Few could fail to be amazed by the flat-out, raw hitting power or the devastating ability to single-handedly change a game that Windies T20 star Andre Russell possesses, but as far as being the new Chris Gayle or Brian Lara, he’s not quite yet there.

Now, the point recently made by veteran West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is not lost.  After a solid performance against Sri Lanka with both bat and ball, which in the end delivered the team a comfortable win, Bravo sees Dre Russ as having picked up the mantle as the team’s go-to guy.  The role played to great effect by both Gayle and Lara for the regional team over multiple formats.

To some extent, Russell has, on occasion, delivered for the Windies.  And, if we were speaking about club T20 cricket where his many big-time performances have seen him stack up titles right around the globe, there could be little argument regarding the snap assessment. 

At the international level, however, Russell still trails behind the two greats in one important area; consistency.

Not that it wasn’t ever true about the two Windies stars against which he is being compared, but too often it seems that Russell has failed to measure exactly what is required in the instant of the game when he arrives at the crease. As a result, he is sent back to hutch, head hung, with helmet in hand soon after.

A quick look at the averages will show that Russell averages almost 12-runs fewer than Gayle’s average of 32.54 in T20 international cricket. Overall, in T20s he averages 26.95 to Gayle’s 38.20.

 Of course, each man bats at different times in a innings.

Gayle has far more time to settle in than Russell who comes further down the order.  Even so, one can’t help but suspect that better application could have meant a higher average. 

In T20Is Russell is yet to register a 100 or 50 in the format, while Gayle has two 100s and 13 half-centuries.  Almost 10 years Russell's senior, Gayle has played more international T20 cricket, but not a lot more. Nine more, in fact, 58 to Russell’s 49.  One would think that with a more consistent approach, Russell would at least have registered a few more half-centuries.

As far as potential goes, however, the talented Russell could easily have the big two looking over their shoulders in the next few years.

His wicket-taking ability, which ensures that he is also a key part of the team’s bowling attack, is an element neither Lara or Gayle would have had. 

Russell also has the ability to be very effective in the ODI format of the game, giving us a glimpse at last year's ICC Cricket World Cup before being hobbled by injury.  During the tournament the quickest batsman, in terms of balls faced, to score 1,000 runs in ODIs, facing only 767 deliveries.

All that points to the fact that the sky could be the limit for a fully fit, fully focused Russell but he certainly has to deliver on a more consistent basis to fall into the same category of two of the greatest to ever play the game, even as a go-to guy.

The longest strike in baseball history came to an end on this day in 1995.

A walkout that lasted for 232 days concluded on March 31, 25 years ago.

That is not the only significant sporting moment to unfold on this date.

Let's take a look back on this day in history...

 

1995 – MLB strike ends

The strike started in August of the previous year following wrangling over pay, with the rest of the season cancelled as a result.

That meant, for the first time since 1904, the World Series was not played.

It was on this day in 1995 that MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced an agreement had been reached to end the dispute.

1997 – Captain Lara leads Windies to victory

The legendary Brian Lara fist captained West Indies in a 1997 Test match against India.

It was a thriller, with the hosts securing victory in Bridgetown after India failed to chase down 120.

Lara top-scored for his team in the second innings, contributing 45 runs, while he also claimed a catch off the dangerous Sachin Tendulkar as the tourists were skittled for 81.

2001 – Schumacher brothers' Canadian GP one-two

The 2001 Canadian Grand Prix proved to be a special occasion in the Schumacher household.

Brothers Ralf and Michael enjoyed a respective one-two finish, sharing the podium with Mika Hakkinen.

Ferrari star Michael went on to win the title with 123 points, 58 clear of nearest rival David Coulthard.

West Indies veteran Dwayne Bravo believes the West Indies possess the tools to dominate T20 Internationals.

Garry Sobers is regarded as the greatest all-rounder in the history of cricket.

The West Indies legend burst onto the Test scene at just 17, setting the stage for a remarkable career.

His debut for his country came on March 30 back in 1954.

