Jamaica's 4x100m relay World Championship medallist, Jura Levy, has hopes of rehabilitating her career after overcoming a troublesome spell with injury and a recent move to Legacy Athletics Track Club.

The 30-year-old, former outstanding Vere Technical high school sprinter, was part of a bronze medal-winning national team at the 2017 World Championships in London.  A double injury blow experienced during the 2018 and 2019 seasons has since interrupted the athlete’s progression.

The sprinter is back to feeling in top shape, however, and the combination of a not-so-busy 2020 season, which was heavily impacted by the pandemic, and the recent move to Legacy has her feeling positive about the future and targeting a return to prominence by securing a spot on the national team for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I would like to make the Olympics team and get my personal medal,” Levy told Talking Sports.

The battle for the top three individual spots will be fierce, with decorated World and Olympic medallists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, all things going to plan, all but confirmed spots.  Former 2018 double World U20 sprint champion and promising prospect Briana Williams is also expected to figure prominently in the race.  Levy, however, refuses to count herself out.

“I don’t think any trials or championships is ever easy, but I’ve been there before and I’m putting in the work to get there.  So, come June I hope to secure a spot on the podium,” she added.

“My goal is to finish top three but if I make the Olympic team, I will still be ok, hopefully with a personal best.”

West Indies fast bowler, Kemar Roach, insists he is ready for the challenge of trying to take wickets on Bangladesh pitches, despite the surfaces being more suited to spin-bowling.

Despite the presence of several spinners in the squad, the 32-year-old is expected to lead the West Indies bowling line-up, along with fellow pace bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.  If the dominance of spinners in the One Day International series, on pitches that offered very little assistance to pace bowlers, is anything to go by they will certainly have their work cut out.

Having been in Bangladesh on two prior Test series, Roach would know first-hand what it takes to succeed on spin-friendly terrain.

In 2011, he claimed 0 for 52 off 9 overs and 1 for 49 off 13.2 overs in the second Test of the series.  When he returned in 2018, he claimed 1 for 74 off 18 overs in the first Test and 2 for 61 in 25 overs as Bangladesh made a mammoth 500 in the second Test.

“It mostly favours the spinners but I think there is enough there for fast bowlers to get something as well.  It’s just about having your plans, executing, and being disciplined,” Roach told members of the media via a press conference from Bangladesh on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be tough, we know we have to bowl a lot more overs to get our rewards but once you are willing to put the work in you can get some rewards over here…so it’s going to be tough but I’m up for the fight.”

The Windies have had recent success with pace bowling in Bangladesh with Tino Best claiming a five-for in 2012 and Fidel Edwards claiming 8 wickets in the 2011 series.

 

West Indies spinner, Rahkeem Cornwall, believes the unusually long preparation time before the start of the Bangladesh Test series has been beneficial for players needing to get used to ‘difficult’ conditions.

The regional team arrived in Bangladesh on January 10 and was required to quarantine for 7 days based on the country’s COVID-19 protocols.  Since clearing that hurdle, however, the Test team has been free to train and will not start the series until February 1.

The Asian team is known for being particularly difficult to beat on their home turf and easily dispatched the West Indies 2-0 on their last visit in 2018.  One of those advantages is said to be the team’s pitches.

“It has helped (extra time) you have to adapt to these conditions. These conditions are difficult to play in, so the more time we get to understand the conditions is the better it is for us,” Cornwall said.

“It spins a bit more here.  It is always going to be drier than the Caribbean.  So, we just have to adapt to it and play to the best of our ability,” he added.

The inexperienced West Indies team will be hoping for a better showing than in the recently concluded One Day International (ODI) series where the team was summarily swept aside 3-0.  The ODI batting line-up found the top class Bangladesh spinners on the surfaces a difficult task to cope with.   

Undefeated WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. has expressed the hope of one day fighting in Jamaica, a place to which he still has strong connections.

Although the 30-year-old pugilist was born in the United States, his father Errol Spence is a Jamaican who still has roots in the town of Axe and Adze in the parish of Hanover.

