Windies head coach Phil Simmons admits to being pleased by increasing pressure placed on batsmen to perform, with competition for spots in the line-up beginning to heat up.

Recently the duo of Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmeyer returned to the batting line-up, but there was no room for the out of form Shai Hope, once a staple of the batting order.  With Bravo looking to be in good form on his return to the line-up and some displays of consistency from the likes of Sharmarh Brooks and Roston Chase, Simmons hopes the tussle for places leads to steadier performances in the future.

“It’s a case where everybody is under pressure.  We are getting more and more of a group of batsmen where everyone is competing for four or five places,” Simmons told members of the media via an online press conference from New Zealand.

“With the likes of Hetmyer coming back in and Bravo coming back in, after missing the England tour, Shai Hope is not here.  You are getting a group that is fighting for three or four positions in this case,” he added. 

“So, it is putting pressure on them to perform, that is what we want.  If you perform you will be there and the performance we are talking about is 100s, big 100s that is what we keep singing to the players.”

 

West Indies coach Phil Simmons insisted he was not overly concerned by the struggles of the bowling unit to take wickets in the first practice game last week.

It was tough going on day one of the first tour match, for a Windies bowling unit that included top strike bowlers Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Alzarri Joseph.  Of the trio, Joseph was the only one to take a wicket in the first innings as New Zealand A put on 308 for 3 before declaring.  Gabriel did claim a wicket in the second innings of the drawn match.

The coach, however, believes the consistent threat of the bowling unit over the past several years speaks for itself and remained more concerned about the team's batting, which has been far less assured during the same time period.

“Over the years we have seen that the bowling has been our strength,” Simmons told members of the media from New Zealand on Tuesday.

“If in these two matches, the one that’s gone and the one tomorrow, the batsmen can get into form and get into the line that we want them to, I’m not worried about the bowlers.  The bowlers are always up to the task in the Test matches for a few years now,” he added.

Led by a century from returning batsman Darren Bravo the West Indies did put in a solid performance with the bat after scoring 366 in their first innings.

 

West Indies T20 opener Andre Fletcher insists the team does not sweat about its current position in the world rankings, which stands at 9th despite being two-time world champions.

Heading into the series against New Zealand, which bowls off on Friday, the Windies will stand a full three places below their hosts on the global charts.  In terms of world titles in the format, however, it is the West Indies who lead having claimed two, with New Zealand yet to win one.  Fletcher does not believe the rankings will influence the team; in terms of the way it operates playing cricket internationally.

“Sometimes it’s tough winning two World Cups and ranking at 9th in the world.  It’s kind of unbalanced but we will get back up there with the ranking as long as we continue to play our brand of cricket,” Fletcher told members of the media.

“I don’t think anything will change, we’ll continue playing our brand of cricket,” he added.

Of course, one disparity that could account for the difference between the titles and world ranking is the fact that the West Indies often has key players missing for T20 internationals, due to other T20 league commitments or injury.  They remain the only team to have claimed the title on two occasions.

West Indies batsman Darren Bravo believes that being appointed captain of the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in January aided in his development and his maturity as a cricketer.

Fakhar Zaman will miss Pakistan's tour of New Zealand as he is still suffering from a fever.

Batsman Fakhar was named in a 35-man squad for three Twenty20 Internationals and two Tests against the Black Caps.

The 30-year-old opener tested negative for coronavirus but is not deemed to be well enough to fly out of Lahore with his team-mates on Monday.

Pakistan doctor Sohail Saleem said: "Fakhar's covid test report was received on Saturday which came out negative but today he picked up fever.

"As soon as his condition was reported, he was isolated from the rest of the squad in the team hotel. We are constantly monitoring his condition and remain hopeful of his quick recovery; however he is not fit to travel with the squad and as such has been withdrawn from the touring party."

Pakistan and New Zealand start the T20 series at Eden Park on December 18.

Former West Indies pace bowler Tony Gray has expressed concern with the bowling technique of spinner Rahkeem Cornwall, which he believes could eventually lead to the player suffering injury issues.

Another former player, legendary spinner Lance Gibbs, sparked controversy after questioning the effectiveness of the player’s short run-up technique last year.  Taking the analysis a step further, however, Gray believes the unusual technique could also put a strain on the player’s body.

Cornwall has constantly faced criticism for his overall fitness level but has achieved some measure of success despite that.   At an estimated 1.96 m and 308 lbs, he is believed to be the heaviest man to ever play Test cricket.

“I ask the question that has never been answered.  Is Cornwall’s problem genetic, because if it’s genetic it’s going to be difficult to lose the weight?  If not, why hasn’t he lost the weight yet, since the under-19 level,” Gray said recently on the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I share Lance Gibbs's opinion…the thing about it is if you look at Cornwall’s mechanics, he is a big guy, he takes two steps and it puts a lot of pressure on his body," he added.

