West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick is confident that the bowling unit’s steady improvement over the past several years means they are now a match for any team in the world.

The Windies are currently preparing for a return to international cricket with the upcoming tour of England, after a globally enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Ahead of the series, the regional team is likely to be encouraged by the fact that it once again has a full complement of first choice strike bowlers. The likes of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Alzarri Joseph are all available having recovered from injury.  The regional team’s bowling attack has on occasion shown that they can be a handful for even top batting line-ups.  Against England, in the Caribbean last year, Roach and Holder both claimed four-wicket hauls, with Gabriel and Joseph getting among the wickets as well.  Estwick believes a major difference that has boosted the team's bowling performance in recent years is its level of fitness.

“What we’ve done is to improve our fitness,  now we can sustain pressure,” Estwick said via a news conference.

“If you look back in the 80s, that’s one thing the fast bowlers had, it’s fitness.  Another thing is that they (current players) are now understanding fast bowling.  They have got to that age, Kemar and Shannon they are leading the charge and they are very experienced,” he added.

 “Jason Holder has become a much better Test match bowler in the last two years and Alzarri Joseph is now beginning to show his potential.  So were have four fast bowlers where we can challenge any team in the world.”

Former West Indies all-rounder Ian Bradshaw insists focus will be key for the regional team considering the prevailing extraordinary circumstances for the upcoming tour of England.

The West Indies and England will return to international cricket with a three-Test match series, in England, next month.  With the prevalence of the coronavirus still a major concern and ongoing racial equality protests around the globe, the situation to begin the tour is anything but typical.

In a bid to mitigate the risks of exposure to COVID-19, the teams will spend the entire period of the tour in what has been termed a bio-secure environment, which will keep everyone associated with the series quarantined from the general public.  With all the distractions, Bradshaw believes the task of focusing on just cricket is likely to be tougher for the team.

“We could lose the series mentality if we are distracted before the start of that series.  So, it’s going to be incumbent on the management team to keep the guys focused,” Bradshaw told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“These are trying circumstances that they are playing under, but they are professionals and they must act as professionals and really utilize the preparation time to the best of their advantage.”  

Retired West Indies all-rounder Ian Bradshaw has advised the team to realistically face up to its lack of quality all around batting and look to mirror approaches taken by past New Zealand squads, in order to be successful on the upcoming England tour.

The West Indies will return to international cricket, following an enforced absence due to the coronavirus epidemic, with a three-Test tour of England next month.  The unpredictability of the team’s batting line-up, much as it has in recent years, will again be a source of concern, particularly with explosive middle-order batsmen Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmeyer unavailable for selection.

The duo, along with all-rounder Keemo Paul, opted to miss the tour over health concerns.  The West Indies will need no further illustration than the opening Test of their last England tour for an example of a dismal batting performance.  On that occasion, the team was dismissed for 168 and 137 in pursuit of England’s 514 declared.

“We've been concerned with our batting for a while, let’s just stop and be realistic.  We don’t have the quality of batting that we want," Bradshaw told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“We don’t have the quality batsmen but what we hope for, is that collectively we can rally and that we can get 300 and 350 and 400 by batting deep and by batting sensibly," he added.

"There are other teams in the world that have a similar challenge and they manage to fight through.  For a number of years, we saw that with teams like New Zealand, where each player coming to the crease understood your job was to build a partnership that allowed the team to put a competitive total on the board.  Getting runs in England is important, especially in the first innings, so there is no doubt that we will have to bat deep.”

 

West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel will have a good chance of featuring for the final Test squad against England if he can prove his fitness in the coming weeks.

The 32-year-old pace bowler was initially named as the 15th member to the official Test squad for the upcoming tour.  Gabriel, one of the team’s lead strike bowlers, has not played cricket since September of last year after a brief spell with Gloucestershire.  The player was sidelined after suffering an ankle injury that required surgery.

Head coach of the West Indies Phil Simmons, however, recently revealed the player had been training well and would be in contention for a spot in the final day Test squad.

“We have to put this in perspective.  We selected 14, but Shannon, as we know, has come back from injury and being a senior member of the squad in the past two or three years we would have to look at him if he is up to that fitness level heading into the first Test,” Simmons told members of the media on a conference call on Saturday.

Gabriel claimed eight wickets and bowled with plenty of menace when the teams met in the Caribbean last year.  The West Indies won the Test series 2-1.  The player was, however, suspended for five One Day internationals after a verbal exchange with England batsman Joe Root.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy had every right to be angry with former Sunrisers Hyderabad teammates after their use of a racial slur to refer to him, even in jest, someone’s ‘blackness’ should never be the butt of a joke.

As such, it was a major disappointment to see some fans of the sport, not only accuse the player of seeking attention but also going on to further insultingly claim that he has no right to be upset.

The word used to describe the West Indian, Kalu, by one of its definitions on a list of ethnic slurs is itemized as literally meaning ‘blackie, generally used for black-skinned people in India, can also have racist overtone when referring to Africans.’ 