Last month, the boxer scored a unanimous victory over number one contender Danny Garcia, in his first fight since a serious motor vehicle accident in 2019.

While the boxer will be content to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labour, for now, he admits staging a fight in his ancestral home sometime in the future would be a dream come true.

“I want to fight in Jamaica.  Hope I can make that happen, hopefully, it will be a big event where I still have all of my titles.  It’s something that I really wanted, it something that my dad wanted me to do as well.  It’s something we talked about even when I was an amateur so hopefully, we can make that happen,” Spence Jr. told Talking Sports.

“I think I will be able to fight there.  I want to be among those great names.  Guys like Mike McCallum, guys that could really fight.  His name was the body snatcher and I’ve watched him sometimes, how he went to the body well, how tough he was.”

The last major fight in Jamaica came in 2012 when Jamaica's Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, defeated Daulis Prescott at Jamaica's National Indoor Sports Centre.

 

 

West Indies head coach, Phil Simmons, insists the upcoming Test series against Bangladesh will be a chance for inexperienced players to prove their mettle by doing well for the short-handed team.

If the play in the One Day Internationals (ODIs) is anything to go by, the regional team could have plenty of cause for concern as they have been unable to compete with Bangladesh to date.  In two matches so far, in which they batted first, the team was bowled out for 122 and 149 before Bangladesh easily chased down the target.

Facing off against the Asians next week, in what could be considered their weakest format, and with just as many inexperienced players in the line-up, it is likely to be a stern challenge.  Simmons sees an opportunity.

“It’s chance that guys get to show what they can do at this level.  It’s a chance for them to put their names in the hat for 2023 and put their names in the hat for Sri Lanka and later this year.  So, it’s good to see what people are made of,” Simmons said.

The coach predicts the four-day contests will be good for the team, as it should prove to be a test of strength.

“Playing in these conditions, playing in the environment that we are in and everything, you have to be strong.  You have to get stronger than just playing a cricket match.  So, you will see who are the strong ones and who leads from the front.  Let’s see who takes up the challenge and who comes out best in the two-Test matches.”

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has hailed former national striker for being a man that played the sport played the sport with his heart and soul and one that has gone too soon.

Shelton, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2018, died on Friday after being found unresponsive at his home.  He was 35-year-old.

Shelton, who was a prolific goal scorer for the country’s national team, holds the record for the most goals after registering 35 goals in 75 appearances.  32 of his goals came in matches that the team won. The deceased player began his career for the national team against Saint-Martin in 2005 and created history by being the first man to score four goals on debut.  His final goal for Jamaica came against Guatemala in 2012.

 “Shelton was a goalscorer of repute on who Jamaica depended on for many victories,” the release read.

“The Jamaica Football Federation like the rest of the country was saddened when he was diagnosed with ALS and many hoped and prayed for a miraculous recovery. He played with his heart and soul for Jamaica as well as for his school and clubs and he will always be remembered for that.

The JFF extends heartfelt condolences to his family and to the KSAFA family in this difficult time.”

Jamaica Premier League football club, Harbour View, where recent departed national striker Luton Shelton spent his formative years, has described his loss as heart-wrenching.

Shelton died on Friday after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was 35 years old.  In its release, the club chronicled the player’s rise from an eager youth representative to becoming the country’s all-time leading scorer.

“His late father, Luton Shelton Snr., brought him by the hand to coach Ludlow Bernard at an All-Prep vs All-Primary Final at Sabina Park in 1997 to play for Harbour View Football Club (HVFC) in the Under 14 Competition. The Tivoli Gardens resident began his journey, then accelerated his development through Under 16 Colt's, Manning Cup, and All Manning while attending Wolmer's Boys School. He quickly climbed the ladder to KSAFA Minor League, Under 20, and Premier League, attracting the glare of the national coaches,” it stated.

