Talented all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall should shed the excess pounds if he wishes to realize his full potential as a member of a successful West Indies unit.

Now, hold on to your collective horses. Before I get accused of being unfair or picking on the player, or any of the other excuses those willing to bury their heads in the proverbial sand may concoct, as is truly typical of the modern victimhood culture, I must make clear that I have tremendous belief in Cornwall’s potential and ability. 

Regionally, he has routinely performed at a very high level.  He has proven his ability to take wickets for the A-team and had a splendid Test debut for the West Indies against India.  In the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Cornwall has flayed many opposition bowling attacks.  There should be no doubt that if he continues to work at his game, he can become a quality all-rounder and a dependable weapon for West Indies.  For the sport of cricket, his considerable weight, which in all likelihood kept him from being selected sooner, is an obstacle he must overcome.

The aim of the majority of professional athletes is often to maximize their physical capability.  Surely Cornwall is functional, but anyone who can honestly claim they believe the athlete is performing at his peak needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and consider whether they really mean him any good.  He is good now, but at his best, he could be great. We should therefore never hinder personal improvement by stifling objective analysis. 

While the team’s coach Phil Simmons recently claimed the player’s, weight was not an issue, one does not have to go far to think of instances where it could be.  What about instances in the game where quick singles are required?  His inability to do so is clearly a tactic that can and has been used against the player to the detriment of both himself and the team.  Anyone who has watched the CPL will have seen teams decide that it is the best way to attack the destructive batsman. 

In a memorable 2017 CPL encounter between the St Lucia Stars and Barbados Trident, current One Day International (ODI) captain Kieron Pollard was incensed at the player’s decision to quit after making a blistering 78 from 44.  Cornwall seemed gassed after being earlier hit by a Pollard delivery, but his opponent clearly believed that being in poor physical shape played a factor in his not being able to go on and make a 100.

Why would anyone be encouraged to work on weaknesses in their game and not have prime physical fitness on the list? 

It would be an interesting explanation as to why so little progress has been made after Cricket West Indies promised to put the all-rounder on a special programme, which included a dietician, over three years ago. 

Additionally, with the team’s renewed focus on fitness, which saw them implement the famed Yoyo Fitness Endurance programme that has a minimum score of 40, it would be interesting to discover why Cornwall has been given a pass when other players have been dropped for not making the fitness grade. If the player cannot lose weight due to a medical exemption, one wonders how it cannot be a risk to play competitive cricket.

At 27 years old the player should be at or close to his physical peak, it is surely an indictment to not encourage him to put in the work required to get to the very top of his game.

 

It’s been a long time since the West Indies has had consistently good results in Test cricket. In fact, since the Caribbean men gave up the Frank Worrell Trophy to Australia in 1995, we have only won 22 Test series. Twelve of those wins were against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, teams which do not represent the best this game has to offer.

Most of our joy, as West Indies cricket supporters in the recent past, has come from our advent in the world of T20 cricket. We have won 56 of 124 matches, of which 5 were no results. It’s a record which betters our Test match results despite the fact we only have a 45 per cent win record.

However, within that win record, we have beaten the best on the planet to capture two world titles. But because of inconsistency, we are ranked ninth in world T20 cricket.

So yes, as supporters, we have been living off scraps.

And that’s simply because West Indies doesn’t know what it’s like playing as a team anymore, which is fundamental when trying to be the best in Test Cricket.

We, in the media (and I have been guilty of this at times), try to shape a narrative which leans to the dramatic when trying to tell a story. So we may say stuff like; “the match was lost at the toss”, in the aftermath of a team’s failure to overcome.

No match is ever lost at the toss.

Or we may say “the turning point in the game was when he was dropped”. Again, this is just used as poetic license. More often than not, we miss minor shifts in the game, and we fail to take into account innocuous happenings on the field of play which may determine a wicket or even an extra run.

And Test cricket takes into account these minor shifts.

The reason why the West Indies team is so poor, especially in Test cricket is that we rely too much on individual performances.

We tend to get away with it, the shorter the game of cricket becomes because any one of our talented boys can win a match by sheer skill and will for a short period of time.

Ask any of our batsmen to bat an entire two-hour session to make just 25 runs, and save a Test match in the hot Sharjah sun, or in the cold Old Trafford breeze, and they struggle mentally and otherwise to do so.

However, if you ask the same batsmen to hit 4 sixes in an over to win a T20 World Cup, we actually stand a better chance of doing so. And we would remember their name for a long time to come.

In the midst of sustained pressure, this West Indies team flops. This doesn’t mean they are not a talented bunch of youngsters. The fact our captain Jason Holder is now the number two allrounder in the world speaks to his skill and hard work. However, he alone cannot win a Test match.

Test cricket is all about how a team performs. If last-man-standing, Courtney Walsh didn’t survive five deliveries on a cool Tuesday afternoon at the Kensington Oval in March of 1999, no one would be heralding Brian Lara’s 153 not out against Australia as one of the greatest Test innings of all time.

Grit and fight are needed to make a formidable Test cricket team. These are the attributes which were the hallmark of their current coach Phil Simmons when he was playing. And this West Indies team lacks it. That cannot be taught. However, it can be harnessed through adversity. The fact that these West Indian boys were able to reach so far in their careers shows they worked sufficiently enough to be the crème de la crème of the region. They now just need to learn how to lean on each other.

