West Indies interim batting coach Floyd Reifer has dismissed concerns about the team’s batting line-up, ahead of the Test series against England, insisting the unit is more than ready to adapt to difficult conditions.

Despite the team widely being acknowledged as having a potent bowling line-up heading into the series, many have raised concerns about how the Windies will fare at the crease against experienced English bowlers and potentially damp, cold conditions.

The absence of the talented duo of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who opted out of the tour for health reasons, have done little to assuage those fears but Reifer, who was recently returned to the coaching unit, insists the team’s hard work so far gives them a good chance of success for the upcoming series.

“I keep hearing everyone saying they are concerned about our batting.  We have some experienced guys here and the boys have been working really hard,” Brathwaite told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“We understand the English conditions now. Young Hope and Brathwaite who were here before are now experienced players…” he added.

“What we have been working on is playing the ball late, in the Caribbean, our batters tend to go fairly hard at the ball but we are working on playing the ball as late as possible, and trying to leave alone as many deliveries as possible on top of the off-stump.  It’s important when the ball is moving around you try to play as little as possible and rotate the strike.  We have been having a lot of discussion on battling their spells and building innings.”

The Caribbean team will not need to look far for an example of its batting line-up struggling in English conditions than the first Test of the tour three years ago.  After England made 514, the West Indies were dismissed for 168 and 137.

West Indies captain Jason Holder continues to struggle to shake off a bit of rust, or allay injury concerns, after being dismissed cheaply in the second and final intra-squad match at Emirates Old Trafford, on Tuesday.

This time around, the West Indies skipper made it to five, with his innings lasting just 13 deliveries.  The disappointment at the crease followed on the all-rounder’s golden duck in the first internal match that ended in a draw last week.

In addition to time away from the pitch, Holder has recently been bothered by what is thought to be a mild ankle injury.  Despite claims that he has not been hampered by it, Holder has looked less than comfortable at the crease.  In fact, he could have departed a lot sooner had Preston McSween held on to a relatively straightforward chance when the Windies skipper nudged the second ball of his innings to midwicket.  Holder had yet to score at the time.

Earlier, intermittent showers had wiped out the first four sessions of the four-day fixture but eased in time to allow play to start at 2:20 pm under lights.  Holder and Jermaine Blackwood were, unfortunately, part of a top-order collapse that saw Holder's side go from 79-1 to 108-5 against a Kraigg Brathwaite-led XI, before ending the day 120-5 when bad light stopped play.

 

Former India opening batsman turned cricket pundit Aakash Chopra has excluded West Indies batsman Chris Gayle from an All-time XI IPL squad, opting in favour of a more ‘consistent’ David Warner.

Gayle, the big Windies left-hander, has his name etched on a host of IPL records and accomplishments at the top of the order in the IPL.  The opening batsman has the tournament’s highest individual score (175), most sixes (326), fastest century and the most 100s (6).  The Australian, however, has 222 more runs overall, in one more match than Gayle, and has also scored the most 50s with 44.

While acknowledging Gayle’s explosiveness as an opener, Chopra explains he chose Warner based on consistency.

“My first pick is David Warner, the first overseas player as an opener. You will also think of Chris Gayle, but he is not more consistent than David Warner,” Chopra said on his YouTube channel.

“He [Gayle] has been explosive but Warner is not behind anyone. So, Warner as one of the overseas players. He has been one of the most consistent batsmen ever.”

Mystery spinner and sometimes pinch hitter Sunil Narine was the only West Indian to make Chopra’s XI, with the former opener also finding no place for another big hitter and fan favourite Andre Russell.

 

Aakash Chopra’s All-time IPL XI

  1. David Warner
  2. Rohit Sharma

       3. Virat Kohli

  1. Suresh Raina
  2. AB de Villiers
  3. MS Dhoni
  4. Sunil Narine
  5. Harbhajan Singh

      9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar

  1. Lasith Malinga
  2. Jasprit Bumrah

The absences of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo on the West Indies tour of England are still causing a few headaches for the structure of the team, with head coach Phil Simmons yet to decide on what is the best line-up ahead of the first game which begins July 8.