“International football came calling early and he embraced it with scoring a record 4 goals on debut. From there he never looked back as the goals flowed in buckets to surpass then-leading national goalscorer Paul 'Tegat' Davis, to hold the current record of 35 goals.”

Shelton represented Harbour View in Jamaica’s National Premier League between 2003-2006, scoring a healthy 44 goals in 43 appearances.  During his time at the club, he was part of the 2006-2007 Premier League championship team and also helped capture the CFU Club Championship in 2005.

The forward signed for Sweden’s Helzinberg, in 2007, and went on to play nine years abroad at various clubs, including a brief stint in the English Premier League with Sheffield United.  He returned to Harbour View in 2017 but was forced to retire soon after suffering injuries and later being diagnosed with the disease.

“As he returned home to HVFC, he battled training and match preparations as injuries interrupted, but at the National Stadium on February 20, 2017, he lit up the floodlights with a goal made in heaven as the bright 'Star Of The East' shone one more time to equalise against Tivoli Gardens FC. He never returned to the field after halftime.

Fond memories of a career filled with scorching runs, dribbles, and a ton of goals remind us of the man, the goalscorer, and the legend Luton George Kieshawn Shelton. Rest in eternal peace; your goal was well scored."

Tributes have poured from around the globe for former Jamaica striker, Luton Shelton, who died on Friday, after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Shelton, who was 35 years old, spent several years plying his trade abroad between 2006 and 2015, where he represented six clubs.  On Friday, many of those clubs that once celebrated when his lighting speed resulted in breathtaking goals, paid homage to the fallen striker.

 Prominently featured among them were Swedish club Helsingborgs IF, English club Sheffield United and Norwegian football Vålerenga, along with world governing body FIFA.

Shelton represented Sheffield between 2007-2008 where he made four Premier League appearances towards the end of 2006-07, that included a debut against Manchester United but the club was relegated that year.  He then scored four goals in 21 outings the following season.  Famously, the striker was part of a famous 2-1 FA Cup win against Manchester City when the ball deflected to him having hit a balloon.  The Blades paid tribute to Shelton with a message posted to the club’s official website.

"Sheffield United is saddened to hear reports in the Caribbean indicating the passing of our former striker, Luton Shelton, aged just 35.

"In recent years he has bravely battled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

"The condolences of all at the Blades are with Luton's family at this difficult time."

Vålerenga, where the player scored 17 goals between 2008 and 2011, also memorialized the player.

"The sad news (of) Luton Shelton's untimely passing has reached us.

"He had ALS and was only 35 years old. Our thoughts go to his family and friends. Rest in peace Luton, in Valerenga you will never be forgotten."

Helsingborgs IF, who first signed the player from Jamaica Premier League outfit Harbour View, in 2006, took to social media platform Instagram to express their condolences.

“We have been reached by the tragic news that our former player Luton Shelton has fallen asleep at the age of 35 after a period of fighting the disease ALS.

Our thoughts go to his relatives. Rest in peace, Luton!”

Through its official Twitter website, FIFA declared that global football was in mourning, following the passing of the young Jamaican.

"FIFA and World Football are mourning today.  Jamaica’s all-time top scorer Luton Shelton has passed away.  He was 35 years old.  Rest in peace, Luton."

Jamaica middle-distance runner, Aisha Praught-Leer, has signed with sporting goods giants Puma ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held later this year.

The 31-years-old Praught-Leer is Jamaica’s record holder in the 3000m Steeplechase event and represented the country at the 2015 and 2017 IAAF World Championships, as well as the 2016 Olympics, where she qualified for the final.

In addition, the athlete also captured gold in the event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.  Praught-Leer has, however, contemplated switching events to try her hand at competing in the 1500m. 

The athlete had hoped to make her 1500m Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but like many others had to set aside those plans as the event was postponed due to the onslaught of the coronavirus.  She has already begun her quest to qualify for this summer's Games by targeting three events, the 3000m steeplechase, 5000m, and 1500m.  She currently has personal best times of 15:07.50 in the 5000m, 9:14.09 seconds in the 3000m steeplechase, and 4:05.52 in the 1500 metres.