In a region with a long history of racial discrimination, it's hard to buy the excuse that the use of ‘blackie’ to refer to a black West Indian was used as a term of endearment. In all likelihood, it might have been used mockingly and in jest but why should that be accepted as normal or ok, how can the colour of a person’s skin be a source of even casual, 'harmless' ridicule.

If there were a bunch of roses would it be funny that one rose was redder than the rest?  It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Of course, it does.  Perhaps the reason Sammy is being told to lighten up may come from the fact that some of us, at some deep subconscious level, believe being darker than someone else is somehow misfortune. 

To some Asian and Caribbean societies that have had their mentalities warped by the negative effects of slavery and/or by the oppressive regime of colonialism, perhaps such a thing seems casual or normal. The time is right though to call some of these things what they are, even if we don’t expect them to change, or are not necessarily offended by them. Let us not insist that someone else does not have the right to do so.

After all, we haven’t heard about any nicknames given to Brendan Taylor, Dale Steyn and Aaron Finch some of the white teammates who would have been on the squad with Sammy.  If there was, I stand corrected but would love to hear the light-hearted or playful joke or nicknames for how ‘white’ they were. If it is that jokes about standing out for having different colour skin is funny or is deserving of cuddly nicknames, then it should surely fall on both sides of the colour spectrum.

It is also disingenuous to suggest that because the West Indian captain has referred to himself as black, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  

Surely we don’t mean to associate Sammy’s reference to himself as a proud or confident black man with being called the equivalent of a ‘blackie’.

What would have been more hurtful for the player was the fact that he even laughed along with it, only to find out later on that he was in fact, the subject of the joke.

Coming out in support of Sammy, however, former West Indies teammate Chris Gayle rightly pointed out ‘it’s never too late to fight for the right cause’.  In this case, Sammy is well within his right to demand an apology and he should get one.

 

Cricket West Indies (CWI) Johnny Grave has sought to set aside rumours that the regional team was obligated to accept the tour of England because of a US$3m loan they received from the England Cricket Board (ECB) earlier this year.

The West Indies and England are set for a return to international cricket next month with a three-match Test series, in England.  With the spread and effects of the coronavirus still very much evident in the UK, however, some have questioned the wisdom of the decision, particularly based on the risk posed to the players.

With 291,409 thousand reported cases and 41,279 deaths, the UK is the hardest-hit region in Europe.  The ECB has, however, been taking precautions with a chartered flight for the team to the UK and the implementation of a biosecure environment for the series, which will keep the players quarantined from the rest of the general public for the duration of the tour.  There is still, however, some risk attached but Grave has been quick to dismiss suggestions the invitation was accepted because of a debt owed.

“We got a three-million-dollar advance of our ICC distribution that was given to us by ECB.  It’s a short-term interest-free advance because its due to be paid back in full in July, directly by ICC to ECB and will be deducted from the money we get,” Grave told Barbados Nationnews.

“In early May when we received it, we weren’t discussing it at all because the situation in the UK was not the state that it is now.  So, I guarantee you it’s not linked in any way shape, or form to our touring or not touring.”

West Indies captain Jason Holder said the Windies are not favourites for their upcoming series against England but his players are eager to get into action.

West Indies legend Sir Andy Roberts believes up and coming fast bowler Oshane Thomas should have been one of the names scribbled higher on the list for the team’s upcoming three-Test tour of England.

The 23-year-old pace bowler has been added as a reserve for the tour but is not a part of the 14-man squad for the series.  In fact, he is yet to make his test cricket debut but has played 20 ODIs and 12 T20Is since his debut in late 2018 and picked up five-wicket hauls in both limited-overs formats. 

Roberts believes the tour would provide the perfect opportunity to look at the player for the longest format of the game, because of one attribute, his raw pace.

“He should be in that 14-man squad from the onset.  He has what others want, he has pace.  Everybody wants pace,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“He may not be a wicket-taker but he may create some problems for the opposition and that is what you want.  Sometimes it’s not the guy who gets the wickets, it’s the guy who creates the problem that gets the other guys the wickets.”

Thomas had an impressive outing for the West Indies before the global game was halted due to the spread of the coronavirus.  He took 5 for 28 and 1 for 24 as West Indies swept Sri Lanka 2-0 in a T20I series in the first week of March.

 

 

 

West Indies fast bowling great Sir Andy Roberts insists it was a mistake for the team to embark on the current tour of England, without tangible compensation, due to the high risk taken by the players.

The West Indies and England will return to international cricket next month, with a three-Test match series behind closed doors.  With the spread of the coronavirus continuing to be a serious concern in the UK, for safety reasons, the players and everyone associated with the series will be kept in what has been described as a biosecure bubble for seven weeks.

With the United Kingdom (UK) being one of the hardest-hit countries by the virus and some 41,128 deaths already reported, there will doubtlessly be some element of risk in travelling for the tour.  As such, West Indies players were given the option of not accepting the invitation, with Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul all deciding to opt-out due to safety concerns.  As is customary, it is the host team that will be entitled to the revenue from the series, with the decision by the West Indies expected to save the England and Wales Cricket Board £120million in reimbursements to Sky Sports.

