West Indies legend, Curtly Ambrose, has re-added his voice to the call for an end to the preparation of ‘placid’ pitches throughout the Caribbean for international and regional cricket fixtures.

In the light of the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka, which ended with two drawn games, several former players and Windies coach Phil Simmons has expressed dissatisfaction with the surface prepared for the tour.

The debate has, however, raged on long before that, with Ambrose himself listed among those previously suggesting that many of the pitches prepared are too flat and offer little assistance to bowlers. 

The West Indies, Sri Lanka series has only added to the dissatisfaction.  In both Test matches, Sri Lanka, then the West Indies, the teams enjoyed comfortable leads headed into the final day but ended up doing very little to disturb the batsmen in the pursuit of wickets.

“I have seen local cricket played at Sir Viv Richards cricket stadium where you have grass on the pitch and the ball bounces and carries with good pace … so it’s not a situation where it cannot be done,” Ambrose told the Good Morning Jojo Radio show.

“I felt that the pitches were a little too flat and I’ve been saying this for years — we need to prepare better cricket pitches where the batsmen could play their strokes and the ball bounces a bit for the bowlers,” he added.

Roger Harper, Cricket West Indies’ Chief Selector has expressed concern over the productivity of opening partnerships for the West Indies but laments the fact that no one is really knocking at the door to be selected.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite has had a welcome return to form with two Test half-centuries and a century in his last four Test matches but fellow opener John Campbell has not been inspiring much confidence with his performances.

The Jamaican has scores of 3, 23, 36, 18, 42, 11, 5, and 10 in his last four Tests. His last half-century, 68, was made in the second Test against New Zealand in December last year.

As a result, solid opening partnerships for the Caribbean side have been rare and this is a worry for Harper.

 “I think it has been a concern for a while. It was pleasing to see the captain get some big scores, but we need the partnership, on the whole, to be solid,” Harper said this past week on Mason and Guest.

But while Campbell has been struggling for form, Harper acknowledges that the batsman has been working hard to correct his flaws, like the ones that saw him get out in similar fashion in all four innings in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka.

 “We were delighted to see Campbell applying himself and being more patient, but we need some more positive returns,” he said.

There are several players who could come in to bolster the batting but recent history does not offer much hope for success. Players like Shai Hope and Shayne Moseley are potential replacements; Hope especially who has shown a welcome return to form in the ODIs against Sri Lanka, but Test cricket is a different prospect for a player who has struggled in that format of the game.

Moseley, who has shown promise, is yet to demonstrate that he is ready after several failures.

“It is something we are looking at. We are looking at our best options. At the moment, from a red ball perspective, we don’t have enough openers who are knocking down the door in terms of performances,” he concluded.

 

Former Windies pace bowler, Richard 'Prof' Edwards, admits he is disappointed by what he believes to be the slow progress of promising pace bowler Alzarri Joseph.

The 24-year-old fast bowler has long been tipped to give West Indies the type of firepower typical of years gone by but is yet to completely deliver on that promise.

The young bowler has shown plenty of flashes of that prodigious talent.  He put in a strong performance against England, in 2019, and took a record-breaking six for 12 on his debut for Mumbai Indians.  Joseph has, however, not produced such performances consistently.  Joseph, who made his debut in 2016, has taken 38 Test wickets in 16 matches and 54 One Day International wickets in 34 matches.

“It’s disappointing that he does not seem to have gone on from the time he started until now, there doesn’t seem to be any great improvement,” Edwards told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He seems to be bowling wide of the crease to right-handers, angling it.  He should get as close to the stumps as possible,” he added.

“He is not accurate, he had not been able to develop as much as you would have expected.  He is not a real swinger of the ball, he is athletic, he looks like he bowls pretty fast, but he is not doing much with the ball.”

 

Former West Indies fast bowler turned analyst, Richard ‘Prof’ Edwards, believes batsman Kyle Mayers could blossom into a genuine all-rounder for the regional team, buts needs to consider shedding a few pounds.