Praught-Leer previously represented Under Armour after signing a contract with that brand in 2017, earlier this month, however, she announced via social media that her contract with the company had come to an end.

West Indies legendary wicketkeeper, Jeffrey Dujon, is convinced that out-of-favour Shai Hope remains the team’s best batsman, despite recently running into a rough patch of form.

The 27-years-old Hope was dropped from the team last year ahead of the West Indies tour of New Zealand.  The decision followed several months of off-colour form, which saw the player return scores of 16, 9, 25, 7, 17, and 31 during the team’s three-Test tour of England in July. Overall, in Test cricket, Hope averaged 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019.

The decision to drop the player, however, still stirred vigorous debate around the region, with many arguing that he should have been allowed to play his way back into form.  For his part, Dujon has backed the player to figure things out sooner, rather than later.

“There’s no question in my mind that he is the best batsman that we have,” Dujon told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Technically he is very good, from the very first time I saw him, I thought he was very good and talking to him and getting to know him, I know he is smart enough to work it out when things aren’t going right,” he added.

“He might have gotten his technique a little bit mixed up because of the competitions he was playing in, but I don’t see that lasting very long because he has quality.  You don’t go to England and be immortal and not be able to bat.”

Hope grabbed headlines around the world in 2017, becoming the first batsman to score twin hundreds in a match at Headingly in first-class cricket.

West Indies stand-captain, Jason Mohammed, admits the team’s inability to cope with top-class spinners has been the primary reason it has been unable to post higher totals.

Batting first in both ODIs played to date, being inserted to bat in the first and choosing to bat first in the second, the regional team fell below 150 runs on both occasions.  The stifling spin bowling of Mehidy Hasan and Shakib Al Hasan proved to be a major contributing factor in keeping the West Indies batsmen in straitjackets on both occasions.

Al Hasan claimed a jaw-dropping 4 for 8 runs in the first ODI, with an extraordinary miserly economy rate of 1.09 as the West Indies were restricted to 122.  In the second, it was Mehidy who applied the restraints, claiming 4 for 25 with an economy rate of 2.59.  The West Indies were restricted to 148 before Bangladesh easily chased down the target.

“They are two quality spinners, especially Shakib, one of the best in the world and Mehidy has been playing very well for Bangladesh as well,” Mohammed said of facing off against the pair.

“They have been good, and we haven’t been able to manage them, that’s why we have been getting those low totals.”

Rovman Powell was the team’s top scorer with 41 in the second ODI, while Kyle Mayers led the way with 40 in the first ODI.  The West Indies and Bangladesh will face off for the final ODI on Monday at 12:30 am.

West Indies fast bowler Alzarri Joseph has ambitions of someday blossoming into an all-rounder but, for now, he is content to be focussed on providing whatever the team needs to succeed.

With 13 Test match appearances and 29 One Day International (ODI) games under his belt, the 29-year-old fast bowler has done most of his damage with the ball.  Joseph has taken 32 Test wickets and 48 ODI wickets, on occasion, however, he has shown plenty of ability with the bat.

In the recent series against New Zealand, the bowler’s 85 in the first Test was one of the batting highlights in an overall poor showing at the crease for the West Indies.  Despite showing flashes of ability, the player is yet to display any type of strong consistency with the bat, but he admits he is working towards it.

“Personally, I’m aiming to be an all-rounder, but, as of now, I’m just taking everything step by step,” Joseph told members of the media from Bangladesh on Thursday.

“I’m looking to first do my main attribute, which is to contribute with the ball, and then when it comes to batting, I will give my best, whatever performance I can put in with the bat I will put it in,” he added.

Newly appointed West Indies women’s team assistant coach, Corey Collymore, insists the unit must be given time to get back to its best form.

The regional team claimed the ICC Women’s World Cup with a surprise won over Australia in 2016.  Since then, not only have the Windies failed to win another title but seem increasingly unable to compete with the game’s biggest teams.