“He had a knee operational earlier this year, not a serious one but he still had some pressure on that knee.  My thing with him is that early on in his career he should have been coached with better mechanics, giving him at least four or five steps.  Spinners who can rip the ball, they don’t only use their wrist or their fingers, but obviously, their body as well and you can’t use your body if you are taking only two steps.”

 

Returning West Indies batsman Darren Bravo crafted an enterprising century to anchor the team’s efforts on day two of the three-day First Class match against New Zealand A on Friday.

Bravo made 135 from 214 balls as the regional team ended the day at 329-6, inching 21 runs ahead of the Blackcaps' first innings total of 308 for 3 declared.  Bravo, 31, one of the most capped members of the West Indies Test squad on the Tour of New Zealand with 54 matches behind him, batted a little more than 4½ hours at the crease after he started the day on eight. Bravo raced towards his hundred in a volley of strokes, mostly off left-arm spinner Michael Rippon.

 In reaching the target, Bravo struck 13 fours and five sixes and formed a third-wicket partnership with Shamarh Brooks that was worth 122.

Brooks made 80 from 152 balls, with the team also receiving contributions from newly appointed vice-captain Roston Chase who made 41 from 62 balls.  The New Zealand bowling line-up did not feature anyone likely to gain selection for the official matches and no bowler claimed more than one wicket.

The first Test between New Zealand and West Indies starts on December 3 at Seddon Park in Hamilton and the second Test begins on December 11 at the Basin Reserve in Wellington.

 

Scores

New Zealand A 308-3 declared (R Ravindra 112, H Nicholls 76, D Conway 46no, J Carter 41no) v West Indies 329-6 (D Bravo 135, S Brooks 80, R Chase 41) in Queenstown.

 

 

Rachin Ravindra scored a century as New Zealand ‘A’ declared on 308 for 3 on the opening day of their three-day match against the West Indies at the John Davies Oval in Queenstown, New Zealand on Thursday.

 The West Indies then lost the wicket of John Campbell before the close of play with the West Indies still 291 runs behind.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat, New Zealand crept to 43 in 16 overs before Will Young was caught down the leg side for 27 trying to pull a short one from Chemar Holder.

The dismissal brought Henry Nichols to the crease where he and Ravindra mounted a second-wicket stand of 160, putting the Caribbean bowlers to the sword.

After a slow start, Ravindra grew in confidence, scoring 112 from 187 balls in a knock that included 10 fours and two sixes. Nichols proved to be a solid partner hitting eight fours before Raymon Reifer had him caught behind by Joshua DaSilva for a well-played 76.

It was soon 227 for 3 as Ravindra was eventually caught by Kemar Roach after pulling Alzarri Joseph to deep backward square leg.

Devon Conway was on 46 and Joe Carter, 41, when Captain Cole McConchie called the declaration after 79 overs.

Reifer was the best of the West Indies bowlers with 1 for 29 from his seven overs with Holder taking 1 for 58 and Josephs 1 for 55.

Campbell was dismissed for 4 playing on trying to pull Blair Tickner, whose previous delivery he had hit to the boundary.

However, Kraigg Brathwaite remained unbeaten on two and Darren Bravo, 8, as the West Indies got to the close on 17 for 1.

  

 

 

Former West Indies pace bowler Franklyn Rose believes the development of the regional team has been hampered by a ‘chop and change’ mentality with batsman Shai Hope being just the most recent victim.

The decision to drop the 27-year-old Hope, after his recent monumental struggles, has divided public opinion.  While some believe the player could benefit from time away from the team to address potential confidence and technical issues, others believe the batsman would best be served staying within the system, even if he remains outside of the first team.

Rose, for his part, believes with the team currently in rebuilding mode, nothing will be gained from the talented player being pushed out of the squad at this point.

“They’re rebuilding, how are you going to get rid of the guy (Hope) when you are rebuilding.  He’s one of the brightest talents,” Rose told the Mason and Guest radio program.

 “West Indies cricket is rebuilding.  You cannot chop and change while rebuilding.  Shai Hope, one of the best talents in the Caribbean, you just drop him like that.  I would have brought him on tour, got him to play a few of the practice games.  Even if he doesn’t get to play Test matches.  What cricket is he going to play now to get back his confidence?”

Former West Indies fast bowler Franklyn Rose has expressed serious concerns regarding the fitness of spinner Rahkeem Cornwall, despite admitting that the bowler has incredible talent.

The 27-year-old off-spinner was recently selected as part of a 15-man Test squad that will face New Zealand in a two-match series later this month.  

After putting in several strong performances at the regional and A-Team level, the player made his debut for the West Indies senior team against India last year.

Cornwall has since gone on to appear in three matches, where he has claimed 13 wickets with a best innings of 7 for 75 against Afghanistan.  Discussions surrounding the player have, however, inexorably centred around his weight.  At an estimated 1.96 m and 308 lbs, he is believed to be the heaviest man to ever play Test cricket.  The debate surrounding the issue has settled mainly into two camps, with some believing the player should continue to be given a chance because of his achievements to date and others believing he should be judged on the same fitness merit as other players selected for the squad.  Rose has trended toward the latter.