So even when a catch is dropped, they won’t be thinking that the course of a Test match is irrevocably changed against them. But they will go again.

Donald Oliver is a football and cricket commentator and a senior producer at SportsMax. Learn more about him at www.thedonaldoliver.com or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Last week I suggested England’s ben Stokes was close to overtaking Jason Holder as the number one allrounder in the world, despite Holder’s heroics in the first #raisethebat Series Test at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

This week Stokes confirmed my suspicions.

Stokes scored a couple of 40-odds and took 4-49 and 2-39, the most wickets for England, in that first Test, but still, Holder’s six-for put him ahead, even though the latter had a very ordinary outing with the bat.

I have consistently thought Stokes, over the course of his career, displays the better all-round ability, though Holder clearly wins in the bowling department.

Now, after two Tests of a three-Test series, Stokes has shown, with both bat and ball, he may very well be the greatest allrounder of the modern era.

After the second Test, Stokes duly took his place as the number-one Test allrounder in the world.

I agree with that.

Stokes is a complete allrounder.

In that second Test between England and the West Indies at Old Trafford, Stokes was in full flight.

He began the Test with 176, then broke the back of the West Indies innings when he had Kraigg Brathwaite caught and bowled for 75.

Stokes would continue to impact the Test in no uncertain terms, scoring a bruising 78 not out from just 57 deliveries to give England a platform from which they could bowl at the West Indies.

Stokes’ 2-30 when the West Indies bat was crucial, as he was the man who bounced out Jermaine Blackwood who had scored a classy 55 just before tea on the final day. I believe that was the wicket that ensured England their 113-run victory. He also proved the undoing of Alzarri Joseph, who has already proven a capable lower-order batsman.

I have always felt that an allrounder on the biggest stage in cricket is not just someone who is ok in all areas. These are professional cricketers and by and large, they’ll be ok at anything they do.

But an allrounder, I believe, to be classified as such, should be excellent in all areas.

A player who bowls well and bats a bit, for me, is not an allrounder. A player, who bats well and bowls a bit is not an allrounder either. Those are just cricketers. Maybe better cricketers than their peers, who only do one thing, but just cricketers nonetheless.

Jason Holder is a good cricketer.

He is no mug with the bat as his double century against England in Bridgetown, Barbados last year goes to prove. But Holder, for me is a bowler at this point in his career.

When I watch him bat, I see potential. He seems to be competent against spin as well as pace and has an uncanny way of seeming unhurried when he plays.

When I watch him bowl though, I see a bowler who can compete with the best in the world.

He is a fantastic bowler.

Standing at 6’ 7” I wish he were quicker, but at his pace, he generates bounce, movement and can be quite aggressive when he needs to be. His accuracy is phenomenal and I’ve watched him develop the perfect wrist positions to do exactly what he wants with the ball.

Holder’s ascent to the number two position among bowlers in Test cricket is no accident.

But, for me, that does not make him an allrounder.

Could he make the West Indies team as purely a batsman? He certainly could as a bowler.

Stokes, on the other hand, makes the England side in any capacity.

If he were unable to bat, the strength of his bowling, though not in Holder’s class, I don’t think, would give him a place in the England line-up.

He is certainly a key cog as a batsman and could play as solely that if he could not bowl.

In fact, I go as far as to say, Stokes is England’s best batsmen and he is the bowler who breaks the back of big partnerships.

Talking about fielding is a nonstarter since both Stokes and Holder are excellent fielders.

But, I think, by now you get my point.

With the bat, Holder is too mediocre at this stage of his career to really call him an allrounder, but there is hope.

I believe if Holder puts in the same kind of work into his batting that he does his bowling and this is difficult because he is captain of the West Indies, I believe he could become a real true-to-life allrounder.

Excellent at all things cricket.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson will lift the Premier League trophy after their final home match against Chelsea on Wednesday. It will confirm Liverpool as the winner of the Premier League for the very first time. They will be champions of England in 30 years, a lifetime.

Invariably, the conversations have already begun about whether this team will be considered among the great teams and whether they can defend the title, they have waited three decades to win.

Liverpool last won the division title in 1990, the same year I began working at the Gleaner and two years before the formation of the Premier League. Since that time, I got married twice and divorced once. I worked at the Gleaner for 14 years before leaving.

I migrated, ran a newspaper in St Maarten and then returned to Jamaica more than a decade ago.  Throw in four years at Sportsmax and you have an idea of how long I have waited to see Liverpool win the Premier League.

I literally shed tears when they fell short by two points in 2014 but by last year when they finished second by a point, I was jaded.

97 points! Those would have won the title in any other year except 2018 and last year. I was honestly beginning to wonder if Liverpool would ever win the league.

Thankfully, this season has been spectacular. Liverpool has scored 93 points with two games to go. Three losses this season, two of them coming after the protracted break caused by the pandemic and one coming after the title was won and there was nothing left to play for.

If Liverpool beat Chelsea and Newcastle, the team will close the season on 99 points, one shy of the remarkable record of 100 set by Manchester City two seasons ago and still, people question the team’s greatness.

Will Liverpool be ranked alongside the Manchester United teams from about 2005 to 2009? No, not yet. I think they will have to win at least one more league title and perhaps an FA Cup before we can have that conversation. Hey, I wouldn’t mind them winning the Champions League for a seventh time, four more than our nearest rivals, Manchester United. Then it would not be a conversation anymore.

