West Indies all-rounder Rakheem Cornwall insists he was ready to go for the St Lucia Zouks, despite not being picked to bowl in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) final.

The decision not to bowl Cornwall, who recently came back from representing the West Indies in England, raised a few eyebrows.  But, the spinner has not been among the tournaments leading wicket-takers for several seasons.  In addition, Zouks captain Darren Sammy had a battery of spin bowlers at his disposal, which included Roston Chase, who took more wickets than Cornwall in England.

In the end, after making it to their first CPL final, as heavy underdogs, the Zouks fell short to the Trinbago Knight Riders.  Cornwall has insisted he was fit and ready to perform but his omission from the line-up was the captain’s choice.

“It was basically the captain’s decision; maybe it was his gut feeling to go for the other bowlers.  He thought he didn’t need me at that time so he went for especially his depth bowlers,” Cornwall recently told the Antigua Observer.

"The pitch was a spin bowlers pitch and I am always ready for whenever he calls on me and if he doesn’t then it is the case but I’m always set and ready if I am called upon,” he added.

 

Rahkeem Cornwall has only played three Test matches but if he gets to have things to go his way, he will be playing a lot more before he puts his bat away for good.

Mohammad Nabi’s career-best figures, the third-best in Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) history, led a spin demolition of the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots. He was well supported by Rakheem Cornwall and Zahir Khan, and Cornwall followed up with a brief but brilliant assault that took any remaining tension out of the chase for the St Lucia Zouks.

When Dwayne Bravo had Rahkeem Cornwall caught at cover during the Trinbago Knight Rider’s win over the St Lucia Zouks, history was created and although the magnitude of reaching 500 wickets in T20 cricket was not lost on the West Indies all-rounder, he has his sights firmly set on more.

The restrictive conditions of the biosecure Caribbean Premier League (CPL) has proven a difficult adjustment for some players, despite a general acceptance of the necessity of the measures.

After a three-month hiatus, cricket returned to the international stage earlier this month with the England versus the West Indies series, in England.  As the world continues its battle to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the series took place under extraordinary circumstances.

The Test series was played without fans and the players, along with everyone involved in it, were kept separate from the public, in a biosphere of sorts.  With considerably fewer resources than the England Cricket Board (ECB), the CPL has come up with its own version of a bubble in order to stage the tournament, but there are marked differences.

“The one in England was much different.  You could move around freely.  You could socialise a bit more with your teammates in England, but the one in Trinidad you cannot do that,”  St Lucia Zouks off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“When you first come to Trinidad you in the room for 7 days, isolated, and can’t come out.  Whereas as in England once you do the test and you are negative you are free to move about the facilities, you just can’t leave,” he added.

His St Lucia Zouks teammate, pace bowler Kesrick Williams, also shed more light on the specific conditions.

“It’s not the norm but at the end of the day it’s something we work with given the conditions in the world right now, with COVID-19…it’s not the best but we are working with it,” he added.

“When somebody is always telling you, you can’t do something, it's different than when you can freely do it.  For me, I’m usually in my room, but at the end of the day when someone is telling you, you have to wear a mask there, you have to wear a mask here, times for the food, times for gym and stuff like that and then the sanitizing and all that, it just leaves you feeling like you are in prison.  I don’t have a problem with it, but it's something we are not accustomed to.”

 

The St Lucia Zouks’ mix of smarts and firepower saw them home in a breathless chase after a heavy rain shower cut short a Barbados Tridents innings that started brilliantly but was derailed the Zouks’ battery of off-spinners. A late burst of four wickets for 11 runs in 18 just balls proved crucial in keeping the revised target in range, as the power of Rakheem Cornwall and the perennial excellence of Mohammad Nabi meant even Rashid Khan couldn’t deny the Zouks their first win of Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2020.

With the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) set to begin in a matter of weeks, players like Rahkeem Cornwall have been looking at how to give themselves an advantage.

