West Indies coach Phil Simmons has insisted the size of off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall has not been an issue, as he remains in contention to secure a place in the team for the upcoming tour of England.

Despite his success in regional cricket and solid performances for both West Indies A and West Indies squads, the player's physique has often drawn attention for looking different than the average cricketer.  Standing at 6 ft 5 inches tall, Cornwall weighs somewhere in the region of 308 pounds.

For a time, it was believed to be keeping the player from being selected to the regional squad, after a successful debut against India last year, however, the spinner's stock seems to be on the rise.  For the current tour of England, Cornwall could be in contention for a spot in the team as the primary or secondary spinner and the coach was quick to insist there are no concerns with his size or mobility.

“His size has not been an issue, if you see Rahkeem at slip and some of the catches that he takes at slip, there is no issue,” Simmons told members of the media in a Zoom press conference call on Monday.

“I think he is capable of bowling a lot of overs.  He has bowled an enormous amount of overs through the years for the Leeward Islands, West Indies A, and the West Indies team in our Test match against India.  So, none of it has been a hindrance to him.  He had a little knee injury and that has been fixed so now he is strong as ever,” he added.

On debut, against India, Cornwall claimed 3 wickets, before claiming 10 against Afghanistan in his second Test.

 

 West Indies captain Jason Holder believes too much attention has been spent focusing on the possible deficiency of the team’s top order and backed the rest of the batting unit to pick-up the runs-scoring slack if needed.

Ahead of the start of the West Indies England tour, doubts have repeatedly been raised of not just the team’s top order, but the overall unit as well, as they prepare to stand up to an experienced English bowling line-up. Since a 2-1 defeat to England, on their last tour in 2017, West Indies have a batting average of 23.59 across 19 Tests.  Nor can the team take comfort in some of the showings during the recent intra-squad matches, which served as preparation for the series.  In the final warm-up, a top-five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope, and Roston Chase found themselves reduced to 9 for 3 and 49 for 5.

“The runs don’t have to only come from the top order.  I think we are putting a lot of emphasis on the top order.  Yes, they probably haven’t lived up to the expectations but in general, it’s a team sport and we just have to put runs on the board,” Holder told members of the media during a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

“Personally, I don’t care, it’s just for us to put runs on the board and give our bowlers something to work with.”  

West Indies captain Jason Holder has listed England as heavy favourites under their home conditions but has backed the regional team to be highly competitive in the upcoming series.

The teams will be the first to return to international cricket amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when the series bowls off at 5:00 am (6:00 am ECT) on Wednesday morning.  This time around the battle for the Wisden Trophy will take place in unusual circumstances, as it will be played in a bio-secure environment completely free of fans and fast bowlers will not be allowed to put saliva on the ball to encourage reverse swing.

The unique conditions under which the series will take place aside, Holder believes one thing will remain the same, the England team has a formidable record on home soil.  They have not lost a Test in England since being shocked by Sri Lanka in 2014.  The West Indies will have to look much further back than that for success having not won in England since 1988.

“England are probably favourites, in their home conditions they are very, very strong.  They are a very strong side in their home conditions, and it is proven,” Holder told members of the media during a Zoom conference call on Tuesday.

“They have a really good track record at home.  So, we got our work cut out for us if we want to beat them.  England are not going to roll over and die they are going to come at us very, very hard,” he added.

“Those guys want to win just as badly as we do, so I’m expecting a keen contest and it’s a matter for us to dethrone England in their backyard, which is not going to be an easy task.”

The West Indies are the current holders of the Wisden Trophy after defeating the England team 2-1 in the Caribbean last year.  It was the Englishmen who won 2-1 when the teams last met, in England, in 2017.

 

 Former England quick, Devon Malcolm, recently recalled the result of reports he had the found the formula for legendary Windies batsman Viv Richards making their way to the ears of the batsman, during England's 1990 tour of the Caribbean. 

The Jamaica-born pace-bowler created shockwaves, at Sabina Park, after effecting the run-out of Gordon Greenidge and dismissing Richards twice in a crushing 9-wicket win for England, at the start of the series. 

The then 27-year-old bowler figured, he might be on to something, first dismissing the iconic batsman lbw and then having him clean bowled in the second innings.  A confident answer at a post match press conference had seen the young bowler dubbed 'the chemist' in the following day's reports.  With the second Test abandoned, Malcolm continued his good form in the third Test after claiming six wickets in a drawn match, which Richards missed.  But then, Richards returned for the fourth Test.