Will they be considered as great at the Chelsea champions under Jose Mourinho? One more title and they are right there.

Notwithstanding all that, it is clear that this Liverpool team is already a great team in its own right. This season they became the first English team to hold the Champions League trophy, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Premier League trophy simultaneously.

The team has heart, grit, the stuff of which champions are made.

This is a team that suffered a heart-breaking 3-1 loss to Real Madrid in Champions League final of 2018, only to rebound and to win it in 2019. This after, coming back from 3-0 down in a tie against Barcelona in the semi-final. The 4-0 demolition of Barcelona at Anfield in the return leg is already the stuff of legend.

Also in 2019, they lost the league by a single point having amassed an incredible 97 points but again bounced back to win the league and will possibly do so by scoring more points than they did the previous season.

All this while leading last season’s champions, Manchester City, a team many consider to be the greatest Premier League side, by more than 20 points most of the way.

They are one of two teams to score 90-plus points in consecutive seasons. Only Manchester City can boast to have won more points – 100 and 98 in consecutive seasons.

This Liverpool team might not be the greatest Premier League team in history, yet, but give it time.  

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

 

Sorry is just not enough Jofra!

England fast bowler Jofra Archer has been fined, and given a written warning, after breaching bio-secure protocols ahead of the second #raisethebat Test against the West Indies. Despite numerous efforts to educate players on the dangers of the coronavirus and ensure their safety, Archer made an unauthorized trip to his home, in Hove, after the first Test at Southampton's Ageas Bowl.

 As a result, the bowler was excluded from the England squad for the second Test, at Emirates, Old Trafford, and is in isolation.  The 25-year-old has apologised for his conduct; "I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

 "It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry."

Saying sorry is not enough. Changed behavior is what is required moving forward. There are those arguing that he is young. However, twenty-five years is old enough to understand the severity of the coronavirus.  Archer’s action was selfish in many ways. Despite being briefed on the protocols and being aware of the dangers of the coronavirus, he put the health and safety of the team in jeopardy. Apart from health and safety concerns, which is enough to call off the series and put the organisers time and effort to waste, he let down his team and fans who waited months to see live sport again.

Archer, who took three wickets in the Southampton Test, which England lost by four wickets, was omitted from the squad to face West Indies in the crucial Manchester Test. Again, his selfishness put his team’s game plan into disarray, while costing him a place in the squad; a test match that they must win in order to stay in the series.

Following Archer’s selfish actions, England are now considering releasing players from the bio secure bubble before the series against Pakistan. This will be done in order to avoid the temptation to breach guidelines like Archer did when he took a 130-mile detour to go home on Monday.

 

 Is it time to revisit the financial fair play regulations (FFP)?

Manchester City’s two-year ban from UEFA competitions was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and is proof that the governing body's Financial Fair Play project needs reexamination. It was created to ensure balance between rich and poor clubs. Has it done that? The answer is no.

After CAS announced their verdict on Monday, under which City must still pay a €10million fine – reduced from €30m – for failing to co-operate with the investigation, UEFA issued a statement saying they are “committed to the principles" of FFP. How much of FFP is worth saving? How effective has it been?

Not much has been done in redressing the competitive balance. Those who earn more spend more, and in doing so, dominate on the field in most competitions. Bayern Munich won their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title this season, Juventus are on course for a ninth-straight Scudetto, while in Ligue 1, PSG were crowned champions for the seventh time in eight years. It is evident that clubs with money continue to hold a lot of power.

The CAS ruling is a chance for UEFA to re-visit the FFP rules, especially the time factor issue. The Swiss-based court said a number of the allegations against City were time-barred under UEFA's own rules, which means cases more than five years old cannot be punished. The ruling clearly points to the immediate future of FFP if it is not rectified or improved.

A softening of regulations was announced last month to help ease the financial pressure on clubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.  However, UEFA needs to remember the main reason these regulations were created; to ensure balance with rich and poor clubs, that balance has been lost or should I say it was never achieved.

    The regulations are not specific or clear, especially around sponsorship deals, stadium infrastructure, and youth development and needs revisiting if it is to achieve its true purpose. Despite calls to eradicate FFP completely, UEFA needs some form of financial control within the game but that doesn’t appear to be FFP in its current format.

 

  Is LeBron upset that he was not consulted in selecting social justice messages?

Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis have stated they will not be wearing social justice messages on the back of their playing shirts, when the NBA restarts on July 30, in Orlando, after the break due to COVID-19.

LeBron revealed in a Zoom call with the media that he prefers wearing his own name on the back of his jersey, rather than one of the NBA-approved social justice slogans. He explained that it does not resonate with his mission and he would have loved to contribute to what went on the back of his jersey but he was not included in the consultation process.

The NBA's approved social justice messages are: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can't Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group.

Le Bron’s refusal to wear a social justice message was surprising as he is often outspoken on causes that are dear to him. What else is surprising is the NBA not consulting him on possible messages.  Social justice messages or not, the Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum and will continue to have an impact. The key however is education and awareness.

Over the years many athletes face the detrimental consequences of ageism in sports.

Feeling fragile, weak and the need to slow down is not even the half of it. Athletes are denied jobs, forced to give up on dreams prematurely and struggle with low self-esteem.