The West Indies are playing in the first bio-secure Test series since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted sports worldwide and Hetmyer, Bravo and Keemo Paul decided against touring England on the back of health concerns.

The absence of the trio means there are questions about how the team will line up but head coach Phil Simmons, speaking during a press conference this morning, believes the answers are to be found in the next few practice games.

According to the coach, who was responding to questions about the batting positions of skipper Jason Holder and wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich when the three-Test series begins at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, the options are numerous.

“We have thought about quite a few things. The three-day game which starts tomorrow and then the four-day game will help us to decide how we structure the batting,” said Simmons.

“So there are possibilities in different directions. Jason could bat six, Dowrich could bat six, so we look at the three-day game and the four-day game and then make a decision from there,” he said.

There are also places to be considered with the returning Jermaine Blackwood to the batting line-up along with the likes Shamarh Brooks and Nkrumah Bonner and where they bat, if at all, in the new-look line-up.

The West Indies will play a three-day match game at their Emirates Old Trafford base beginning tomorrow, June 23, before a four-day encounter beginning on June 29.

 

Test Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach

 

Reserve Players: Sunil Ambris, Joshua DaSilva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shayne Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican

With a disastrous run of scores - 4, 5, 0, 0, 1 and 14 - during the West Indies’ tour of England in 2017, Shane Dowrich would have returned to the Caribbean a broken man, low on confidence.

Iconic West Indies umpire Steve Bucknor believes the game’s recent embrace of technology must make it easier for umpires to sleep well at night, as bad decisions can be corrected quickly.

Bucknor, whose career behind the stumps lasted for 20-years, officiated in 128 Test matches and 181 One Day Internationals.  In addition, he stood in 5 World Cups.

 With the Jamaica-born official having retired in 2009 and the Umpire Digital Review System (DRS) being trialed in 2008, he never had the advantage of appeals and instant replays but is certain it has made the game better for all involved.

“I am not certain if it affects the confidence of umpires, but I know it has improved umpiring,” Bucknor told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“It has improved umpiring because there was a time when we were saying the batsman was so-called playing down the line, therefore he is not going to be given out leg before, but if the technology is saying the ball is hitting, then you have to give him out.  So, we learn from the technology,” he added.

"The umpires who do not enjoy having technology around, I hope that they have a rethink.  What it does if you make a mistake it can be corrected on the field,” Bucknor said.  “Now thinking about when I was umpiring and I gave a batsman out who was not out, realizing I made a mistake it took a long time to fall asleep that night.  Now you can fall asleep quickly because the correct decision is eventually given.”

Bucknor infamously and incorrectly gave legendary India batsman Sachin Tendulkar out on two occasions.   The first of the mistakes came in Australia (at the Gabba in Brisbane off Jason Gillespie in 2003) where he declared Tendulkar lbw, when the ball was clearly flying over the stumps.  Another decision was a caught behind (at the Eden in Kolkata off Abdul Razzaq in 2005) when he thought the batsman had nicked the ball. 

“It is human to err.  These were mistakes.  I don’t think any umpire wants to do the wrong thing, it lives with him and his future could be jeopardised.  I was unhappy but human beings make mistakes.  Accepting your mistakes and moving on is a part of life.”

 

West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase insists he is ready to assume whatever role it takes to help the regional team secure a rare success for the upcoming tour of England.

The 28-year-old batting rounder has emerged as a valuable utility player for the Windies in recent years.  That ability was on full display the last time the teams met, in the Caribbean, where Chase scored a half-century and took eight wickets in the first Test, a win for the West Indies, and scored 102 in the dead rubber loss.

As it stands, heading into the upcoming series with no clear direction on the match-day team composition, Chase, in terms of his bowling, could be used from anywhere between the first spin option to back-up spin option.  For batting options, he could be moved further up the order with the absence of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo or be tasked with providing crucial lower middle-order runs.  According to Chase, however, whatever configuration he is picked in will suit him just fine.

“I’m ready to do whatever it takes for us to be victorious, to be successful.  Last time we came to England its something I had to do quite a bit of, so it’s not new to me,” Chase told members of the media.

“I am looking forward to that challenge if we go with the four-pronged attack, if not I’ll just try to contribute to my team in any way possible,” he added.