The 28-year-old has had a splendid start to his Test cricket career for the West Indies, bursting on stage with 210 on debut against Bangladesh.  The innings helped lay the foundation for an expected away series win and catapulted the player into the spotlight. 

In the recently concluded Test series against Sri Lanka, he again garnered some attention this time with the ball. His brisk medium pace accounted for batsman Oshada Fernando and later Dinesh Chandimal at a crucial period on the third day of the opening Test.  The wickets were the first of his international career.  Overall, Mayers ended with 28 overs, 13 maidens, and four wickets.   On the back of such displays, Edwards believes the player could have the makings of a solid all-rounder.

“He did well.  He was a surprise package to the Sri Lankans.  They didn’t expect him to get the ball to swing and by the time they realized it was too late and he had wickets,” Edwards said in assessing the player’s performance on the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I’m saying that if he goes on and develops his bowling, he won’t trick batsmen as early as that again and he would have to consistently bowl well, but he can, he has the natural ability to bowl.  However, he has to lose about 25 pounds.  He is too young to have all that weight carrying around on him,” he added.

“He is a big strong guy, but he has got to drop 20 pounds at least.  He will bowl faster and he would be the genuine all-rounder in the side.  We wouldn’t be looking to get four overs out of him or five overs but he would be a fellow you can throw the ball to when you are looking to get wickets in a spell of eight overs are so.”  

 

Following the recently concluded 0-0 Test series between the West Indies and Sri Lanka, the first nearly since the nil-all stalemate between Bangladesh and South Africa in 2015, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons, believes Caribbean curators need to prepare better pitches, ones that can yield results.

The two sides battled to the two-Test stalemate in which some batsmen filled their boots but more often than not the bowlers struggled to get 20 wickets. In the first of the Test matches played at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Sri Lanka failed to get 20 wickets in the match as the West Indies had scores of 271 and 236-4.

The local bowlers had early success bowling Sri Lanka out for 169 only to toil as the visitors scored a mammoth 476 in the second innings. In the second Test, West Indies made 354 and 280-4 while Sri Lanka had scores of 258 and 193 for 2.

In both matches, batting became much easier for both teams while the bowlers struggled.

The trend was not lost on the West Indies head coach.

“I think we from a country standpoint need to get better wickets where we can have Test matches that will create a result,” he said.

“Even if we lost a Test match after it’s gone to the fifth day, you will still think that we’ve done well to get to the fifth day and were in with a chance of winning the Test match, so I think that’s an important part of it.”

Notwithstanding the struggles of his bowling attack, Simmons said he was comfortable with what he has now.

“We had the bowlers there who we wanted to be in the Test team,” he said.

“Everybody else is still work in progress and still looking to put themselves in contention so right now these five bowlers are our main bowlers.”

 

West Indies chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has revealed that the panel remains in the dark regarding the future of spinner Sunil Narine who remains unavailable for selection.

The 32-year-old Narine is widely regarded as one of the best spinners in the world but has not appeared for the West Indies since 2019.  In total, Narine has played 6 Test matches, where he claimed 21 wickets, 65 One Day Internationals, where he has claimed 92 wickets, and 51 T20 Internationals where he has taken 52.

The player has, however, throughout his career been plagued by questions surrounding his bowling action.  In 2015, Narine was suspended from bowling in international cricket, after his action was deemed to be illegal.  He was reported during the ODI series against Sri Lanka.  He was cleared a year later after doing remedial work on his action.  Narine was reported again during the 2018 Pakistan Super League but was cleared soon after.  Again, in October 2020, the spinner was reported by on-field umpires for his bowling action in the 2020 Indian Premier League, which was cleared by IPL Suspect Bowling Action Committee in September.

According to Harper, at this point, the bowler does not seem comfortable enough with his technique to return to international cricket.

“Sunil Narine has indicated to us that he is not yet ready for the international scene,”
 Harper told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He was still in the process of fine-tuning his action.  He had some issues with that so he is in the process of fine-tuning it,” he added.