Jamaican athlete Ricardo Cunningham was only 35-years-old when an article was published highlighting that, “at his age, he is considered a grandfather in sports, racing against Father Time” though Cunningham felt he was just entering his prime.

In 2018, The Olympic Channel shared the concerns of 71-year-old Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston marathon who “feels ageism is right there with sexism.”

Here’s what it’s going to take to reduce the effects of ageism: changing attitudes and changing health.

Age helps to determine our interaction with others, especially when meeting new people. We look to age to answer questions like— will they be competent? Socially aware? How slowly should I talk? How loudly? It’s something we do every day, however, using it to decide social, cognitive and physical abilities is not always reliable.

So, rather than using someone’s age as permission to place limitations on them, it’s better to find out what individuals are actually capable of.

I can’t remember the year but I went to Boys’ and Girls’ Champs and witnessed the ‘parents race’. The line-up consisted of parents 50-years-old and older (if I had to guess). Usually, this race isn't taken seriously; just for fun. When the gun went off, it was no laughing matter though. The parents were powerful runners.

Sadly, older persons usually place limitations on themselves. Competition involves failure and success. Frequent disappointment is embarrassing and makes age an easy target. Age is used as an excuse to give up and accept defeat.

Yes. Getting older can affect athletic performance. But believing that our health steadily declines once it peaks in our 20s and 30s is inaccurate.

According to Jonathan Cawte, Sports Scientist & founder of Executive Athlete, the process happens over time. “Peak performance does not decline in a linear fashion. It is gradual.”

The scientist suggests that once poor lifestyle choices are removed from the equation, the potential of an athlete is great. The ageing athlete can “maximize the ‘healthspan’ by reaching a peak and then maintain our health, physical and cognitive capacities for as long as we can, compressing ill-health into as short a period as possible.” How well an athlete is able to do this depends on the particular athlete and therefore, making a judgement about an athlete based solely on their age may be a mistake.

Similarly, Ricardo Cunningham understands how his body works and how that knowledge helped him as a well-established athlete.

"I am a sports science major, so that kind of gives me the advantage in the sense that I know how the body functions and what to expect," Cunningham said.

"I know certain reactions that I am supposed to get while doing certain things. I can tell when the training is working or when it's not."

Though it‘s a common and natural process, aging doesn't sell.

Ashton Applewhite said it best: “you can’t make money off satisfaction. But shame and fear create markets and capitalism always needs new markets.”

Ageing and older athletes are not the problem.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Seven years ago, a fact-based thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis won best picture at the Academy Awards. The name of the picture was Argo, the name of the director was … some guy named Ben Affleck.

Sprint sensation Usain Bolt told Variety Magazine he’d consider coming back to the track, but there are other endeavours I would like to see the great sprinter explore. He has nothing more to prove on the track.

When Bolt made an appearance on OnStage to promote the ‘riddim’ he produced for his Champagne’s campaign, Wilford Williams, the host, asked the record holder why he got into music.

“I was always into music. Music has always been a part of my life throughout my career of track and field. But with the music thing enuh, it’s not easy to deal with these artistes; it’s not really an easy thing,” said Bolt.

Bolt continued to say that he’ll wait to see how well the riddim does before seeing if putting effort and time into music is worth it. But music is always worth it.

I only knew Tivoli Gardens as a political garrison, until I learned about Passa Passa. On Wednesday nights. Thousands of people would gather in the streets of West Kingston to dance and listen to music played by the sound system.

An article titled, ‘Happy Birthday Passa Passa!’ gave me a sense of how powerful music, like sports, can be in uniting people. Two selectors (Djs) from the sound system Swatch International were featured in the article— Nico Skill and Maestro.

Nicholas “Nico Skill” Smith explained how music reduced violence in the area.

“Before Passa Passa, there was crazy war going on in Kingston, in the Denham Town, Tivoli area and all these places. Every minute, we had something flare up. But since Passa Passa came about, we’ve been playing and it’s been drawing such a huge crowd, the violence in the community is no more. Communities have been fighting, but not in the Tivoli area,” said Nico Skill.

Carl “Maestro” Shelley co-signed Nico’s opinions.

“Jamaica was on the verge of a dancehall breakdown. Fun and unity had deteriorated. Different people from different areas, different communities that shared different political views, did not cooperate. We introduced Passa Passa and it became a way of unifying the garrisons, the communities that make up Jamaica’s inner city.”

Music (however it’s delivered) can bring out the good in people and places. Making it worthwhile.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

The West Indies are leading their three-Test series against England 1-0 thanks in large part to their skipper Jason Holder.

I have to admit that when Jason Holder was appointed captain of the West Indies Test team in September 2015, I was sceptical. At 23, having made his Test debut just over a year earlier, in June 2014, he was so young – the second youngest Test captain for the West Indies, and too inexperienced to be leading a side that had picked up a terrible habit of losing Test matches and losing them badly.

Between 2011 and 2016, the West Indies played 52 Tests in 20 series. They won only 13 of those matches, lost 27 and managed 12 draws. Those victories saw five series wins and 13 losses. Things were grim and in my opinion, was too much for a youngster who while talented, was still learning the game.

However, over the ensuing five years, many things have changed. In Holder’s first 11 Tests as captain, the West Indies lost eight and drew three of them. In his last 22 including Sunday’s win against England, Holder’s team has won 11 Test matches, lost nine and drawn two.

