West Indies Cricket chief executive Johnny Grave maintains the regional sport’s governing body takes very little pleasure in excluding players from the squad for fitness reasons but insists the standards are well known and accepted.

Controversy struck earlier this week after promising batsmen Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer were left out of the regional team, ahead of its series against Sri Lanka after both failed a fitness test.  The opener Lewis’ omission came as even more of a surprise in the circumstances, considering the fact that he was the team’s best player in the recently concluded series against Ireland.

“We’ve made it clear to the players for three years now.  The last thing we want to do is to be fining any players.  The last thing we want to be doing is to be downgrading a player’s contract.  The last thing we want to do is to not have any of our players available for selection,” Grave told the SportsMax Zone.

“At the same time if we have really to make a difference in driving a new fitness culture in our cricket and professionalizing all elements of cricket in the West Indies, we have to have minimum standards, accountability for those standards and consequences if players don’t adhere to those standards,” he added.

According to the official over the last two years, CWI has been forced to fine players significant sums of money and significantly reduced salaries.

Both players failed to meet the minimum standard but are expected to be re-tested in a few weeks.

  

 

West Indies head coach Phil Simmons believes players must adjust quickly to conditions on the subcontinent when the team takes on Sri Lanka in the upcoming One Day International (ODI) series in Colombo.

Three changes have been made to the squad that recently played against Ireland in the Caribbean, with Darren Bravo, Rovman Powell and Fabien Allen returning to the squad.  With the exception of Bravo, Jason Holder, and captain Kieron Pollard very few of the team have experience playing in Asia.

“The most important thing is for us to adjust quickly to the conditions, that’s why we’ll go in there a few days early,” Simmons said.

“How we played in Lucknow against Afghanistan is the kind of wicket we’re going to be getting there and we need to play in the same way and to train in the same way,” he added.

“We need the same attitude that we played against India.  I think if we can get the attitude right we will come out on top in the series.”

The ODIs will be played at Sinhalese Sports Club; the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Stadium in Hambantota; and the Pallakele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy. The ODIs will be followed by two T20 Internationals in Kandy.

Veteran Windies batsman and T20 star Chris Gayle is expected to ply his trade in the upcoming Everest Premier League (EPL) in Nepal, in March.

The 40-year-old Gayle will join a host of other stars for the tournament.  The list will include retired West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Smith.  Gayle is slated to represent the Pokhara Rhinos with Smith suiting up for the Bhairahawa Gladiators.

The talented Gayle is considered one of the game’s best T20 players and holds the record for the most runs ever scored in the format with 12,808.  Gayle is also the only player to score more than 7 T20 centuries.  The left-handed runs machine has slowed down in recent years but recently indicated that he wanted to play the sport for as long as possible.  The self-proclaimed ‘Universe Boss’ has promised fireworks in Nepal.

"Nepal get ready for the Gayle storm. It is gonna be dashing. See you soon Nepal," he said in a video message on his Twitter account.

EPL managing director Aamir Akhtar revealed it took months of negotiations to persuade Gayle to play in the Himalayan nation.

"The league had to mature and earn a certain reputation in the international market so someone like Chris Gayle would be ready to play," Akhtar said.

"All the hard work from the last three years has actually convinced him that this is a clean, reputable league, followed by passionate cricket lovers.”

Windies U-19 coach Graeme West insists the team must find a way to match New Zealand’s intensity as they prepare to face off in the quarterfinal of the ICC Under-19 World Cup, at the Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Wednesday.  

Both teams will enter the match-up at opposite ends of the spectrum so to speak.  While the West Indies have looked in splendid form after wins over Nigeria, Australia and England, New Zealand barely made their way into the final eight. The Kiwis managed just a solitary win in three games.  After no play was possible in their first fixture against Japan, due to rain, New Zealand defeated Sri Lanka but we then defeated by India.  Despite the differences in results to date, West insists the Caribbean team is taking nothing for granted.

“Most of the performances last week were very pleasing but now we are in the knockout stage and it’s about your performance in the last three games of the tournament, rather than the first three games,” West said.