“So, when he makes himself available and thinks that he is ready for international cricket, we will then have to make a determination at that point.”

Legendary West Indies fast bowler, Curtly Ambrose, believes the team could have been more aggressive in going for the win against Sri Lanka in the second and final Test but admitted to being pleased with the strides the team had made.

In the end, West Indies and Sri Lanka played to a 0-0 Test series draw with neither team really able to press home advantages at various stages in both matches.  In a reversal of fortunes, it was the West Indies who had headed into the final day of the final Test with a big lead and looking to put the pressure on the visitors.  The team, however, managed to take two wickets as Sri Lanka closed the day on 193 for 2.  Ambrose, however, believes the West Indies did not give themselves enough time to win the game.

“I think that we didn’t show enough intent to try and win that game. We batted too long in my opinion, we took too long to score the runs which means we didn’t have enough time to bowl out Sri Lanka on a very placid surface and I thought that the urgency in getting those quick runs wasn’t there. We batted too long,” Ambrose told the Antigua Observer.

During the second innings, with team captain Kraigg Brathwaite anchoring the unit on the third day, Ambrose believes the batting line-up should have been re-tooled in an attempt to score more quickly.

“We know the captain Kraigg Brathwaite isn’t going to take an attacker path. He is one of those guys who are going to bat for long and accumulate his runs and nothing is wrong with that,” Ambrose added.

“Kyle Mayers we know will go on the attack but I thought that later on after Kyle Mayers got out, we should have at least sent Jimbo [Rahkeem Cornwall] or Alzarri Joseph ahead of Da Silva to get some quicker runs so we could have enough time after the declaration to try and bowl out Sir Lanka. Sending Da Silva to me wasn’t a good move at that particular stage.”

Ambrose insisted, however, that there were several positives to be taken from the display.

“You can see that the guys are putting a lot more thought into the cricket which is very good to see. They have been patient, they try to construct their innings in terms of the batting and even in the bowling department, you could see they were really trying to bowl in good areas and not just trying to get a wicket every ball."

Windies middle-order batsman, Joshua Da Silva, believes there is plenty to be proud of when it comes to his performances so far for the regional team.

Since making his debut against New Zealand, in December of last year, the batsman has averaged 37.62 in five Test matches, with a high score of 92.  The half-century was one of two scored by the player during the period.

Da Silva has scored 301 runs so far, his innings often providing much-needed stability at crucial times in the team’s batting line-up.  Despite narrowly missing out on a triple-figure and a few half centuries, the player admitted he was pleased with his work to date.

“I don’t think I could have been more proud of what I have done so far in Test cricket. I definitely would have wanted to convert some of those forties into fifties and that 90 into a 100, but hopefully there are going to be a lot more opportunities to do that,” Da Silva told Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

Da Silva recently played a crucial part in the Test series draw with Sri Lanka, which saw batsmen with the upper hand for most of the series, partly due to a flat surface.

“I don’t think we could fault any bowler or batsman according to the conditions. It was quite challenging for the bowlers. Overall, I thought we had a very positive series, a lot of good things came out of it.”

Cricket West Indies (CWI) has announced a new deal with India sports platform Fan Code, which will see the Dream Sports-owned product become the exclusive broadcasters of West Indies cricket in the Asian country.

The four-year partnership is expected to see fans of West Indies cricket in India given access to close to 150 international and 250 domestic cricket matches from the Caribbean.  The list will include 16 International West Indies Men’s Series, CG Insurance Super50 Cup matches, West Indies Women’s Home Series, and Under-19 International Cricket matches.

In addition to a list of upcoming international tour matches, the agreement will see the platform gain exclusive rights for the next India tour of West Indies in July 2022 (three ODIs and three T20 Internationals) and any subsequent India tours within the period.

President of CWI, Ricky Skerritt, hailed the deal as having the potential to bring West Indies cricket to millions of fans in India.

