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  1. Windies captaincy in good hands. Time for the rest of the team to rally.

West Indies named the Test and T20 squads on Friday that will face New Zealand in three T20 Internationals and two Test matches from November 27 to December 15. The captaincy of both the Windies squads is in good hands. It is now up to supporting cast to do their part and contribute.

Jason Holder continues as Test captain having grown as a leader since making his debut against New Zealand in 2014 in Bridgetown.  New Zealand won that match by 53 runs and Holder bagged two wickets and scored a total of 76 runs.

The 28-year-old going into this match will be confident having performed well against the Black Caps in the past. 

In the last Test match he played in Manchester in July 2020, England won by eight wickets. Holder got two wickets and made 58 runs. On current form, Holder has attained the highest points tally by any West Indies bowler in 20 years, reaching a career-best second place in the Test Rankings after playing a crucial role in his side's four-wicket victory over England in Southampton that helped take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

           In the limited overs format, Kieron Pollard leads from the front with his all-round performances.  He has been very impactful for the Mumbai Indians in the ongoing Indian Premier League. In eight matches he has picked up two wickets and scored 174 runs, with a top score of 60 at an average of 174.  In the recently concluded Caribbean Premier League he was named Player of the Tournament. The 33-year-old blasted a total of 207 runs with a top score of 72 at an average of 51.8.  His best bowling figures for CPL 2020 was 4/30. 

With both Pollard and Holder at the helm, the Windies are a force. However, cricket is a team sport and it is up to the rest of team to contribute with bat and ball and ensure they support those leading the charge. 

 2. Can Liverpool win the Premier League without two key players?

 Liverpool departed Goodison Park disappointed by the 2-2 draw against Everton on Saturday.

The real tragedy, however, is that the Reds will be without two key members for some time due to injuries sustained during the match.  Though defender Virgil Van Dijk and midfielder Thiago Alcantara suffered serious injuries it is not over yet for the Premier League champions. However, Jurgen Klopp and the rest of the team have some work to do to cover for the absence of their two world class players.

Van Dijk’s leadership, organizational skill and passing range will be missed as his ACL injury will see him out for more than six months. The 29-year-old Dutchman was a key figure in Liverpool’s dominance having played every minute of the team’s 74 Premier league matches since his move from Southampton in 2018.

In the 2019/2020 Premier League season, the towering centre-back played all 38 matches, scored five goals and had an assist for his club. More importantly, he helped Liverpool’s defence evolve into one of the stingiest in all of Europe.

 The season before, he also helped Liverpool become the best defensive team in England.

His prolonged absence this season is a major blow to Liverpool’s chances of successfully defending the league title and to also make another run at the Champions League title they won in 2018.

Thiago Alcantara also suffered a knee injury against Everton in what was his first start for his new club. He also faces a lengthy spell on the sidelines as a result of a reckless tackle from Everton forward Richarlison.

Despite these injuries to key players, it would be foolhardy to rule the Premier League champions out. However, a lot will depend on Jurgen Klopp to get his players to fill the massive void created by the absence of these two stars.

West Indies lead selector Roger Harper said West Indies head coach Phil Simmons and coaches in Barbados are to design a programme that they hope will help Shai Hope rediscover his form and live up to his potential.

Jason Holder and Kieron Pollard are to captain West Indies Test and T20 teams, respectively, while Shai Hope has been dropped for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis have declined invitations to the T20 squad that has been selected for the tour.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) announced a short while ago, the two squads for the proposed tour of New Zealand which will feature three T20 Internationals and two Test matches from November 27 to December 15.

Details of the tour were ratified by CWI’s Board of Directors during a teleconference on Thursday. The Board agreed to the tour in principle, subject to final details on medical and logistical protocols of CWI, New Zealand Cricket and Government of New Zealand.

Left-handed batsmen Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer have been recalled to the Test team, as well as all-rounder Keemo Paul. Bravo’s highest Test score of 218 came at the University Oval in Dunedin in 2013.

“The return of Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul will bolster the team, I expect that Darren will solidify the top-order, hopefully making it more productive, while Shimron gives the squad more options in the middle-order and it is another opportunity for him to show how good a player he is.  Keemo provides another wicket taking seam option,” said Chief Selector Roger Harper.

“The Test team has an opportunity to put into practice the learnings from the tour of England earlier this year.  The team has good all-round depth and I expect them be very competitive. New Zealand is a very good team especially in New Zealand, so we need to be on the top of our game.”

A group of reserves will also travel to help prepare the Test squad during the quarantine period and training camp as well as cover for injuries.

Meanwhile, Andre Fletcher, the experienced wicket-keeper/batsman has been named in the T20I squad for the first time since 2018. There is also a maiden call-up in this format for Kyle Mayers, the all-rounder, who performed well in last month’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL).

“Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell are two very experienced T20 players who performed very well on the last tour of Sri Lanka and their absence will surely be noted.  However, Andre Fletcher has another opportunity to show us what he can do and what he brings to the table,” Harper said.

“The T20I Team is now getting back into the groove after a nine-month absence from international competition. Fortunately, a number of players have been involved in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and before that the CPL, so they have had some competitive cricket leading up to this tour. The structure of the tour with the COVID-19 quarantine period, does not give the team any real opportunity for match practice as a team but there are a number of experienced players in the team so, hopefully, they can adapt quickly. 

“In the build-up to the ICC T20 World Cup, every T20I series is an important opportunity to fine tune the team, to get our personnel, our compositions and combinations right. For our players to become more attuned to their roles and the team to have a greater understanding of what works best in each situation. So, this is a very important series for us from that perspective and also in an effort to improve our rankings.”

The T20Is will be the start of an 11-month schedule of matches building up to the ICC T20 World Cup, rescheduled for October 2021 in India. The proposed schedule for this tour of New Zealand has the defending T20 World Cup champions starting at Eden Park in Auckland under lights.

The CWI Selection Panel indicated that this upcoming series will form part of the overall planning towards defending the ICC World T20 title. The panel outlined that they will continue to monitor closely the progress of spin bowler Sunil Narine and all other players in the lead-up to the global event.

 Test Squad:

Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul and Kemar Roach.

 Test Reserves:

Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua DaSilva, Preston McSween, Shayne Moseley, Raymon Reifer, and Jayden Seales.

 T20 International Squad:

Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr, and Kesrick Williams.

Convener of selectors, Roger Harper, has revealed that Jason Holder will retain the captaincy of the West Indies team for the coming tour New Zealand.

The West Indies will play two Tests against New Zealand in November and according to Harper, there is no reason for a change in the captaincy.

“We have discussed a lot of things and all of those things (leadership) we discussed but I think at this point we’re not thinking of changing the captaincy at all,” Harper said of Holder.

West Indies have won seven of their last 20 Tests and are eighth in the ICC Test rankings. The team was beaten 2-1 in their three-Test series against England in July.

However, Harper said Holder remained the first choice captain since there was a dearth of leadership qualities not only throughout the ranks of the Test side but across the regional game.

“I looked at a lot of the four-day championships. I had the opportunity to see most of the captains on show and I think that there are some decent captains out there but there is also a lot of improvement that can be made,” he said.

“I think some of our captains need to know when to attack, when not to attack, how to defend and how to put pressure on the opposing batsmen and those sort of things. These are the areas we need to improve on.”

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