are just looking to play some good cricket starting tomorrow and hopefully, the results will be on our side as well.”

 

West Indies vice-captain for the One Day International (ODI) team Sunil Ambris is hoping to stake his claim for a regular place in the first-team squad, by scoring at least one 100 in the upcoming tour of Bangladesh.

The 27-year-old Ambris was among several players unexpectedly named to the West Indies squad for the tour after 12 first-team players made themselves unavailable for the tour.  Prior to that Ambris had last played for the team in February of last year, on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka.  On that occasion, the player averaged 26 in three matches.  He was not selected to the team for either of the team’s previous tours to England or New Zealand.

Ambris, in addition to providing support for less experienced players on the tour, hopes to push himself back in the conversation for regular selection.

“This is the first tour that I’m actually confident that I will be starting.  So, I would like to use this tour to cement myself in the starting 11 for other tours,” Ambris told members of the media via an online press conference on Friday.

“I’d love to get at least one hundred out of these three games, I think that would do me a lot of good,” he added.

  

Windies batsman, Andre Fletcher, has pointed to a call from legendary batsman Brian Lara as pivotal in helping to turn around his form in this season’s Big Bash League (BBL).

On Thursday, Fletcher smashed a brutal 89 for just 49 balls to underpin the Melbourne Stars massive 111 run win over Adelaide Strikers.  The knock was timely for Fletcher as he had not passed 18 in his first nine BBL encounters.

The 33-year-old had previously also performed below expectations in a low-scoring Caribbean Premier League (CPL), where he scored 211 from 12 games despite his team St Lucia Zouks making it to the final.  As it turns out, it was a call from the legendary West Indian batsman, who is on commentary duty at the BBL, which proved critical in helping Fletcher turn around that recent run of bad form.

"He called me, and I was surprised, to be honest," Fletcher said following his explosive performance.

"He was telling me that, looking from the outside, I've been striking the ball cleanly and he just told me to give myself that opportunity. Giving myself that chance and playing each ball on its merits,” he added.

"I'm an aggressive player so there's no need to go out there and look to [over] power the ball. To be honest, that's what I did today.

"I've met him before. He's a great guy. I told him over the phone, after what he told me I was like, 'So Brian, now I understand the reason you were so great'.

"He told me, feel free to call him any time I wish to, he's there, he's open for anything and willing to give me advice."

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