“When Vivy walked out on that field, I knew Vivy meant business,” Malcolm recalled on the Mason and Guest radio show recently.

“The very first ball I bowled to Viv Richards he put me out the park for six.  The second ball met the same fate, to be honest,” he added

“The first two he hit me for six, I thought, right, maybe a half a chance because it was the short boundary, Alex Stewart was under it and I thought straight down Alex Stewart’s throat, but they went just over his head, six, six," Malcolm said.

"As a young fast bowler, Viv Richards actually knew what the third ball was going to be.  So, I like a fool ran up and just pitched the ball up a little bit further.  It wasn’t a short ball I bowled, I pitched it up outside of off stump, a bit wide, and I tell you Viv Richards climbed into that ball so hard it hit off the cover boundary and bounced some 20 yards back on the field.  He actually said to me grass will never grow there again.  

“That over I remember he took me for about 18.  It was 18 so far and the final ball of the over, I pitched one up and Vivy just knocked it to extra cover run past me and said ‘that one should be another four man, but I hope the captain keeps you on.”

Malcolm did stay on, ending the match with disastrous figures of 0 for 142 in 33 overs, as the West Indies won the match by a crushing 164 runs and later claimed the series 2-1.  The bowler, however, has fond memories of the incident.

“That was one of the most expensive overs I have ever bowled in international cricket, but that was one of my most exciting overs because I thought I could have had Viv Richards out three times in the over.  Viv Richards wasn’t going to back down, I wasn’t going to back down.”  

 

 

Key Windies strike bowler Kemar Roach believes young pace bowler Alzarri Joseph can have a decisive impact against England in the upcoming Test series.

Roach and Joseph are expected to form part of a four-pronged bowling attack that also includes the returning Shannon Gabriel and West Indies captain Jason Holder.  The quartet did well on home soil last year when the team secured a 2-1 win over England and the Wisden trophy.

On that occasion, it was Roach that played a starring role with the ball, but Joseph provided plenty of support with a 10-wicket haul for the series and gave the England batsman plenty to think about.  Ahead of the upcoming series, Roach believes his young teammate is even better this time around.

“Once he sticks to his game plan and has confidence in himself, I don’t see why he can’t do very well in this series,” Roach told members of the media.

“He’s a fantastic talent and we all know what he is capable of,” he added.

“At a young age, he is enthusiastic, very good, and always willing to learn.  He has improved significantly in my eyes and I think he has a great future for the West Indies.”

The 23-year-old Joseph made his debut for the West Indies as a 19-year-old against India in 2016.  He has since then, however, been plagued by injury issues but heads into the England Test in good shape.

“I’m looking forward to playing with him and in years to come, i’ll probably be at home and watching him lead the West Indies bowling attack.  So, I think he has a great future and I’m looking forward to seeing what he can produce.”

West Indies batsman Shamarh Brooks has hailed the telling impact on a new generation of regional cricketers by the late, great Sir Everton Weekes, insisting his legacy would be proudly carried on.

Weekes, who was the only living member of the legendary three Ws, which had also included Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott, passed away earlier this week at the age of 95.  The on-pitch records written by the iconic cricketer are many and fabled, but tellingly, his impact on the sport did not stop when he retired from it in 1958.

Despite the gulf in years and many generations in-between them, Weekes served as a mentor to 31-year-old Brooks and many others along the way.  Freely dishing out needed advice at cricket grounds he once dominated.

“When I scored my first Test 100 in India, against Afghanistan, I spoke to sir Everton.  And even in first-class cricket if there is a game played at Kensington, he would always be in the president’s suite watching,” Brooks told members of the media.

“We would also be able to go up there either during the game or after the game to have a word with him about what he had seen or what we could do differently or that kind of stuff,” he added. 

According to the player, who pointed out invaluable tips he learned about playing spin, Weekes’ contribution did end when he reached the end of his life on July 1st. 

“It’s sad that a great man is gone but he has left a legacy and hopefully the guys in the team now can carry on that legacy.”

 

 

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week through different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT.

May his legacy live forever!

The last of the three Ws, Sir Everton Weekes, died this week at his Christ Church home, aged 95, after battling with an ailment for some time.  He was a man who impacted the lives of many on and off the field. His legacy will live on through his work and records.