“Certainly, New Zealand are always a very competitive team outstanding in the field and quite creative in terms of their batting and their bowling.  They played a reduced overs game against India and at one point they were 100 for 1 off 10 overs with their positive intent at the top of the order.  They fell away as spinners took hold but certainly it’s a warning to us in terms of the approach that they have and we’re going to have to match that.”

Retired Windies batsman Dwayne Smith is expected to head to Asia for the upcoming Everest Premier League where he will represent the Bhairahawa Gladiators.

The much-travelled power-hitter will bring plenty of experience to the Napal-based franchise as the tournament head into its fourth edition.

 The 36-year-old Smith, a former Windies batting all-rounder who made 255 appearances for the regional team, has played for over 14 T20 franchises.  He most recently appeared for the Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).  Smith currently averages 26.23 and has played 337 matches.

The signing of the West Indian veteran proved a source of excitement for Gladiators captain Sharad Vesawkar.

"I still can’t believe that the powerhouse of West Indies Cricket and IPL for a long time, Dwayne Smith will be playing under me in the upcoming season of EPL,” Vesawkar said.

“This will do a world of good to the team’s top order and also serve as an exciting opportunity to all the players especially the young ones to observe how the greats go about their game.”

Cricket West Indies chief executive Johnny Grave has insisted the board will look to continue its objective of spreading the sport across regional venues.

Insularity and some amount of bias have often been charges leveled at those who select which grounds will be picked to host international cricket on various West Indies tours.  International grounds in bigger countries have often been given the nod but Graves insists it might not be the case in the future.

“The highest crowds we experienced in this series was in Grenada.  Grenada didn’t have cricket between 2015 and 2019 and I think it is important we spread cricket around our international grounds,” Graves said.

“I think we need to do far more as an organization to promote and market to make sure all the cricket fans and even the non-cricket fans know that the West Indies team is coming to their country to play,” he added.

“I hope everyone understands that policy and we do our best to spread cricket around the region.”

With the exception of Barbados the West Indies' first tour of the new year, against Ireland, was played in Grenada and St Kitts.  The New Zealand New Zealand tour in July will be hosted in Antigua, Dominica, and Guyana, with Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia and Jamaica.

Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt has insisted the strong showing of the U-19 team at the ongoing ICC U-19 World Cup is due to a policy of deliberate investment in youth cricket.

The U-19 Windies, who won the title in 2016, are off to a strong start at the current edition of the tournament after notching wins over Australia, England, and Nigeria.  The team’s latest win, a dominant 246 runs win over their African opponents, ensured that the Windies were top of group B.

According to the CWI president, the team’s strong showing, which has taken many by surprise, is no accident.

“This administration promised that we would invest more seriously and in a more focussed and strategic way on our youth cricket and this Under-19 team is an example of what we set about to do immediately – to give them the best possible preparation going into this World Cup,” Skerritt said recently.

“They have achieved already way beyond the expectations of most people.  They beat Australia, they beat England. We are going to hope and pray that they continue on the path of improvement and performing at their best and whatever the end result of this World Cup is for them they would have made the Caribbean people extremely proud.”

The West Indies commence their first away series of 2020 with three One-day and two Twenty20 internationals in Sri Lanka from February 22 to March 6.

The one-day matches will be the final bilateral series West Indies will play before the Caribbean side and all the top thirteen teams participate in newly formed ICC ODI league that runs from May 2020 - March 31, 2022.

In this new limited-overs cycle, under the 2019 - 2023 Future Tours Programme (FTP) established by the ICC to bring greater context to international cricket fixtures, the seven highest-ranked teams apart from India, who gained automatically entry as tournament hosts, will qualify for the 2023 World Cup.Following the 3- 0 ODI series clean sweeps against Afghanistan and Ireland, the West Indies currently sit in 9th position with 80 points with Sri Lanka in 8th place on 81 points.

A series win for West Indies will move them into 8th position ahead of Sri Lanka in the official ICC ODI Team Rankings, ahead of the first ODI league matches at home in July against current number three ODI ranked team, New Zealand.

