Isolation units and Coronavirus checkpoints at cricket grounds could see the West Indies still making the trip to that country for closed-door games.

The West Indies were scheduled to start a three-Test duel with England at T/he Oval, Edgbaston, and Lord’s on June 4 until the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Europe threatened to derail those plans.

The ECB and Cricket West Indies have been trying to come up with solutions to keep what is expected to be a lucrative series alive.

According to reports, the ECB is stepping up plans to resume cricket in June, but with no spectators, but that broadcasting would still go ahead since that was safer and that is where the majority of money to be earned from the series would be in any case.

The approach, ECB Director of Special Projects, Steve Elworthy, explained that any approach involving re-starting cricket in England would mean creating a sterile environment, safe for players and staff.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

A fiery four-for from T&T Red Force pacer Uthman Muhammad handed the team a commanding 148 runs win over Barbados Pride at the West Indies Championship, in Tarouba, on Sunday.

 The win was the first for the Red Force over Barbados in three years.  Resuming the final day on 343 for 9, the home team managed to add another 7 runs before Anderson Phillips was dismissed for 350.  The total meant the Pride needed a mammoth 350 runs to win, a total they would not get close to.

Muhammad, who finished with overall figures of 34 for 4, went to work early on the innings.  The bowler trapped Sheyne Moseley for five and Shamarh Brooks followed soon after for 10, which left Barbados struggling on 32 for 2.  Anderson Phillip, who took six first-innings wickets, got in on the act after removing Justin Greaves for one, leaving the Pride in further trouble at 33 for 3.  Shane Dowrich was next at the crease but could not repeat his first innings heroics as he became Muhammad’s third wicket. 

Kyles Mayers and Kraigg Brathwaite briefly stopped the rot when they added 53 for the fifth wicket but Mayers was dismissed 10 runs short of his half-century by Akeal Hosein.  Brathwaite was next to follow, also dismissed by Hosein on 36.

Kevin Stoute and last man Chemar Holder featured in another solid stand, as they added 52 runs for the last wicket but Muhammad struck again by capturing the wicket of Stoute for 33. Holder ended unbeaten on 34 off 37 as the Pride crumbled all-out for 182.

President of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has claimed his predecessors paid teams, including the West Indies, exorbitant sums to play matches on the country’s home soil.

In wake of a vicious attack on the team bus of a touring Sri Lanka team, in Lahore, in 2009, the country had been blacklisted as a destination for international cricket.  As a result of opponents refusing to visit Pakistan, the country was forced to use the UAE as a home venue for a decade.

A thaw in relations began five years ago, with teams like Zimbabwe, West Indies, and Sri Lanka among the first to tour the once shunned country.  Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chief Ehsan Mani has, however, claimed that often came at a heavy price.  Mani claimed that prior to him taking charge, in 2018, the board had paid a whopping extra US$25,000 per player to Windies players for a series in Pakistan.  A weakened West Indies team played three T20 international matches in April 2018.  The PCB board boss claimed another team was given $USD 15,000 per player.  Mani insisted things were now back to normal.

  “This PCB regime has not paid anything extra to any player for playing in Pakistan,” told Pakistan news publication Dawn.

“Pakistan hosted Sri Lanka and other teams which was a big boost for Pakistan cricket.”

  

Windies T20 captain Kieron Pollard is feeling a sense of relief after coming away from Sri Lanka with a series victory after being swamped in the One-Day Internationals before that.

The West Indies beat back the challenge of the hosts 2-0, completing the route with a seven-wicket win in Pallekele on Friday.

Sent into bat, Sri Lanka recovered from 48-4 in the 12th over to score 155-6 thanks to Dasun Shanaka’s 31 not out and Thisara Perera’s unbeaten 21 but that wasn’t enough.

In reply, the West Indies, despite the early loss of Lendl Simmons, 9, didn’t have too much trouble chasing the target with a long, powerful batting line-up, where Brandon King scored 43, Shimron Hetmyer was unbeaten on 43 and Andre Russell scored a remarkable 40 not out, inclusive of six sixes.

“Pretty satisfied to leave Sri Lankan shores with a victory, we hadn't won a T20I series in a while,” said Pollard.

The skipper lauded the team for the effort they put into the two games, saying he liked the fact that the intensity remained high over the course of the two games. The West Indies won the first encounter on Wednesdat by 25 runs.  

“The guys executed nicely, the foundation was laid by Brandon King, the young man is finding his feet in international cricket, Russell finished it off and the bowlers were brilliant,” said Pollard.

On Wednesday, the West Indies had a scare after Kusal Perera threatened to take the game away from them. Pollard had said then, that he would reveal his plans for there not to be a repeat.

“He is always looking for the length ball, every time we bowl fuller he tends to miss, our analyst has done a brilliant job, and as I said, it was a total team effort,” he said.

The bowling effort, Pollard said, was better than in the last game and better than it has been in a while.

“We were trying to make them hit to one side of the park only,” he said, pointing out that his team had previously been leaking runs on both sides of the wicket, making it difficult to contain scoring.

Now, Pollard said, it was just for the team to create those performances consistently.

Big-hitting Windies all-rounder Andre Russell believes the team is set to peak at just the right time, with the ICC T20 World Cup just on the horizon.