Cornwall is no different, with the big off-spinner hoping for a season like the one he had in 2019.

Known more as a bowling allrounder, last season Cornwall was immense with the bat for the St Lucia Zouks, scoring 254 runs in 10 matches, with a highest of 75.

“Obviously, it’s going to be different from the previous CPL where you have the crowd and so on, but at the end of the day cricket still remains the same. I would like to continue where I left off last year because I think I had a pretty good year in the CPL last year where I scored the most runs for the St. Lucia Zouks, and there is no doubt that I want to repeat that this year,” said Cornwall in an interview with the Antigua Observer.

According to Cornwall, players doing well is usually the result of hard work and he has no issue with putting in the effort that it takes to repeat that performance.

“I just have to put in the work and I think we have a couple of days or just over a week to get ready before the tournament, so I am sure I will be fine by then, and I will just keep putting the numbers on the board,” he said.

“As a professional, you have to know what you need to do to get yourself ready for a match. I think you just have to keep practising, and once all of the protocols [quarantine and testing] are over and you are out of isolation, then your mind would automatically switch back to cricket and you just have to know what you need to do in terms of your role for the team, and by then, hitting the 18th [August], you should be ready,” he said.'

Cornwall will again turn out for the St Lucia Zouks who will play their opening game against the Jamaica Tallawahs on August 19 at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy.

Many have questioned the inclusion of Rahkeem Cornwall in the final Test of the #raisethebat Series in Manchester, England after the West Indies were thoroughly beaten by a strong England showing with bat and ball.

Cornwall, who went wicketless throughout the game, still feels his inclusion had value.

According to the offspinner, on another occasion, going wicketless does not mean he bowled badly.

“I don’t feel too bad about my performance and maybe on a different day wickets would have come my way, but I didn’t get any wickets. I think I bowled pretty well. Opportunities came about but it was just not my day to get wickets,” said Cornwall.

Cornwall has not been deterred by his performance in the least and believes there is only better for him to get.

“Going forward I just think that I have to work on my game and make sure I can perform under every condition that I might be going to but I wouldn’t say it was a bad tour, I just have to move on and learn from it,” he said.

Former England fast bowler Gladstone Small has branded the inclusion of off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall, for the final Test match against England, as a useless change and evidence of a West Indies squad that was overly conservative.  

The off-spinner was brought into the squad at the expense of pace bowler Alzarri Joseph for the decisive Test.  He did not do terribly in terms of economy rate but never really troubled the batsmen.

With Roston Chase a batsman and off-spinner, who was already taking wickets, already included in the squad, Small believes Cornwall only offered more of the same.

“I thought the selection of that team for the third Test was negative and wrong,” Small said on the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Cornwall? What was that selection about? What did he bring to the table? You’ve already got an off-spinning batsman in Roston Chase in the team? What does Cornwall bring to that team?  You have got to have variety to take 20 wickets in a Test match," he added.

"Straight away I thought they were just playing for time here.  They wanted to just dry up runs and play for time knowing that the weather was bad.  When you start a game in a negative frame of mind it's very hard to come forward and play front-foot cricket.  You have to start off aiming to win a Test match and play your best cricket.”

Cornwall bowled 27 overs in the first innings, with an economy rate of 3.15, in the second has was given 19 and had an economy rate of 4.16.  He did not get a wicket.

While Rahkeem Cornwall went wicketless in his first outing of the #raisethebat Series at Old Trafford in Manchester on Friday, his vice-captain thinks the big off-break bowler had a good outing.

Cornwall ended the first day of the third Test, with the West Indies and England locked 1-1, with figures of 0-71 from 21 overs, while England were 258-4.

England’s batsmen, except for an lbw shout looked comfortable against Cornwall’s spin and when Ollie Pope, 91, and Jos Buttler, 56, started coming down the wicket, Cornwall struggled to keep them back in their crease.

Despite the struggles which saw Cornwall go at 3.38 runs per over, the most expensive of the West Indies bowlers, Brathwaite still believed it was a good outing.