The T20Is provide West Indies the opportunity to win their first T20I rubber since the 2-1 series victory over Bangladesh in December 2018 as they continue to build momentum ahead of the T20 World Cup in Australia in October 2020, a country where the team won their first T20 World Cup title in 2012.

Director of Cricket Jimmy Adams said the series was important as the team sought to continue steady preparations for the World Cup.

“The Sri Lanka series allows us to continue the process of building towards this year’s T20 World Cup in Australia as well as the longer term goal of automatic qualification for the next ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023. Playing in unfamiliar conditions should be a good test for both of our squads.”

 

Former West Indies coach Ottis Gibson has officially signed on to be the bowling coach of Bangladesh for the next two years.

The 50-year-old Gibson, who also twice served as bowling coach of England and most recently South Africa, will replace Charles Langeveldt, who quit the post in December.  Langeveldt, the former South African cricket coach, spent just five months in the post.

The South African had himself replaced another West Indian Courtney Walsh who left the team following the World Cup.  Gibson is expected to join the team in Pakistan for the three-match T20I series in Lahore later this week.   Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) CEO Nizam Uddin Chowdhury said Gibson's presence will be a major boon for the team.

"He brings in tremendous experience and has coached or played all over the world. He has also had the opportunity to observe Bangladesh cricket from close. I am sure he will be a very valuable addition to the Bangladesh team's coaching group.”

West Indies bowling legend Courtney Walsh will face off against India batting great Sachin Tendulkar with the former players selected as opposing coaches in the Bushfire Cricket Bash.

The charity event teams will be led by legendary Australian players Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne, with proceeds going towards rebuilding efforts in wake of Australia's recent devastating bushfires.

The match itself will be a bigger part of Cricket Australia’s charity efforts and will serve as a curtain-raiser to this year’s Big Bash League final day on February 8. 

Other former players confirmed for the match, called the Bushfire Cricket Bash, including Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Watson, Alex Blackwell, and Michael Clarke. Steve Waugh and Mel Jones will be involved in a non-playing capacity.

"I'm delighted to confirm the Bushfire Cricket Bash will be Cricket Australia's major fundraising initiative to support Australians impacted by the recent unprecedented bushfire emergency," the CA chief executive Kevin Roberts said.

"People the world over have seen the overwhelming images of hundreds of thousands of hectares burnt, precious lives lost, hundreds of properties destroyed and the devastating loss of wildlife as a result of the fires. These images have reinforced the need to get behind organisations like the Australian Red Cross which is responding to the immediate requirements of people who have lost loved ones, their homes, and their livelihoods."

Nyeem Young starred with the bat as West Indies sealed a maiden win over Australia at the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup at the eighth attempt.

Jayden Seales did the damage with the ball to hustle Australia out for 179 and Young’s measured innings in reply saw West Indies to victory with 24 balls to spare of their Group B opener.

Young was the matchwinner for the Windies with a priceless 61 from 69 balls just as Australia were bearing down on his side’s tail.

"It's good to get a win," Young said. “It doesn’t matter the opponent, but it is good to get it against Australia. I am happy to get it across the line, and I think it shows how we fight with the ball and the bat.”

Australia batted first and were bowled out for just 179. Jake Fraser-McGurk fought a lone battle, with a defiant 84 from 97 balls at the top of the order.

Wickets tumbled around him though as Seales (four for 49) and Matthew Forde (three for 24) ran riot. Patrick Rowe struck 40 to give the young Aussies a sniff, but 179 was well below par.

Windies slipped to 92 for five in the chase, thanks chiefly to a fine spell of leg-spin bowling by Tanveer Sangha whose promise has already seen him feature in the Big Bash League.

His four for 30 ran the Windies desperately close, and they breathed a sigh of relief when his allocation came to an end.

Beyond the mystery of Sangha, West Indies found comfort through Young's mature knock and got home with three overs and as many wickets to spare.

Recently recalled Windies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is confident the talent of the current squad could see the team return to dominating world cricket in 10 to 12 years.