On the 66th anniversary of that occasion, we use Opta data to see just how Sobers stacks up against his fellow all-rounders.

A RUN FOR EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR

The most remarkable display of Sobers' batting credentials came in his stunning 365 not out against Pakistan.

That knock, which was a record when he produced it as a 21-year-old in 1958, stands as his all-time best from 93 Tests, eclipsing his all-rounder rivals.

Next on the list is England's Ben Stokes with 258, with South Africa's Jacques Kallis taking third spot with 224.

Of the rest, Stokes' compatriot Ian Botham (208) is the only other man with a double-century under his belt.
 

CONSISTENCY IS KEY

Compiling a big score is one thing, but consistently racking up runs is the real test of talent.

The numbers favour Sobers on that front, too. His average of 57.8 again puts him top of the pile.

Kallis comes a close second with 55.4, with none of the other contenders even breaking into the 40s.

Pakistan's Imran Khan averaged 37.7, with Keith Miller posting 37.0 for Australia.
 

SOBERS THE CENTURY KING

In 160 Test innings, Sobers recorded 26 centuries.

While that figure pales next to Kallis' 45, the Proteas great took 280 innings to reach that tally.

That means Sobers triumphs again in this category, with 16.3 per cent of his innings producing scores of 100 or more, with Kallis standing at 16.1 per cent.

Nobody else on the list can boast a double-figure percentage, with Botham on 8.7 and Miller on 8.
 

HANDY WITH THE BALL

Sobers claimed 235 wickets from 159 Test innings with the ball.

In this area, at least, he does have to take a back seat to some more prolific wicket-taking all-rounders.

Chief among them is Kapil Dev, who accounted for 434 victims in a stellar India career.

Richard Hadlee's 431 puts the New Zealander second, with Botham on 383 and Khan on 362.


BEST FIGURES STAND UP

With best figures of 6-73, Sobers compares favourably with his competitors. 

Hadlee and Dev both enjoyed nine-wicket innings, but Botham's 8-34 in 1978 against Pakistan is the pick of the bunch.

Sobers' best match figures are 8-80, with Hadlee the proud owner of a 15-wicket haul.

With 36 five-fors, Hadlee also leads the way on that score, with Botham (27) followed by Khan and Dev (both 23).

Sobers', meanwhile, had just six five-fors.


NOBODY IS PERFECT

Although the data clearly supports Sobers' status as the GOAT, there is one category in which he comes last.

His bowling average - still a very commendable 34 - is a long way short of the 22.3 that belongs to Hadlee.

Khan (22.8) and Miller (23) are also a long way ahead of Sobers.

Charles Barkley established himself as an NBA legend with the Philadelphia 76ers and on this day 19 years ago the team paid tribute to him.

On March 30, 2001, the 11-time NBA All-Star became the seventh 76ers player to have their jersey number retired.

And Barkley is not the only sporting superstar to have made his mark on this date.

Let's take a look back...

 

2001 – Barkley's 34 retired by 76ers

Barkley wore the number 34 with distinction during his eight seasons with the 76ers.

Named MVP in 1993, Barkley was honoured by Philadelphia during half-time of the team's game with the Golden State Warriors.

"My years in Philadelphia were very special to me," Barkley said. "Now, to have my jersey retired, hung next to some of the greatest players of all time ... I consider this an incredible honour."

2001 – Teen sensation Phelps sets world record

Michael Phelps' phenomenal talent was evident from an early age.

At 15, he became the youngest man to set a world record as he clocked one minute and 54.92 seconds in the 200m butterfly in Austin, Texas.

Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time following his retirement after the Rio Games, winning a remarkable 23 gold medals among a total tally of 28.

1954 – Garry Sobers makes his Test debut

Garry Sobers was another teenager whose potential was clear from the outset.

At 17 and listed at nine in the batting order, he made his Test debut for West Indies against England in Jamaica on this day way back in 1954.

Sobers is regarded as the finest all-rounder in the history of cricket, having averaged 57.78 with the bat and 34.03 with the ball in 93 Test appearances.