“We are delighted to announce this new partnership with FanCode,” Skerritt said.

“India is one of our close allies in the cricket world and a key player in the global sporting landscape so this new agreement will enhance our presence there and also bring millions of fans closer to our team and to the magnificence of West Indies cricket,” he added.

Commenting on the association, Yannick Colaco, co-founder of FanCode, admitted the company was excited to be associated with West Indies cricket.

“The Caribbean is home to some of the most entertaining cricket played in the world. We are excited to partner with Cricket West Indies and bring close to 400 matches from the Caribbean featuring some of world cricket's biggest and brightest stars, to Indian cricket fans. This partnership will give millions of cricket fans in India the opportunity to experience FanCode and the many digital innovations we are bringing to improve the sports fan consumption experience.”

 

West Indies head coach Phil Simmons believes a change of approach by his team’s batsmen is largely responsible for five of them averaging over 50 for the just-concluded series against Sri Lanka. Kraigg Brathwaite, Nkrumah Bonner, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder and Rahkeem Cornwall hit that significant milestone during the series that ended in a stalemate between the two cricketing nations.

It was the first time since 2012, that West Indies batsmen have been able to achieve that feat and only the second time since 1995.

Brathwaite, who started off the series with scores of three and 23 in the first Test, finished strong with his ninth Test century, 126, and a second innings score of 85 that spiralled his average in the series to an excellent 59.25.

Kyle Mayers, perhaps the most consistent of the West Indies batsmen had scores of 49, 55, 45 and 52 for an overall average of 50.25.

Incidentally, these were the two lowest averages of the five batsmen. Nkrumah Bonner, who scored his first Test century in the series, 113 not out, averaged 72 while Jason Holder averaged 69 after scoring 71 not out, 30, 19 and 18 not out.

Rahkeem Cornwall had only two turns at-bat and he made them count. His 61 and 73 gave him an average of 67, to round out an impressive all-round performance from the West Indies despite the fact that they were unable to force a win in any of the two Tests.

Simmons, though, was pleased with what he observed.

“Everybody is looking to occupy the crease. People are working to bat for long periods and our depth goes deeper because Alzarri Joseph and Rahkeem Cornwall have shown within the last three series that they can bat and they can provide that 50-100-run partnerships that later down can take us to 350 to 400s,” said the West Indies head coach.

He was particularly pleased with Cornwall’s performance with the bat. Already, a crucial member of the bowling attack, Cornwall enhanced his reputation as a genuine allrounder.

“It was great to see Rahkeem’s batting coming to the fore, and in all, the batting has shown up in the last four Test matches and this is a great thing because, before that, the bowling was carrying us,” Simmons said.

The last time the West Indies had five batsmen averaging over 50 in a Test series was back in 2012, when Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieran Powell and Denesh Ramdin all surpassed the milestone. Chanderpaul averaged over 300 for the series.

Before that, six West Indies batsmen - Chanderpaul, Junior Murray, Winston Benjamin, Jimmy Adams, Brian Lara and Sherwin Campbell - all averaged over 50 runs an innings against New Zealand in 1995.

 

 

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

 

 Positive signs for Windies batting

West Indies batting has been a matter of concern, especially in the Test format for some time.

As recently, as of July 2020 when West Indies faced England in three Tests, the Jamaica Observer newspaper blared the headline “West Indies bowlers undermined by batting woes” a sentiment shared by many newspapers in cricket-loving nations around the world.

After winning the first Test against England, the West Indies only survived 70.1 overs in the second innings of the second Test. It was even worse in the second innings of the third Test when they lasted a mere 37.1 overs as England completed a 269-run win in Manchester.

However, against Bangladesh and in the just concluded test series against Sri Lanka, the Windies have shown signs of improvement.

Generally speaking, West Indies batsmen do not face enough balls and hence give their wickets away cheaply. Against Sri Lanka, there was a refreshing change in attitude and application.