This latest win pulls him ahead of Brian Lara and into a tie with Richie Richardson as West Indies captains with the most Test wins. Only Clive Lloyd with 36 wins in 74 Tests and Sir Vivian Richards with 27 wins in 50 Tests have more. Richardson’s 11 wins came in 24 matches.

During that time the soft-spoken captain has seen his stocks rise. In July 2014, Holder was 91st in the ICC Test rankings, a year later he had risen to 45 in the rankings. By July 2017, he had climbed to 36 in the rankings and ninth in 2019.

As of today, Holder is the number-two ranked Test bowler in the world.

His batting has also had a significant impact on the fortunes of the side he leads.

Holder scored his maiden Test century against England in April 2015 and since then scored two more centuries and eight fifties averaging a healthy 32.49, considering how low he bats. This fact, along with his improved bowling has seen him become the number one Test all-rounder in the world.

With Holder in the team, the West Indies bowling attack averages a wicket every 32.79 runs. Without him, they take a wicket for every 40.38 runs scored. His impact with the bat is also significant. With him in the team, the West Indies scored an average of 26.34 runs for every wicket they lose. Without him, that number drops to 19.35.

In essence, without Holder, the West Indies bowling team concedes 75.9 more runs per inning while making 69.9 fewer runs per inning. What this math is telling you is that the West Indies are 145 runs worse off when he does not play, especially since he was given the captaincy.

This statistic takes on even greater significance when you consider that since January 1, 2017, the West Indies have won 80 per cent of Test matches (8 of 10 played) in which they have restricted the opposing team to a first-innings score of fewer than 250 runs.

During that same period, the West Indies have won 69 per cent of Test matches or 9 of 13 when they score 250 runs or more in their first innings.

The Test match that concluded on Sunday supports these figures as Holder’s match-changing 6 for 42 restricted England to 204. The West Indies replied with 318 even though Holder’s contribution with the bat was just five runs, it was his bowling that put the West Indies in a position of strength on Day 2, a position they did not relinquish for the duration of the match.

Without him, things can be much different. Since he was appointed, Holder has missed five Tests. The West Indies lost all five.

In August 2017, when England clobbered the West Indies by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston, the already beleaguered captain was under even greater pressure to relinquish the captaincy to someone with more experience; someone who the very fickle Caribbean public would find more tolerable.

It was a particularly difficult time for the young Barbadian.

“It’s not easy. We haven’t had the best results over the last few years but I enjoy it,” he said in an interview then revealing the steel that lies beneath the much softer façade the world sees.

“I don’t shy away from it and I don’t think I’d ever give it up. There might be a situation where people want to move on from me but I can’t control that.

“The one thing I can control is trying to get the best out of each and every individual in the dressing room and I try my best to do that. One thing I’ve said to myself is that when I leave here just leave some kind of mark on it. So far, the guys have been quite receptive and helped me out tremendously. It is a young group; we’re trying to learn as fast as we possibly can under the circumstances we’re faced with.”

It’s instructive that since then Holder has led the West Indies in five more Tests against England. He has won four.

The evidence is there, the West Indies are better with Holder in the team and at its helm. And, as he continues to improve in all areas, I suspect his impact on the team will be even greater.

For years, West Indies fans have been divided over when the team will finally turn that never-ending corner and return to winning ways, or at the very least, winning more consistently. What I do know for certain, is that with Holder leading this team, that corner might be finally be turned sooner rather than later.

*Statistics provided by Zaheer Clarke.

 

 

 

 

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

 

CPL 2020 – Age, just a number?

India’s Pravin Tambe has been signed by the Trinbago Knight Riders, for the Caribbean Premier League 2020, set for August 18 to September 10. The leg-spinner will make his debut at the age of 48. Upon the announcement, there was major opposition, with some even questioning the direction of the CPL.

In my opinion, age is just a number, and CPL is doing a great job at marketing the product by firstly stepping out of the age group commonly associated with the tournament, and secondly, signing the first Indian player. Bollywood actor Sharukh Khan co-owns the Knight Riders franchise, which started its journey in the Indian Premier League as Kolkata Knight Riders in 2008.  One must consider that the CPL wants to expand its market even more because of COVID-19 and its financial repercussions. Attracting a new audience by signing the first Indian player is a brilliant marketing decision.

The signing of Tambe is a good move, as his expertise will also add to the Knight Riders unit. The wrist-spinner, who played just two first-class matches for his home team Mumbai in 2013-14, was sold to KKR in the IPL auction in December. He has a total of 67 wickets in 61 T20 matches, at an average of 22.82.

The move by CPL to sign Tambe could encourage aging players to re-think their place in the shorter format of the game. Based on how he performs, this is shaping up to be a major turning point for older players in the CPL. Best of luck sir!

 

Respect earned West Indies!

It has been a while since I have felt this amount of confidence and excitement waking up at 5 am to watch the West Indies play cricket.  From this Test, what is certain is this group of players is on the right track and the positives outweigh the negatives. They have re-evoked confidence and hope in the fans. Congratulations on the four-wicket win earlier today! You have shown heart and hustle.