 As a part of the last tour in 2017 Chase struggled with the bat but managed to claim seven wickets.

Former West Indies batsman Philo Wallace believes the inclusion of spinner Rahkeem Cornwall could yet be a masterstroke if the player manages to break into the final matchday squad.

Cornwall was named as part of a 14-man squad for the tour of England, as the regional team returns to international cricket next month, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck.  With the series still some weeks away there is yet to be any indication of an official starting line-up, but Wallace believes any picked should include Cornwall.

 “I think that Cornwall is going to be our match-winner because he is the man that is going to apply the pressure.  I like him, he is skillful.  He is a skillful bowler and he is smart.  I think he can be the trump in England,” Wallace told the Mason and Guest radio program.

Wallace believes Cornwall should be used as part of a six-man bowling line-up that would also include four fast bowlers.  The combination, he believes, would also have the benefit of adding a deep batting line-up.  The off-spinner has played two Test matches for the West Indies so far, claiming three wickets against India on debut before claiming a five-wicket haul in a one-off Test against Afghanistan.

“I would play four fast bowlers Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzzari Joseph, Chemar Holder and those two spinners Cornwall and Chase.  When you look at those six bowlers, four of those six bowlers can bat…so you are still playing with long batting," Wallace said.

“It’s time that Cornwall recognizes his ability as a batsman, he has only played a few matches but you have to give him the confidence that he can go out there and bat."

 

 

Former West Indies opening batsman Suruj Ragoonath foresees the West Indies having a difficult time competing against  England, with weather conditions having a significant impact on the outcome of the series.

With the talented middle-order batsmen Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo opting out of taking part in series, Ragoonath believes the regional team could struggle to put runs on the board, particularly in humid conditions.

“It going to be tough if you look at the players on the tour, from a batting standpoint. Shamarh Brooks averages just under 35 in his very short tenure, next to him is Jason Holder and Kraigg Brathwaite, each around 33," Ragoonath pointed out to the Mason and Guest radio program.

If you add up our batsmen’s averages, whatever combination you play, you will have an average score that is less than 250, which is not going to complete against England.  Especially if the atmosphere is such that the ball is moving around, you re going to be in real trouble,” he added.

"The fast bowling aspect is exciting and I think that’s where our one element of surprise is, but a lot will depend on the weather conditions."

Ragoonath believes the Windies may still be able to do well if the conditions are hot and dry, but once typical English weather conditions prevail, a battery of quality England swing bowler could make runs scoring an impossible task.  

West Indies batsman, Shai Hope, believes it will be crucial for the top order to meet the challenge of carrying on from starts to post ample totals, if the team is to have success on the upcoming tour of England.

The inconsistency of the batting unit has been a sore point for the Caribbean team for the past several years, particularly the top order, who are often accused of not spending enough time at the crease.

As expected, the performance of the top order has been crucial to the outcome of matches against England in recent outings.  In the last two series, the top order has averaged somewhere around 158, in wins for the West Indies, and around 66 in losses.

“We’re missing some key players right now, so it’s very important for us as top-order batters to get those runs on the board, see off the new ball and make it easier for batters coming down the line,” Hope told members of the media.

“As soon as we get those starts, we have to capitalise and go big for the side,” he added.

“It’s the first series back for us, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our skills and win the series.”

Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite were two of the standout performers for the regional team on their last tour of England.  In the only Test match that the team won, Hope, scored 147 and 118 while opening batsman Brathwaite made 134 and 95.

Legendary West Indian umpire has admitted watching iconic batsman Brian Lara was always somewhat of a guilty pleasure and that behind the stumps was the best place to be when the batsman was on the go.

The 74-year-old official stood in 128 Test matches and 181 One Day Internationals (ODI) in a career that spanned 20 years.  While admitting an affinity for the destructive power of Viv Richards, the Jamaican-born umpire admits there was something otherworldly about Lara.

“Viv Richards, the Master Blaster, I rate him very highly on my list because he destroyed every type of bowling…then there is Brian Lara who I think is the best thing the eyes can behold when he is on the go.  He was poetry in motion.  He did things that others couldn’t do,” Bucknor told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

"Once he was on the go then Lara is the batsman that I enjoyed umpiring.  In other words, I didn’t want to be a spectator when Lara is batting, I wanted to be in the middle to enjoy the cricket there.  As someone who has played the game you must enjoy the game out there,” he added.