In the final Test, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite made 126 in the first innings- his ninth Test century, his first as captain and 85 in the second. In all, the skipper batted 813 minutes, the most in a Test for the Windies. In that time, he faced 507 balls, the joint-most by a West Indian in a Test match since Brian Lara's 400* off 582 balls against England in 2004.

Similarly, Kyle Mayers and Jason Holder each spent time at the crease while setting a 377-run target for Sri Lanka. Mayers faced 76 balls for his 55 while Holder scored 71 not out off 88 balls.

In the first Test, Nkrumah Bonner’s maiden century of 113* was an exercise in patience and determination. Batting at number three, the 32-year-old Jamaican faced 274 balls in more than seven hours at the crease.

 There is still a lot of work to be done but the early evidence suggests that the West Indies batsman might finally be on the right path.

 

 Sergio Aguero still has value

 It has been confirmed by Premier League club Manchester City that Sergio Aguero will leave when his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, this does not mean that his career has come to an end.

This season has been a challenging one for the striker, who has had to endure injury, Covid-19, and lack of game time. In his 14 appearances, he has started nine games and scored three goals.

Despite his struggles, he is arguably the best non-English striker to grace the Premier League and the numbers speak for themselves. Aguero is the fourth highest goal scorer in the Premier League history with 181 goals. He also leads the statistics in the rate of scoring in English top-flight football since 1992.

Aguero’s famous goal in injury time against QPR in 2012 when he clinched the club’s first English title in 44 years, is one for the books. Overall, he has helped The Citizens to four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and five League Cups.

Though slowed by age and injury, in Saturday’s game against Leicester City, he worked hard off the ball and contributed to his side’s win, something he has done constantly during his incredible career at Manchester City.

His boots will not be easily filled as was made clear by Pep Guardiola.

“I want to be clear. Maybe we'll find a new player to replace Sergio. In terms of numbers, he might be replaced, but in terms of what he means to the club, it is impossible.” 

 

Why are super teams an issue for some in the NBA?

The news of LaMarcus Aldridge joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit well with many Los Angeles Lakers fans with many saying the Nets are so desperate for a championship they are buying one. Lakers superstar Le Bron James’ son Bronny also weighed in tweeting, “All this to stop a 36-year-old man in Year 18.”

LA Lakers CEO and owner Jeanie Buss, who sees the move as making the NBA a more compelling product said, “So, bring it on.”   

Personally, I see nothing wrong with the Nets creating a super team because LeBron has done the same many times in the past.

In fact, LeBron created his own super team with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami Heat in 2010-2011. He also helped assemble Kevin Love Kyrie Irving for the championship-winning Cleveland Cavaliers.

 And while the Nets signed the talented LeMarcus Aldridge it is important to note that the Lakers also recently signed two-time all-star centre Andre Drummond, who is averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds this season despite having not played since February 12.

 

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite insists he was proud of the fighting spirit shown by the team despite drawing both Test matches against Sri Lanka.

On Friday’s final day of the match, the visitors closed on 193 for 2 still almost 200 runs shorts of the target, and ensured that honours were shared not just for the match but for the series. 

In both matches, Sri Lanka in the first and West Indies in the second, the teams headed into the final day with big enough leads but found wickets hard to come by as they looked to force a result.  The hosts may not have come out on top in the final assessment, but the newly minted captain found plenty to be encouraged by moving forward.

“Obviously it was a good pitch. In both Test matches the bowlers really worked hard and what I was pleased with is that none of the guys ever gave up,” Brathwaite said.

“Even down to Alzarri’s last spell he was still giving an effort to get some short balls in so I’m very happy with the effort of the team.”

The captain was also pleased with the fact that the team knuckled down to bat a fair number of overs.

“… batting-wise, we continued to bat a number of overs – 90-plus overs which is a positive for us. And yes, we would’ve liked to have won but I was very happy with the attitude and discipline that we had. The pitch was a good one throughout; it didn’t spin at all, but I was very happy with the fast bowlers’ effort.”