Jason Holder’s maturity as a captain continues to exceed expectations. He has reiterated through his performances that he should not be underestimated - especially with his new career-best of 6 for 42. The skipper came into this series with an injury cloud over his head, having bowled only five overs across West Indies’ two intra-squad warm-up games, while nursing an ankle niggle. He admitted that he felt ‘a little sore, a little stiff,’ after play on the second day but had confidence in his team. He had no hesitation in answering, ‘discipline,’ when asked at the toss what he was looking for from his bowlers, and followed that message by his own example.

Another glaring factor, in the team's enhanced performance, is there has been a lot of improvement from the youngsters. The unit is looking much more competitive than they have in previous years. Shane Dowrich is a good example of that improvement, having scored 61 off 115 balls in the first innings. Jermaine Blackwood and his well-played 95 from 154 balls ensured the Windies secured the win.

Kraigg Brathwaite’s 65, his first half-century in international cricket since March, put his team in a commanding position. He set up a platform from which the middle order could build on the third morning.  While many would have lost faith in Brathwaite's ability during his barren run - his most recent half-century came some 729 days ago - his captain, Jason Holder, gave him full support and he has played a pivotal role in the player’s re-emergence.

Shannon Gabriel has also been a standout performer, picking up a total of 9 wickets in the first Test, despite initial fitness concerns. He created an impact with the ball each time he bowled. These sentiments have been echoed by the Windies skipper who said, ‘he is a strike force for us, he is a weapon.  I think we were able to use him in short bursts where he can run in and express himself.  To me his consistency was good, and he looked good.’

 It is one thing to perform well at home, but the real test is away from familiar conditions. Especially coming off a long break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Whether we win, lose, or draw the series, this display of competitiveness has got the fans feeling hopeful and celebratory for the first in a long time. Thank you, Windies!

 

 Barca without Messi? What a joke!

Initially, when I read that Lionel Messi was leaving Barcelona, I dismissed it as fake news. I am fully aware that the captain has recently been displaying a different demeanor than we are accustomed to, but this information did not sit well with me.

Even after establishing himself as the best player in the world, Messi has always shunned the limelight. He has always been content with his records and to let his game do the talking for him, and it has spoken volumes. Things have changed, though, dramatically.

Recently, Messi has felt compelled to make his voice heard.

When sporting director Eric Abidal suggested that Barcelona's players were responsible for the dismissal of coach Ernesto Valverde, in January, Messi issued a sharp rebuke. When news broke the squad was reluctant to accept a coronavirus-related pay cut, the captain responded, highlighting the report was far from the truth. Although these are significant public statements from such a private person, I don’t see Messi ending his career at another club based on the legacy that he has built at Barca.

What we do know is that Messi is immensely frustrated with how the club is presently being run. The suspension of talks over an extension is evidence of his dissatisfaction, and it is indeed an indirect warning to the club’s management that the way things are done needs to be rectified.

There is a twist to the tale though. If anyone must go, it will not be Messi. It was previously thought that Bartomeu would see out the final year of his tenure no matter what, but Messi's refusal to sign a new contract has thrown the president's immediate future into doubt.

Messi's refusal to commit himself to a new deal has now piled pressure on his boss and there is every chance that next year's elections could now be brought forward. In reality, it’s Bartomeu who's now facing an early exit.

 

 

 

 

The other day I stumbled across an article explaining what it’s like to be a competitive rock climber.

Truly, I didn’t expect to show an ounce of empathy for the experienced rock climber. But with rock climbing having its Olympic debut in 2021, I decided to read it. Now I recognize how relatable rock climbing is for many of us.

A climbing wall (like the one at Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in Ocho Rios, St Ann) has coloured holds. The holds of the same colour signify where to place your hands or feet— this defines your climbing route.

In life, many of us have routes/paths we take to achieve a goal whether big or small.

Our individual routes/paths are unique. They have varying levels of hardships.

Similarly, there are three different types of competitive climbing— sport, bouldering and speed. All three take different skill sets. Also, the routes in sport and bouldering competitions are always unique because the holds are placed differently after each competition.

Naturally, we tend to compare routes/paths to see who’s life is more challenging. In competitive climbing, climbing routes are graded primarily on how complex the route is.

A complex route is dependent on how difficult the holds are to hold onto, how risky it is to reach each hold and the nature of the climbing wall itself. Holds have varying sizes— some so small it can hardly support a finger.

While climbing, climbers are bound to fall from the climbing wall because of how strenuous their route is.

Like them, the paths we take to achieve something in life can be so difficult or unfamiliar that we screw up.

All in all, rock climbing is oddly similar to life. There are unique paths to follow and along the way are adversities that force us to fall. Take now for instance, there is a pandemic challenging the paths of many like those from the entertainment sector. Many are struggling but it’s important to hang in there.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

I’m a Chelsea fan.

Now that is not a popular thing to be in my native Jamaica but I’ve been one since 1995, some 25 years ago.

I was not a fan of what used to be English football and at the time, the only team in the Premier League with any international flavour was Chelsea.

Chelsea boasted a squad with one English starter in Dennis Wise and were the only team in England that played with the type of flair I had grown up seeing from my father’s team of choice, Brazil.

Arsenal had not yet become the free-flowing team it became popular for and Manchester United, though winners, were not a target of my fancy.

But Chelsea, for all their beautiful football, were a mid-table team at best.

When they started to win, courtesy of an injection of cash from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, they lost some of that flair.