Barbados Football Association (BFA) treasurer Adrian Donovan believes the Trinidad and Tobago FA are on their way to being suspended, considering recent retaliation against the implementation of a FIFA normalisation committee.

The football world governing body made the decision to disband the TTFA and implement a normalization committee, following what it claims was a fact-finding mission to the twin-island republic.  According to FIFA the TTFA had “extremely low overall financial management methods” and extreme debt.  In doing so FIFA quoted article 8:2 of FIFA’s statutes, which states, "Executive bodies of member associations may under exceptional circumstances be removed from office by the council in consultation with the relevant confederation and replaced by a normalisation committee for a specific period of time."

The William Wallace-led association has, however, since threatened to take the matter to the Courts of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) a move that Donovan considers a mistake.

“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that the TTFA will be suspended,” Donovan told the Barbados Advocate.

“In all of this FIFA is absolutely correct if they have to suspend this national federation because all those who signed off on the FIFA Statutes are expected to follow their rules and regulations,” he added.

“When you sign under FIFA rules and regulation and you have no legitimate evidence as to how you have spent their money, it is only a matter of time before the weight of FIFA would be felt.”

Since coming to office the William Wallace-led association pointed to mismanagement in the implementation of the Home of Football project, put in place by the previous administration.  The new executive seemed set to put into place another ambitious project at the Arima Stadium.

 

Veteran West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo believes T20 star Andre Russell has taken up the mantle of legendary players like Chris Gayle and Brian Lara for the regional team.

The swashbuckling 31-year-old was in fine form for the Windies during their recent tour of Sri Lanka, picking up man-of-the-series honours in a 2-0 win over the home team.  In fact, with a T20 strike rate of 171.29, the signature of Russell has become one of the most coveted on contracts all over the globe.  His development has impressed the Trinidadian all-rounder, who knows a thing or two about high-quality performances himself.

“It’s the same thing I used to say about Chris Gayle, we are happy to have someone like Gayle representing us, we don’t have to come up and bowl against him in an international match. I think it’s the same with Andre Russell. Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara in the T20 format. He is a superstar, he’s the best player and we are happy,” Bravo told local Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM.

“He’s the best in the world and we’re happy to have him in our team.”

Russell has claimed a number of titles with various franchises, including five in eight months in 2016.  He was named in the team of the tournament at the T20 World Cup that same year.

West Indies Limited overs captain Kieron Pollard is asking his players to, not just stay safe during the most worrying times in recent history with the massive spread of COVID-19, but is also telling them to be ready for when normalcy returns.

According to Pollard, while the spread of COVID-19 has brought sport around the world to a halt, there is an opportunity for West Indies players to improve.

“I think it is a good time for introspection, a good time for reflection, a good time to look at where you are as an individual, in your career and what you want to achieve going forward,” said the skipper, a man not known to mince words.

The West Indies have been sporadically producing good results under Pollard’s watch, but the big all-rounder has craved consistency, something he says will come with a better mental approach.

That approach, thanks to COVID-19, can be honed during this time off.

“[…] you have to take the time to do that and also to keep yourself in physical shape and mentally as well because when the bell rings and you hear ‘ok everything is back to normal and we need to go on tour,’ there might not be enough time to prepare so you, yourself as an individual have to be prepared mentally in order for you to try to perform at your best,” he said.

According to Pollard his public statements won’t count as new to the players.

“[…] guys have been notified as to where they need to be and the onus is on individuals to try and meet those requirements,” said Pollard.

 Cricket West Indies (CWI) CEO Johnny Grave has insisted the organization is doing all it can to keep the women’s senior and junior tournaments on the cards for this year.

Concerns arising from the coronavirus pandemic led to the cancellation of the region’s Under-15 boys Championship and Under-15 tour of England set for later this year.  In addition, the domestic first-class championship was aborted two rounds early with table-topping Barbados declared the winner.