The 36-year-old recently returned to the team ahead of the ongoing T20 series against Ireland, after nearly four years out of action.  The return to the fold was an unhappy one as Ireland registered a rare win over the hosts.  There were a few bright sparks, however, with Bravo himself claiming 28 for 2.

The veteran all-rounder would also have witnessed up close the new generation of players tasked with taking Windies cricket back to the top.  He admits that he is impressed so far and eager to play a part.

“I feel good to know that I am among this talented squad here and I think these guys have 10, 12 years in front of them where they can dominate world cricket at some point,” Bravo said.

“My role is not to come back and try and take anyone’s spot or to play every game but to try and share whatever knowledge I have and have gained over the years. I believe with a captain like Polly and a coach like Phil (Simmons) that these young players can produce great things for West Indies in times to come.”

Windies skipper Kieron Pollard has pointed out running between the wickets as a key area of concern for the team, on the back of a surprise four-runs loss to Ireland in the opening T20 international.

On the back of a brisk 95 off 47 balls, which included an explosive eight 6s, the Irish posted 208 for 7.  The Windies, led by Evin Lewis’ 53 and a decent all-round team batting performance, made a good chase of the target before running out of enough balls to get there.

In analyzing the match, Pollard commended the bowlers for recovering from a poor start and the batsmen for making a competitive chase of the target.  He, however, believes the team could have done more running between the crease.

“When we were batting we did not have the urgency running between the wickets.  We know we are a good power-hitting team but when the singles are there and the twos are there we need to run hard between the wickets,” Pollard said.

“When Ireland were batting they hit the ball to our fieldsmen and they ran and that is something we did not do,” he added.

In their total, the Windies amassed 142 boundaries with 55 singles as compared to Ireland’s 124 boundary runs and 74 singles.

 

Windies T20 star Andre Russell has insisted he lives for the high-pressure moments after a solid performance with the bat to see Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) side Rajshahi Royals safely into the final, at the expense of Chris Gayle’s Chattogram Challengers.

Russell smashed an unbeaten 54 from 22 balls, which included seven sixes and two fours as the team successfully recovered from 80-4 in the 14th over to reach 164-8 with four balls remaining.  The total saw them claim a dramatic two-wicket win over Chattogram, who had been powered by Gayle’s blistering 60 off 24 balls.

"The plan was just to stay there until the end.  I wasn't worried about the falling wickets but as more wickets fell, it put pressure on me,” Russell told Espncricinfo.

“I just wanted one person from one end, and then let me do my thing at the other end. [Abu Jayed] Rahi stood up with me. Well done to him. I think every run was really important. These scores can be very tricky at times,” he added.

"I love playing in these situations, when it is 12, 13 or 14 runs [needed] per over," Russell said. "Sometimes I love when its like even 15 or 16. I like these challenges. I am strong and I know if I stay as still as possible, I will always have an open mindset and I don't premeditate.”

Rajshahi will face Khulna Tigers in the final on  Friday.

Windies skipper Kieron Pollard has heaped praise on recently returned all-rounder Dwyane Bravo, despite the player experiencing mixed fortunes in a rare T20 international loss against Ireland in Grenada on Tuesday. 

The 36-year-old, who has been out of competitive action at the highest level for several months, got off to a rocky start when he entered the bowling attack in the 5th over.  The bowler conceded 17 runs but recovered to end with 2 for 28, in the end playing a pivotal role in restricting Ireland to 208 for 7.

At one point, on the back of 94 from Paul Sterling and 48 from Kevin O’Brien, the Irish, who set the record for the highest power play score in T20 cricket, seemed set for a much bigger score.

“I thought he was fantastic.  After going for 17 or 18 in his first over a lot of chatter would have been about what’s going on with Bravo, he’s back and he’s expensive but it goes to show the importance of experience in T20 cricket.  You don’t lose a game in an over and he came back to get two crucial wickets,” Pollard said following the match.

Bravo accounted for the wickets of O’Brien, where he got the crucial breakthrough, and later removed Garth Delany.  Pollard also commended spinner Hayden Walsh.

“Hayden Walsh in all the carnage that was taking place as well, he bowled two overs on a trot and he was consistent with his line and length.”

 

 

 

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