Players like Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Gustavo Poyet were no longer there and Jose Mourinho had turned the team into something resembling a machine that built cars to exacting specifications. Still I delighted in their success. Now they’re losing again and cannot seem to compete with the might of the Manchester Cities and Liverpools of this era. They have returned to playing with some flair but I cannot be completely happy with all the changes they have made to date.

But I will likely remain a Chelsea fan for the remainder of my time on this planet.

The same is true of the Jamaica Tallawahs. I fell in love with the Tallawahs much, in the same way, I fell in love with Chelsea.

I understood franchise cricket in much the same way I did club football and would have chosen any of the six teams in the CPL to be ‘mine’.

But just as I became a fan of the way the dread-locked Gullit would marshall his midfield and later Zola would turn a game on its head with a moment of brilliance, I could not get enough of big-hitting innings from Chris Gayle.

It was for this reason and this reason solely that I became a fan of the Tallawahs but I cannot now abandon them because, just as in club football, franchise cricket will witness changes.

And there have been a myriad of changes to the Tallawahs since the start of the Hero Caribbean Premier League, some seven years ago.

Now, there is no Chris Gayle, and the latest squad seems a far cry from the exciting days of the big left-hander smacking balls onto the roof of the North Stand at Kingston’s Sabina Park.

Still, I will remain with the Tallawahs as any true fan of a team should.

And maybe, despite the many changes, this Tallawahs line-up has a chance.

They do have more balance than they have had in recent years.

For a while, the Tallawahs batting was their strength but they had to bat teams out of games. Whenever they failed to get more than just a competitive score, they were certain to lose. In fact, I think they have the ignominy of sporting some of the highest losing totals in the competition's history.

This year may be different.

Fidel Edwards is an experienced fast bowler, who, along with the pace of Oshane Thomas, could pose some problems for their opposition in the league.

The Tallawahs also have something they have been missing for a few years now as well. An incisive spinner. Tabraiz Shamsi is the type of slow bowler the Tallawahs may just need. A left-arm wrist spinner, Shamsi is aggressive, with his 19.8 strike rate suggesting he will take wickets in the middle overs where the Tallawahs have been found wanting over the years.

Allrounder Carlos Brathwaite can provide both batting and bowling for the Tallawahs on the odd occasion, while Veerasammy Permaul can also do a job.

Now, I wouldn’t venture to pick the Tallawahs line-up but they have last season’s leading runscorer for them, Glenn Phillips, who should partner Chadwick Walton. The two can be explosive and put any team on the back foot. In the middle order, there is exciting Pakistani batsman, Asif Ali, as well as the power of Rovman Powell and Andre Russell. On a given day, any of those names can hurt an opposition, but there is the question of consistency.

That question has plagued the Tallawahs for years even though they have won the CPL twice.

But on those two occasions, they had Chris Gayle and even though he may not have been the man to provide the finals-winning performances, he did come up with innings of real class that helped them in getting through the season.

Last season the Tallawahs finished last and it is no surprise that Gayle had a poor run throughout.

Without him, the Tallawahs seem less dangerous, but I am still rooting for them. They’re my team and seem more balanced than ever before, even without the mighty Chris.

President of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA), Conde Riley, is wrong to ask for the immediate sacking of West Indies head coach, Phil Simmons.

I have great respect for Mr Riley, who has served Barbados and West Indies cricket admirably for more than 20 years, but his utterances this week were, in a word, irresponsible.

Mr Riley’s comments have created an issue where there should be none.

Here are the facts as I understand them.

Simmons had a death in his family and there was a funeral which would, if he were to go, place him at risk of contracting COVID-19 because he is now outside of the bio-secure controls at Old Trafford, Manchester where the West Indies cricket team is staying ahead of a three-Test series against England.

Once outside of the bubble, Simmons (and the coach must have been fully aware of this, put himself at the risk of adding to the 313, 483 cases of Coronavirus in the United Kingdom.

The CWI and the England and Wales Cricket Board had come up with a strategy for ensuring the safety of cricketers in this series, inclusive of protocols for when somebody has to leave the bio-secure environment.

Those protocols satisfied both parties that those inside the environment would be kept safe from those who come into it from outside.

Simmons would now be treated like somebody coming from outside and would have to self-isolate and go through testing before being re-integrated with those who had remained inside the bubble.

That being said, once all protocols are observed, there would be no risk to the players and/or staff, even if Simmons contracts COVID-19. So far, he has tested negative on two occasions.

The BCA president pointed out that he had received a number of phone calls from concerned parents and members of the BCA with concerns about the safety of the players, given Simmons’ actions.

However, as a member of the CWI board, Riley should have known that the protocols, put in place before the players left the Caribbean, would have meant no added risk because of Simmons’ exit and subsequent return. There should never have been this sort of knee-jerk reaction.

As a member of the CWI board, it should have been incumbent on Mr Riley to assure those calling, that the maintenance of the players’ safety had not been compromised.

Instead, Mr Riley fuelled an unjustified panic regarding the situation and ‘put pen to paper’ in an email to the board, that clearly spoke to an uninformed position.

"I just heard on the radio that our head coach Mr Phil Simmons attended a funeral recently and is now being quarantined as a result. If this is true, I am calling for his immediate removal as head coach,” read the email.