Russell played a starring role as the Windies closed out its T20 series against Sri Lanka, with a convincing 7 wickets win at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Friday.  The 2-0 win triumph for the West Indies was the team’s first series win against an opponent since Bangladesh in 2019.

For a re-tooled Windies team looking to win an unprecedented third world title, the all-rounder believes that while the team has a long way to go, the victory is timely encouragement.

“We are peaking at the right time but we still have some areas to work on as a team,” Russell, who was named man of the series, said.

“We have a new set of guys who have the professional mind-set and we know what we have to do to better than what we have been doing.  I just hope everyone is in tuned in and ready to make the sacrifices moving forward to work on our cricket.”

Russell ended the series with a decisive 75 runs and one wicket.

 

 

A friendly international between Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and the Spanish region of Catalonia has been postponed amidst ongoing fears relating to the spread of the Coronavirus.

Reports emanating from Spain have suggested that the Jamaica team did not want to travel to Europe for the March 30 friendly, as the region struggles to come to grips with the virus.  The number of cases reported in Spain has now reached 340, with the region of Catalonia accounting for 28.  None have, however, been reported in the city of Lleida.

Earlier this week Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) had promised to rely on advice from the ministry of health before finalising travel plans for the fixture.  The friendly was expected to be contested by an all European Jamaica international contingent, which head coach hoped to evaluate.  According to reports the JFF and the Spanish Football Association (SFA) are expected to reschedule the fixture just ahead of the World Cup qualifiers. 

The national team will return to action next week at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, where an all local contingent will face Bermuda.  The Reggae Boyz have made the CONCACAF Hexagonal round for the first time since the 2014 cycle and could be in line for a second appearance at the FIFA World Cup.

 

The Everest Premier League (EPL), which was expected to see the likes of West Indies star Chris Gayle, has been postponed over fears of spreading the coronavirus.

The tournament, which was slated to be held from March 14-28 at TU Cricket Ground, in Nepal, became just the latest in a number of sporting events to disrupted by the global pandemic.  The decision comes on the heels of the National Sports Council (NSC)’s decision to halt all the sports-related activities in view of the fast-spreading coronavirus.

The NSC’s decision came on the heels of the government instituting a ban on holding mass meetings and gatherings. 

The 40-year-old Gayle was set to be among a host of other stars booked for the tournament.  The list also included retired West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Smith.  Gayle was slated to represent the Pokhara Rhinos with Smith drafted by the Bhairahawa Gladiators.

Former West Indies Players Association (WIPA) president Dinanath Ramnarine has given a vote of confidence to the new Windies cricket team leadership tandem of captain Kieron Pollard and coach Phil Simmons.

The team has experienced mixed results since the duo took charge, with Simmons taking the reins in September of last year and Pollard taking charge of the ODI and T20 teams the following month.  Simmons previously served as head coach of the regional team in 2015 and led the Windies to their second T20 World title the following year.

Though the team is yet to put together a strong string of positive results, as they were most recently swept aside by Sri Lanka in three one day internationals, Ramnarine believes the youthful Windies squad has the ingredients to eventually get things right.

“Talent has always been there, no question about that. It takes time to groom them,” Ramnarine told the Sportstar.

“Governance is one aspect always been lacking significantly in sports generally, we in the West Indies have our own share of not-so-good people. The current captain Kieron Pollard, whom I know well, is a fantastic leader. He and Phil Simmons (head coach) bring a lot of positive things to the game, these are good guys. With time, these two have the ability, the skill and leadership to transform cricket in the West Indies.”

 

Windies T20 captain Kieron Pollard is very aware that while his side cruised to victory against Sri Lanka in the first game of a T20 series in Pallekele could have gone very differently had Andre Russell not bowled Kusal Perera in the 18th over.

The West Indies won the game by 25 runs after scoring an imposing 196-4 on the back of Lendl Simmons’ unbeaten 67 and 30s from Brandon King (33), Russell (35) and Pollard (34).

It almost wasn’t enough, as Kusal counter-attacked brilliantly, slamming 66 from 38 deliveries, despite Oshane Thomas’ soul-crushing 5-28.

Wanindu Hasaranga was also dangerous against the West Indies, scoring 44 from 34 deliveries, to keep the run chase alive after helping his recover from 56-5 in the sixth over.

While Pollard understands that Kusal was dangerous and could be so again, he was not yet willing to divulge what his bowlers needed to do hold on to a more powerful position.

“I'll tell you our plan to Kusal Perera after the next game, he's obviously their mainstay,” he said.

Rather, Pollard wanted to focus on the effort the team put into creating a fairly comfortable victory in the end.

Thomas came in for some praise, with Pollard speaking about the work he had put in recently after questions arose about his fitness.

“Total team effort, Oshane Thomas brilliant, he has been doing hard work back home and it's showing,” said Pollard.

Pollard also thought highly of Rovman Powell’s performance with the ball.

Powell removed Hasaranga in the 16th over, trapping him leg before and changing the course of the game, as well as Thisara Perera, who was also scoring quickly when he had him caught by Sheldon Cottrell.

“We had an unsung hero in Rovman Powell with the ball late in the innings,” said Pollard, recognizing that the efforts of Thomas and Simmons may have overshadowed the allrounder’s contribution.

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