With the Women’s World Cup expected to bowl off early next year, Grave and CWI believe the tournament as a crucial part of the women’s team’s preparations.  Instead, the tournaments up for consideration, the Women’s Super50 Cup and inaugural Regional Under-19s Women’s T20 Championship will be pushed forward until later this year.

“They are very important tournaments, not just in terms of the preparation but in terms of the preparation for the selection of those respective squads as we look to compete in the World Cups of those events due to take place in the early part of 2021,” Grave said.

As expected, the official could not a date for the start but insists the CWI would be guided by the medical given to the association.

“Following the advice from our medical advisory committee, we’ve extended the suspension that we announced 10 days ago which was for an initial 30-day period.”

West Indies batting legend, Brian Lara sees quite a bit of talent in the Windies squads currently hunting for a resurgence in world cricket but there is still work to be done.

Lara, speaking to ESPN Cricinfo, for instance, believes talented 23-year-old Shimron Hetmyer has personal issues like his fitness that he needs to deal with before he is quite ready to take the world by storm.

“People have challenges in different ways and Hetmyer, obviously, is a very talented cricketer, someone who plays all forms of the game for the West Indies. If he is unfit, he has to see it as a personal challenge. Fitness levels are so very important. So if fitness is his problem, I would like to see him face that challenge himself, and he’ll be a much better cricketer,” said Lara.

Lara though, has much more immediate hopes for others in the West Indies squad like Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran and Alzarri Joseph.

According to the former Windies captain, Pooran understands his role in the team, while the West Indies can find Hope’s stability useful, even in the T20 form of the game, while Joseph is a gamechanger with his ability to take wickets.

“I like Nicholas Pooran, he’s settling down and understanding his responsibilities more now. Shai Hope could play a part in the T20 World Cup, being that solid guy with a great technique that can hold the innings together. Those are the three players I’m really looking forward to seeing. Alzarri Joseph is someone who I look at and say ‘this guy has got potential, he’s a wicket-taker’. He is someone who I’d like to see do well,” said Lara.

Lara, as he has said before, believes the team can learn much from the example of Virat Kohli.

Kohli, he said, has worked hard on his fitness and that, Lara explained, is the perfect lead for Hetmyer to follow.

England's home Test series against West Indies might be salvaged and the domestic season should not be considered a write-off, officials insisted on Friday.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has suspended the start of its 2020 campaign until May 28 at the earliest because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But it is working towards a June launch, which would mean the three-Test duel with West Indies goes ahead as planned, with matches at The Oval, Edgbaston and Lord's.

The ECB is wary June may yet prove too soon to resume, but there exists the possibility of staging matches without spectators, with a pointed aim to protect "the most financially important forms of the game".

In a statement, the ECB said it had "begun modelling a range of options to start the season in June, July or August", with June cricket the immediate focus in the hope the money-spinning T20 Blast would also survive, along with England Women's matches against India.

The ECB added: "Close liaison with the Government will continue, with discussions on the potential of starting the season behind closed doors and giving sports fans the opportunity to live broadcast action.

"The potential for reduced versions of competitions, should the season become further truncated, will also be discussed."

The ECB will also be eager to see its inaugural and Hundred domestic competition held, with its dates spanning July and August.

That and the T20 Blast could provide major financial boosts for the sport, which is poised to be hard-hit, along with so many others, by the COVID-19 crisis. Traditionalists may fear the County Championship will be low on this season's list of priorities.

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison, said: "Securing the future of the game will be a primary focus as we plot a revised schedule with an emphasis on the most financially important forms of the game for the counties across international and domestic cricket."

Cricket West Indies CEO Johnny Grave has thrown cold water on suggestions that the region could step in and host this summer’s Test series against England, but insisted discussions remained ongoing.

Recent reports had suggested that the Caribbean was ready to accept a switch in series hosting duties, as most sporting events have faced major scheduling disruptions. 

With the virus also now beginning to more heavily impact the Caribbean, Grave admitted that he did not see how the West Indies would be in a better position to host the series if England could not.