Simmons wasn’t being ‘quarantined as a result’. That was part of the protocol agreed to before he left. And the president of the BCA should never ben using language like “if this is true.” Why wouldn’t you get all the facts before penning such a potentially damaging missive?

Mr Riley went on to call Simmons’ behaviour “inconsiderate and reckless” but I submit that it was carefully planned and not reckless at all. There was no danger to anyone but Simmons himself.

Cricket West Indies had made a public statement about Simmons’ activities and Riley’s email runs in stark contrast to that.

"The entire process of his exit and re-entry to the bio-secure location was approved and managed by the medical teams of the CWI and the ECB and strictly followed protocols set up prior to the tour which addressed such scenarios," read the CWI statement.

How could Mr Riley and the CWI be so divergent in their views?

Mr Riley also suggested that the CWI be pro-active in anticipation of backlash from the English press.

No such backlash has come.

In fact, the only question that has come from the English press about Simmons’ actions, have had nothing to do with player safety.

Alzarri Joseph was asked if Simmons’ self-isolation would impact the ongoing practice game the West Indies are now playing in preparation for the first Test on July 8.

Joseph’s response was instructive.

According to the young fast bowler, the team of coaches was prepared for Simmons’ absence and everybody, including the players, already know what their jobs are.

Mr Riley should also know what his job is, and it isn’t to suggest that a coach be fired.

Now let’s hope the West Indies can put this behind them and get back to the business of retaining the Wisden Trophy at the end of #RaisetheBat series.

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week through different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT.

Let’s not Pressure Cornwall

Former West Indies batsman Philo Wallace in an interview on the Mason and Guest radio show welcomed the inclusion of spinner Rakheem Cornwall in the final match-day squad for the Test tour of England. Wallace described the Antiguan as the “match-winner” and “trump.” In my opinion, Cornwall has immense potential but to call him a match-winner is simply putting too much pressure on the young man who is new to this level and format of the game.

The 27-year-old off-spinner has so far played two Test matches for the West Indies. He took three wickets against India on debut before claiming 10 wickets in his one-off Test against Afghanistan. During the recently concluded practise match in England, Cornwall took one wicket and scored two runs. Is this a sign that he is already feeling the pressure of expectation?

Based on Cornwall’s limited Test-match experience, I would suggest that we allow him time to settle as a member of the Test squad. I strongly believe Test cricket is a completely different level of the game and playing against England will not be a walk in the park as they are at home and hungry for a win.

Chris Gayle Opting out of CPL – A Surprise!

The 2020 Hero CPL will be different without the Universe Boss. As a journalist and a cricket fan, I will miss the energy that he brings to the games although I respect highly his personal decision not to play, especially in light of the COVID 19 pandemic.

Last Monday, Gayle communicated his decision to the St Lucia Zouks by email saying he would be unavailable.

In the email, Gayle pointed out that due to the lockdown he was unable to meet his family and his young child who are in St Kitts because he was in Jamaica. Gayle said he needed a break and wanted to spend time with his young family.

Who can fault the cricketer for this, especially considering the recent turn of events?

Gayle signed up with the Zouks in April after an acrimonious split with Jamaica Tallawahs. Based on the fallout with the Jamaica Tallawahs, I was expecting fireworks from the T20 superstar. I was expecting him to use his frustrations as fuel to score heavily this CPL.

Meanwhile, Gayle's abrupt decision will have disrupted the Zouks' plans for the players' draft, conducted virtually for the first time because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Zouks signed Gayle as one of the marquee players outside the draft in the US $130,000 - 160,000-price bracket. In his absence, the franchise is likely to get the first pick at the draft now.

 Mediation should have been the TTFA's first choice

 Having taken Mediation Studies at the post-graduate level, I believe mediation is a viable option for settling the dispute between FIFA and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA).

Frankly, I am surprised that it was not utilized earlier. It is cheaper than heading to the courts, especially based on the reported financial situation of the William-Wallace administration finds itself in.

FIFA dissolved the Wallace-led executive on March 17, 2020, less than four months after the latter had been on the job. They were replaced by a normalisation committee led by local businessman Robert Hadad. The committee has been mandated to oversee the affairs of local football and reducing the TTFA’s crippling $50 million debt.

Mediation, though informal and flexible, could play a big part in shaping the outcome of the dispute. In the case of the TTFA, they would be presented with a chance to influence the outcome of the process while getting a listening ear from FIFA.

In addition, at the heart of mediation is the preservation of the long-term relationship between the parties. Should the TTFA have gone this route earlier things may not have been as messy as it is presently.

Congratulations! Well-deserved Liverpool

How can one be upset when a team wins a major title after 30 years of disappointment and frustration?

How can one question a team that has dropped only seven points in 31 matches so far this season? How can one not celebrate a team that has claimed a title with seven games to spare?

Hearty congratulations to the Reds, who might have experienced some anxiety because of the uncertainty of completing the season because of COVID 19. Credit must go the manager Jurgen Klopp, who took over from Brendan Rodgers in 2015 when the team was 10th in the league table. Though it has taken him five years to win English football's biggest prize, Klopp's impact on Liverpool was immediate. "We have to change from doubters to believers,” were his striking words during the press conference where he was introduced as the club’s new manager.

Overall, Liverpool has been a consistent group and as Klopp said, “They are confident because we won, but they are humble. If they stay humble, we have a good chance to be successful.” Congratulations boys!

 

 

 

 

 

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