“He has a lot of talent, but no disrespect, I have a problem with his fitness,” Rose told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Say for example they play him in the first Test and he makes 100 runs. ‘Very well done, congratulations’ but when he goes out into the field to field, how many runs is he going to give away?” he added.

“No disrespect, it doesn’t fit the profile of a Test cricketer.  Maybe try him with the T20.  Can he bat for three days? Do you think he can bat for three days in a Test match? Can he chase the ball to the boundary, pick it up and throw it back in?”

Cornwall is often deployed in the slip positions when the team is on fielding duty.

West Indies vice-captain Roston Chase has called on the team’s batting line-up to give more support to the bowling unit, particularly as it relates to putting up strong first innings performances.

Ahead of the start of the New Zealand tour, the Windies batting struggles have been well documented.  In their previous series against England, the team’s batting average teetered at around 27.86 and that was one of the team’s best in recent years.

The team’s highest batting average in a Test series consisting of at least two matches since 2017 is 34.66 and that was against Zimbabwe in 2017.

While they have struggled at the crease, however, the team has developed a strong bowling line-up, a four-pronged attack that consists of captain Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, and Alzarri Joseph.

“What I would like to see improve overall is the batting of the team.  I think that our bowlers have been doing brilliantly for us, but we have not been getting big enough scores for them to bowl at,” Chase told members of the media from the team’s training camp in New Zealand.

“Mainly in the first innings, the first innings sets up the game for the whole Test match.  Once you put the team under pressure with a good first innings total, they’ll always be chasing the game and that is a good thing to have the opposition doing in Test cricket…as a batting unit we need to give the bowlers more to work with.”

 

West Indies all-rounder Rovman Powell is eager to showcase his potential over the game’s longer format when he suits up for the team in two First Class matches.

The 27-year-old will be among a number of players typically recognized for their achievements in cricket's shortest format who will be looking to show that they merit consideration for the team’s Test cricket squad.

Prominently featured among that group has been T20 standout Nicholas Pooran, but Powell also believes he is capable of having a big impact with both bat and ball.

“I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking to show my all-around capabilities.  Whenever I’m given the ball, to put it in the right areas and get wickets,” Powell told windiescricket.

“West Indies needs players that can bat a long time.  So, I’m trying my best to go into those games and bat for a session, bat for two sessions,” he added.

Powell, who has never played Test cricket for the West Indies, has accumulated 338 runs in 11 First Class matches, with a high score of 71.  The West Indies will open its tour of New Zealand with three T20 series.

The pair of First Class matches are expected to take place at the same time as the Test match.  The first Test is scheduled for Hamilton, between December 3-7, with the second booked for Wellington from December 11-15. 

 

Guyanese all-rounder Keemo Paul has signed with the Hobart Hurricanes Stars in Australia’s Big Bash League.

New Zealand strike bowler Trent Boult and captain Kane Williamson have opted out of the T20 series against the West Indies, in order to be fully fit for the Test series. 

The Windies are booked to face New Zealand in a three-match T20 international series, which will run between the 27th to 30th of this month.

Both Boult and Williamson had several strong performances in the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) season, but the Blackcaps have prioritised the Test series.   New Zealand are eyeing a spot in the World Test Championship final at Lord's next year.  They are currently fourth in the standings and need to beat West Indies in the two-Test series in December to stake their claim.

"We've had to make a decision on Kane and Trent to prioritise the test matches, given how important they are to our red-ball team and the fact they both played such big roles in the recent IPL while also managing injuries," New Zealand coach Gary Stead said after announcing the squads.

"There's no secret we're right in the hunt for the World Test Championship final following our two-nil win over India and having Trent and Kane fully fit and focussed for the upcoming series will be crucial."

 

In four days’ time when the West Indies bow into action against New Zealand ‘A’ at the Queenstown Events Centre in Queenstown, New Zealand, fans should expect to see evidence of some of the areas that head coach Phil Simmons has had the players concentrating on since they arrived in New Zealand.

The West Indies were given a special dispensation to train while they were isolation but have now began more intensive training as they ramp up their preparations for their three T20 Internationals and two Test-series that begins on November 27.

Phil Simmons revealed that there are specific areas which the team has been focused on that will hopefully translate in better performances in what is expected to be a challenging tour.

“The big areas are consistency, especially in the bowling and understanding situations, especially in the batting,” Simmons said.

We have situations when we have been in control of games and people give away their wickets, so things like that are the main things that we are concentrating on now.”

Overall, things have been going well Simmons said, explaining that while some days have been cold there have also been warm days which they players have enjoyed.

“When its warm, West Indies teams tend to thrive so they’ve been very good. They’re enjoying it,” he said.

 

 

 

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