“I thought Rahkeem was good. The pitch spun a bit and I thought he controlled the runs,” said Brathwaite.

Cornwall was involved in something spectacular though, a one-handed grab at slip that came from the slashing blade of Rory Burns, 57, off the bowling of Roston Chase.

Chase only bowled eight overs but had more luck than Cornwall, bagging 1-24.

But according to Brathwaite, there is enough there for Cornwall to be hopeful about.

“He didn’t go for too many runs, which was good. It was unfortunate that he didn’t get a wicket but I thought he was decent,” said the West Indies vice-captain.

The best of the West Indies bowlers was kemar Roach, who ended the day with 2-56, while Shannon Gabriel, 0-47, and Jason Holder, 0-45, were not as penetrative as in previous Tests.

West Indies vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite points to the second morning of the third and decisive Test against England as being crucial after a partnership between Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler wrested their early advantage on Friday at Old Trafford.

England are in a good position, having ended the day on 258-4, a far cry from the 122-4 they were in when Buttler came to the crease.

Before that, Kemar Roach had removed second-Test century-maker, Dom Sibley, for a duck, trapping him leg before wicket in the first over of the day.

Then came the run out of Joe Root for 17, Roston Chase clipping the bales.

Ben Stokes and opener Rory Burns tried to fashion a recovery before the latter was pushed back with some short deliveries before being bowled by Roach for 20.

The West Indies were looking good with England at 92-3, and when Burns was caught brilliantly at slip by Rahkeem Cornwall off the bowling of Roston Chase for 57, the West Indies were in great shape with two new batsmen and England teetering at 122-4.

But that’s where it ended as Pope, 91, and Buttler, 56, saw out the day in relative comfort, their partnership now worth 136.  

“I thought we started very well. Obviously Buttler and Pope had a good partnership, they batted well and so we know we have some hard work come tomorrow,” said Brathwaite in a press conference following stumps.

While Pope and Buttler have rescued England from a precarious position, Brathwaite does not believe the game has gotten away from the West Indies and tomorrow brings a fresh opportunity.

“We had a plan and obviously to bowl first but it’s been a pretty even day and obviously good from the two at the crease but I think tomorrow we have to start well and look to limit them to as few as possible,” said Brathwaite.

While tomorrow’s morning session is important, Brathwaite says the West Indies won’t panic and will stick to their plans and be patient.

“We have to start well and by that I mean we don’t have to rush wickets. I think if we build pressure by bowling a lot of dot balls and no boundary balls, that will create pressure to bring wickets. We don’t have to rush it in the morning session, I believe once we keep it tight, the tightness will bring wickets,” he said.

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.

 

West Indies coach Phil Simmons has insisted the size of off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall has not been an issue, as he remains in contention to secure a place in the team for the upcoming tour of England.

Despite his success in regional cricket and solid performances for both West Indies A and West Indies squads, the player's physique has often drawn attention for looking different than the average cricketer.  Standing at 6 ft 5 inches tall, Cornwall weighs somewhere in the region of 308 pounds.

For a time, it was believed to be keeping the player from being selected to the regional squad, after a successful debut against India last year, however, the spinner's stock seems to be on the rise.  For the current tour of England, Cornwall could be in contention for a spot in the team as the primary or secondary spinner and the coach was quick to insist there are no concerns with his size or mobility.

“His size has not been an issue, if you see Rahkeem at slip and some of the catches that he takes at slip, there is no issue,” Simmons told members of the media in a Zoom press conference call on Monday.

“I think he is capable of bowling a lot of overs.  He has bowled an enormous amount of overs through the years for the Leeward Islands, West Indies A, and the West Indies team in our Test match against India.  So, none of it has been a hindrance to him.  He had a little knee injury and that has been fixed so now he is strong as ever,” he added.

On debut, against India, Cornwall claimed 3 wickets, before claiming 10 against Afghanistan in his second Test.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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