“Umpires enjoy the game. In your heart, you cheer. You clap in your heart to see a good shot.  You clap in your heart to see a good delivery.  You enjoy that but you cannot show it on your face, in your eyes or anywhere.”  

 

West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel insists there is no malice between himself and England captain Joe Root, after a heated exchange between the duo led to a four-match suspension when the teams met in the Caribbean last year.

During the series, Root was picked up on the stump mics responding to an unheard comment from Gabriel. "Don't use it as an insult," he said. "There's nothing wrong with being gay."

Gabriel was charged the next day for an alleged homophobic remark and did not contest the charges.  The footage received widespread attention.  The player was charged with a Level Two offence under article 2.13 of the ICC's Code of Conduct, covering "personal abuse".

Having recently recovered from injury, Gabriel could be in line to face up with Root again when the teams compete in a three-Test series next month.  The bowler has downplayed the incident and has insisted he has long moved past it.

"To be honest that was in the past," Gabriel said. "I don't really think about it too much. Whatever happened or whatever was said, I don't really want to harp on about that, I'm just looking to the future now. I've just come here to play good cricket if selected, and do my best for West Indies cricket,” he added.

"I just think the way they dealt with it was blown way out of proportion," he added. "The story that was told was not entirely true, but I just want to move on and forget that."  

West Indies opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite insists he is focused on the task at hand and not recent criticism or past successes as the team prepares for its upcoming tour of England.

The 27-year-old Brathwaite was a standout player when the regional team played in England three years ago.  The opener scored 40 in the first Test, before scoring 134 and 95 in the second, forming part of a crucial partnership with Shai Hopes as the West Indies leveled the series.

The player has not been in the best of form since then.  The top batsman averaged just 16 from his last six Tests, to see his overall average drop to 33.  During the recent first-class championship, he was averaging a mere 25 after the seventh round of matches before knocks of 48 and 84 not out against Guyana Jaguars in the eighth round, boosted his numbers.  It has led some to question his inclusion in the squad.  The player, however, insisted he would not focus on either those negatives or dwell on his strong showing in England the last time around.

“I look forward to any series against England but what I’m really focusing on is obviously doing my job on the team and built that foundation, that’s all I’m focusing on,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Wednesday.

“There’s no pressure.  You can’t always do well.  I know my role and it just about going out there and focus on each ball.  The batting hasn’t been going well the last few innings but I’m up for challenge,” he added

“Looking back, you obviously see things that you did well (2017) but that is history.  I have an important job to do here and now and I’m raring to go.”

 

 

West Indies middle-order batsman Shai Hope insists players must be willing to put up their hands and be counted in order to be successful on the upcoming tour of England.

With the team missing two of its most explosive batsmen in Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, runs could be hard to come by against a dangerous England bowling attack.  On his last visit to England, Hope certainly did stand up for the Windies team.  In the second Test, his two centuries proved crucial in a five-wicket win that saw the regional team level the series before going on to lose 2-1.

Although admitting the team will be missing the duo, Hope insisted the big match-winning performances needed were simply about the players' available accepting the challenge on any given day.

“It just happened to be my day at Headingley but it can be anyone else’s day on any given day.  The key is just to make sure that whenever you get an opportunity in the middle you grasp it and do whatever you can to put in those performances for the team," Hope told members of the media.

“It’s a case where the performances will matter.  Yes, we are going to miss those guys, they play a big role on the team.  But it’s more performances that we miss rather than players, they could be here and it just doesn’t go their way, that’s how cricket goes sometimes.  You always just need someone to put their hands up, I always stress that.  It’s just key for us that we as batters put those runs on the board.”

The West Indies will defend the Wisden Trophy against England in three Test matches, beginning next month at the Rose Bowl Cricket Ground.

 

The West Indies team will be sporting new eye-catching training and playing kits during the Sandals Tour of England 2020 as part of Cricket West Indies’(CWI) new three-year partnership with Castore, CWI’s official team kit and merchandise partner.

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