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite said he wanted to lead from the front as his side played to a draw against Sri Lanka in the second and final Test of the 2021 Sandals Series at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua today.

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite came very close to a second century in the second Sandals Test match on Thursday, which helped the team to a commanding position against Sri Lanka after the fourth day.

The experienced opener followed his 126 in the West Indies first innings with a patient 85 in the second innings which, along with half-centuries from Kyle Mayers and Jason Holder, allowed him to declare the second innings at 280 for 4, setting the visitors a target of 376 on a good pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. Holder was 71 not out, having shared a 53-run partnership with wicket-keeper Joshua Da Silva who was 20 not out.

West Indies then had 40 minutes to bowl at Sri Lanka before stumps and they reached 29-0 with captain Dimuth Karunaratne (11 not out) and Lahiru Thirimanne (17 not out) at the close. They will resume on Friday with another 347 needed for victory, while West Indies will be hunting 10 wickets in 98 overs on what is expected to be an enthralling last day.

Sri Lanka started the day at 250-8 in its first innings and the home side took just over three overs to wrap up the innings at 258 and take a first-innings lead of 96 runs. Pathum Nissanka, on 49 overnight, completed his half-century from the fifth ball of the day, but was out soon after for 51 – caught by substitute Hayden Walsh Jr. at deep backward square from the bowling of Kemar Roach after the trap was set for the hook shot.

When West Indies batted a second time Mayers went on to a half-century from 63 balls, with eight fours, before eventually falling lbw to seamer Saranga Lakmal for 55. Brathwaite reached his 21st half-century from 137 balls and looked set to reach centuries in both innings when he went on to 85, which came off 196 balls and included four boundaries. Holder played a number of outstanding shots and paced the innings well with his half-century requiring just 69 balls.

 

Cricket West Indies (CWI) presidential candidate, Anand Sanasie, has announced the decision to withdraw from the race for regional cricket’s top governing post, after citing concerns with recent events at the CWI and Guyana Cricket Board (GCB).

Doubts had been raised regarding the viability of the former secretary of the GCB’s candidacy, following the election of a new executive on Monday.  Losing his position on the CWI board would not necessarily have meant the end of Sanasie’s candidacy but serious doubts were raised regarding the ability to garner support from his home country.  Sanasie's running mate, Calivn Hope of Barbados, also announced his withdrawal.

The deposed official, however, continues to question the legitimacy of the election that he claims were influenced by partisan actions on the part of the Guyana sports minister.

“Unjust, irregular, imprudent and hasty actions taken by the partisan and compromised Minister of Sport in Guyana, Mr. Charles Ramson Jr, have led to dubious GCB elections being held and a new group purporting to be the new executive installed. I am advised by my legal team that these elections cannot withstand judicial scrutiny which may arise and which have every possibility of prevailing. It should also be noted that the court-ordered Demerara Cricket Board election is very likely to be set aside,” Sanasie stated in the press realease.

He went on to claim that the meetings with the sports minister were held without the then nominated GCB directors despite their objections.  Sanasie also claimed that there was attempted impropriety at last week’s CWI annual general meeting, which was to feature the leadership election.

“…there was an attempt to hold an Annual General Meeting and Presidential and Vice Presidential Elections without critical requirements outlined by the Articles of Association being complied with. This attempt, until it was thwarted at the last minute, remains cause for serious concern by those who have an interest in good governance of CWI. A major scandal was averted by the judicious and prudent actions of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) and the Guyana Cricket Board to save CWI global embarrassment and ridicule.”

He, however, also extended congratulations to incumbent president Ricky Skerritt who will head into next weekend’s elections unopposed.

“Consequently, I take this opportunity to extend congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Ricky Skerritt since he will be uncontested. I urge that more deliberate efforts be made to strengthen the finances of CWI and to improve in the areas of prudent fiscal management, accountability and transparency. I also urge that greater respect be accorded to Territorial Boards and that there is considerably more inclusivity in executive decision making and corporate governance.”

 

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