At the 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup the team failed to advance from the group stage after winning just one game.  In September of last year, the team found itself on the wrong side of a one-sided 5-0 loss at the hands of England.  Collymore, the specialist bowling coach, believes that based on their talent the Windies could once again be battling against the top teams, but it will take work.

“As I said to them, it will take some work.  I was with the U19s in 2016 but now being here with these ladies, and judging from England, I spoke to them and I said our overall game definitely needs some serious work,” Collymore told members of the media.

“We’ll put that in, but it will take time.  We’re not here to say you need five years or whatever the case may be, but we need a pool of players that we can put some consistent work in, then we can be able to choose a squad that will be able to go forward and deliver performances like the one in 2016.”

The team, which has been inactive since September, is currently at a training camp in Antigua with one eye on the World Cup qualifiers later this year.

Noted West Indian cricket analyst Fazeer Mohammed believes India’s triumph over Australia, at the historic Brisbane Cricket Ground, could indeed be the greatest moment in India cricket.

Of course, the Asian team has claimed the ICC World Cup twice, first in 1983 and then again in 2011.  the special circumstance surrounding the team’s spirited defense of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, for this particular series, however, will put this historical result right alongside the best of them.

Shorn of some of its most experienced players, due to injury, and having seen inspirational captain Virat Kohli head back to India after just one Test, for the birth of his daughter, few expected India to be able to make the series competitive, let alone retain the trophy.

In addition, the team allegedly faced racism from the crowd during the second Test in Sydney, which no doubt added fuel to the fire.  Perhaps it was fitting it came down to the last hour of the final day with all four results a possibility.

Spurred on by Rishabh Pant who stayed not out and hit a wonderful 89, young opener, Shunhman Gill also contributed with 91 at the top and the gritty Cheteshwar Pujara who held up his end for 56.

Prior to the unlikely triumph on enemy territory, no team had chased more than 236 at the Gabba, a ground where Australia had not lost a Test since 1988.

“It wasn’t just solid, it was inspirational,” Mohammed told the SportsMax Zone.

“All of the experts when it comes to Indian cricket, I can’t fault what any of them have said…when you try your best and put it into context with all of the different issues and primarily the loss of almost all of their prominent players throughout the four-Test matches, and being routed for 36 in the first Test.  Everyone had written them off with the departure of Kohli," he added.

 “To see Ajinkya Rahane holding the trophy, not with a drawn series but with a historic victory, they don’t win at Brisbane, no one beats Australia at Brisbane.  When you lump everything together, when you put all of the contexts of the individual players and their own personal journeys, to this point it has to be the greatest moment in Indian cricket, certainly when it comes to Test cricket”

 

 

Indian Premier League (IPL) club Kings XI Punjab are expected to predictably retain West Indian star batsman Chris Gayle but will release his compatriot Sheldon Cottrell ahead of the new season.

The 31-year-old pace bowler was bought for a sizeable INR 8.5 crore ($US1,156,239) during the IPL 2020 auction but failed to justify the price tag.  In six matches, Cottrell bowled 20 overs, claiming 6 wickets for 176 runs at an expensive economy rate of 8.80.  Unfortunately, perhaps the player's biggest moment came after being on the wrong side of thrashing from Rajasthan Royals Rahul Tewatia, who smashed 5 sixes off one of his overs during a record run chase.

Gayle, on the other hand, was sensational.  Despite starting the season on the sidelines, the big left-hander became the driving force behind the team's push for a playoff spot, although it ended with the team narrowly missing out on 6th spot.  The West Indian had been left on the bench for the first seven games of the season.  He was not picked for the first five, and food poisoning ruled him out for the next two.  He ended with 288 runs at an average of 44.14 and a high score of 99.

India batsman Karun Nair is also expected to be released but the team remains undecided on Australian Glenn Maxwell, who had a mediocre IPL season but had a splendid series against India.

  

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