"I have not had any discussions with England over whether we can host,” Grave told BBC Sport.

“It would be strange that England can't have cricket but the Caribbean can,” he added.

"Realistically, without knowing anything about pandemics, if England can't hold cricket then it almost certainly means the rest of the world can't hold cricket either. I think it is an unrealistic option."

The official added that the regional cricket governing body has tried to remain as ‘flexible as possible’ but options were yet to be discussed.

"I have been in contact with [England and Wales Cricket board chief executive] Tom Harrison a few times over the last week," Grave said.

"The only discussions we have had are, in principle, having flexibility over warm-up games, when the series would start and how many rest days.

 "We have given the ECB assurances that we will be as flexible as we can. We have not had any discussion about not playing them in June.”

The first Test was scheduled to begin in London on June 4, followed by matches at Edgbaston and Lord's starting on 12 and 25 June respectively.

 

The United Kingdom’s problems with containing COVID-19 could mean England’s home series against the West Indies could be moved to the Caribbean where the threat has been markedly lower than Europe.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) and the England Cricket Board (ECB) have been trying to find a work-around so as not to delay the start of the three-Test series set to begin on June 4 at the Kia Oval.

COVID-19 cases are expected to peak in the United Kingdom in June, making it almost a certainty that the start of the English domestic season will be delayed.

The Caribbean, if it continues to remain relatively COVID-19 free, could become third-party hosts for other series, reportedly offering to provide the venues for England’s home fixtures against Pakistan in July.

There is also the possibility that the tour of England could be put off until September, after the West Indies host New Zealand in three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals from July 8 to July 19 and after South Africa visit for two Tests and five T20Is scheduled for July 23-August 16.

A delay could also mean that the Hero Caribbean Premier League could be pushed back all the way until December.

A match-finishing spell from Jamaica Scorpions pace bowler Derval Green wrapped up an emphatic 118 runs victory over Leeward Islands Hurricanes, in the West Indies Championship, at Northsound on Sunday.

Green’s final day haul of three wickets pushed the bowler’s second innings tally to 5 for 75 and

9 for 159 overall as the Leewards came crashing down for 183.  The total was still well short of the Scorpion's first innings total of 516 for 9.  Beginning the day at 134-6 and with Montcin Hodge (60) and Hayden Walsh Jr leading the battle for an unlikely draw, the Leewards were roiled early when Green uprooted Hodge.  The batsman was just able to one more run to his overnight total.

Alzarri Joseph who made 89 in the first innings did not have that much of an impact this time around as he lasted just three deliveries before being bowled by Marquino Mindley.  Walsh battled on to make 35 but was also removed by Green to leave the Leewards at an irretrievable 154 for 9.  Jeremiah Louis added a spirited 29 from 23 balls but became Green’s fifth victim to leave Kian Pemberton on 1 and the Hurricanes resistance at an end.  Mindley ended with second-innings figures of 2 for 61.

Earlier the Jamaica Scorpions had been powered to their massive first innings total by 248 from Jermaine Blackwood and then skittled out the Leewards for 281.

 

Windies star Chris Gayle has continued to give indications that he does not intend to retire anytime soon, this time expressing the desire to score another ten T20 centuries.

The 40-year-old West Indies talisman is already at the top of the list with 14923 runs inclusive of 24 centuries.  Gayle had expressed thoughts about the possibility of retiring after the last World Cup, before picking a series in the West Indies against India as a final swansong.

The player has, however, apparently now had a complete change of heart even pushing back at some of those who have suggested it could be time to step aside. Gayle has since insisted, in various interviews, that he is feeling good and hopes to play another five years.  In responding to a celebration of his achievements by cricket statistic website Crictracker, who pointed out the achievement of the most T20 centuries, Gayle insisted that there was more to come.

“10 more to come!” the player said in response to the celebratory tweet.  With the World Cup fast approaching, Gayle has been out of action for his international team since last year but has continued to participate in various T20 leagues around the world.  He is expected to take part in the upcoming IPL campaign.

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