Due to the exceptional nature of the circumstances, Roberts believes the Caribbean team should have secured better compensation.

“I don’t have a problem with them negotiating to go to England, but what I have a problem with is talk that the West Indies will not benefit from the tour financially,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I think that is a mistake because the chances that we are going to take, I don’t think you have many more countries that would be willing to take such a chance,” he added.

“If they are to benefit financially then I don’t have a problem, but if they are not going to benefit from it, then I have a problem, why take the risk and sacrifice the guys?”

West Indies captain Jason Holder revealed that he is yet to personally face racist abuse, while on the pitch, but was once shocked at the vitriol directed towards South African cricketer Hashim Amla.

The issue of racial injustice has been at the forefront of global discussion in recent weeks, following the killing of an African American George Floyd by a white police officer.  Derek Chauvin was filmed with his knee on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes in a video that prompted anguish and outrage around the globe.

The issue has morphed into a broader discussion on the need for an end to racial discrimination and inequality, with several athletes joining the cause.  Holder noted that although it was important to be professional, the circumstances can be tough for players to take.

“Look, as a player, you just got to be professional and shut it out, but some comments are such that it’s hard to block out. You know some of those comments sometimes make people retaliate,” Holder said during an Instagram talk with sports commentator Arun Venugopal.

“I haven’t personally had to bear the brunt of any of them, but I have seen things with people like Moeen Ali and Hashim Amla [who were subjected to racist attacks]. I have met Hashim Amla, I have played cricket with Hashim Amla. If you probably think I am a nice man, he is the ultimate nice guy, man. He is the nicest person that I have ever met, swear to God,” Holder added.

“And to hear people get down on Hashim and say things or even bring racial comments into it, it is just sad, man. It’s just sad to see the level of intelligence of people,” he added.

 

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy has revealed that words uttered by all-rounder Ben Stokes had fired up batsman Marlon Samuels, who put on an outstanding display to help the team clinch the 2016 T20 World Cup.

Big hitter Carlos Brathwaite stole the spotlight with four straight sixes off the unfortunate Stokes in the final over, but at the other end, Samuels’ man-of-the-match 85 runs from 66 balls innings provided the backbone for the team.

According to Sammy, Samuels who came to the crease at 11 for 3 and with things looking grim for the Windies, revealed he had received added motivation.

“Marlon told us something, and maybe Root could confirm that when Marlon came in at 11-3. He came to bowl and he said something like ‘you guys, I would like to see you come out of this one’ and Marlon was just taking his time, making sure that comment, whatever he (Ben Stokes) said to him as he walked in, that got him really focused,” Sammy said in a recent interview with Sky Sports’ Cricket Watch in a segment that discussed the tournament.  England batsman Joe Root, the team’s vice-captain at the time, did not seem convinced Samuels was telling the truth.

“It would have been a good effort because Ben was at long-on, so I don’t know how that happened. He might have just made it up,” Root added.

Sticking to his guns, Sammy insisted that the event was quite possible.

“When he was bowling to him, Ben Stokes was bowling an over to him and he said something to Marlon during that time. Because Marlon told us about it. He was really pumped. If you notice, in the back end, Marlon said something to him after that. But it’s all cricket man.”

A few cricket fans on social media have criticised former West Indies captain Darren Sammy for what they believe is some amount of hypocrisy, over recent accusations of racism leveled against IPL team Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Earlier this week, Sammy reacted with anger after finding out a word he was referred to by his teammates, during his time at the club, kalu, did not mean what he thought.

"I just learnt what that kalu meant. When I played for Sunrisers in the IPL, they called me and Perera by that name,” Sammy said in a tweet over the weekend.

"I thought it meant strong Stallion. My previous post tells me something different and I am angry."

The West Indies star later explained in the video, posted on Monday, that he was later told the term was not one of endearment.

"I was listening to Hasan Minhaj talking about how some of the people in his culture view or describe black people,” Sammy said.

"Instantly I remembered when I played for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013 and 2014, I was being called the exact same word that he described.

"I will be messaging those people - you guys know who you are. I must admit, at the time in which I was being called that, I did not know what it meant.

"Me being a team man, I thought, hey, team-mates are happy, it must be something funny. You can understand my frustration and my anger when it was pointed out to me that it wasn't funny at all, it was degrading.

"So, I'm going to be texting you guys, and asking you guys, when you repeatedly called me that word over and over again to the point that I was even saying that's my name, did you all mean it in any way, shape or form as a degrading word to me.”

Some, however, insisted that the player knew what the word meant after referencing a 2014 tweet in which he called himself ‘Dark Kalu’.  Others insisted the term simply meant black and had no negative connotations, while others pointed to Sammy tweeting ‘Black Bros’ followed by the fire emoji on his IG page.  Others wanted to know why it was not ok for the Ishant Sharma to refer to Sammy as kalu, when he often referred to himself as black.

Interestingly there was no mention as to whether there were skin colour references or nicknames for Dale Steyn, Brendan Taylor or Aaron Finch, white teammates of Sammy who represented the club at the time.