Condolences poured in, the majority shedding light on the calibre of Sir Everton. Barbados Cricket Association President Conde Riley expressed sadness at the news.

“Sir Everton was one of our greats. He has made a massive contribution to Barbados and West Indies cricket. This is a sad time for cricket. We have lost a legend.”

Cricket West Indies had this to say:

“Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes. Our condolences go out to his family, friends, and many fans around the world. May he rest in peace.”

What is clear is Sir Everton had a full career and the statistics speak for themselves. He began his international career against England on January 21, 1948, and enjoyed a career spanning 48 tests in 20 years. He accumulated an average of 58.61, scored 15 centuries, and 19 half-centuries, with a high score of 207.

One cannot forget, even for a second, his role in shaping the West Indies transition from being a competitive team to being one of the most dominant in sporting history.  Sir Everton Weekes was a true hero and son of West Indian soil. May his legacy live on through his work and the lives that he touched.

 Come on Skips! Time to dust off the rust!

Two intra-squad practice matches have been completed and there has been no sign of batting form from West Indies captain Jason Holder and he has hardly bowled. Some may say, it is just a practice match, do not get overworked!

However, I am fretting as I don’t think there will be a magical turnaround. Even though practice matches count for nothing, because of the lack of sports and training due to COVID-19, this one counts for something, even if it is simply confidence.

Holder continues to struggle to shake off a bit of rust, or allay injury concerns, after being dismissed cheaply in the second and final intra-squad match at Emirates Old Trafford, on Thursday. Scores of 0, 5, and 2 certainly raised eyebrows.  In the intra-squad practice matches the West Indies skipper’s highest score was 5, with his innings lasting just 13 deliveries.  It is also difficult to forget the all-rounder’s golden duck in the first internal match that ended in a draw last week.

In addition to time away from the pitch, Holder has recently been bothered by a mild ankle injury.  Despite claims that he has not been hampered by it, Holder has looked uncomfortable at the crease.

This lack of form is worrying, especially as this Windies group is young and the players will be looking to the number one Test allrounder to lead by example. The Windies is a stronger unit with the skipper fully fit.

 We are missing the bigger picture!

 As humans, sometimes we choose to focus on the wrong things, and in so doing, we are distracted from the bigger picture. President of the Barbados Cricket Association, Conde Riley, initially called for the immediate sacking of West Indies head coach, Phil Simmons, after he heard on a radio station in Barbados that Simmons had broken the bubble to attend the funeral of his father-in-law.

However, based on the report put out by Cricket West Indies Simmons got the Board’s approval and would self-isolate upon re-entry as well as undergo COVID-19 tests before rejoining the group.

Upon reading Mr. Riley’s reaction and CWI’s statement, the SportsMax Zone reached out to Mr. Riley regarding his pronouncements. In this interview Riley stated:

1. He had sent a letter of inquiry to CWI as he was not notified that Simmons was leaving the bubble. He said, “if it is true” that he left the camp for a funeral it was “reckless” and “endangered the players.”

2. Parts of his letter to CWI were leaked thereby misleading the public.

3. Being a board member, if he was notified, he would not have reacted impulsively.

4. There were three board meetings before the team left for England and at no time during those meetings was he made aware that Simmons's father-in-law had died.

 How could Mr. Riley and the CWI be so divergent in their views? Is there a bigger issue?

How did part of Riley’s letter get leaked to the media? Is there a lack of confidentiality and communication between CWI and its board members?

There appears to be more than what meets the eye here.

 

West Indies batsman Shamarh Brooks insists the team has no need to fear a powerful England bowling attack, ahead of the upcoming series, once they are willing to apply themselves at the crease.

A lot of the talk so far heading into the England versus West Indies match-up has centered on worries about how the regional team’s often inconsistent batting line-up will fend off an explosively quick Jofra Archer and an experienced England bowling line-up.

The first team’s batting performances in the recent intra-squad preparational matches would not have done much to inspire confidence.  In the final warm-up, a top-five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope, and Roston Chase subsided to nine for three and 49 for five.

“Some of us got the opportunity to bat at the crease but having said that, it’s still a batsman and bowlers game.  Our bowlers bowled well, especially in the second practice game.  I think they came with a different level of intensity in the last game and it showed in terms of us losing wickets.  That’s the game sometimes but we are still backing our preparation to bring success in the series,” Brooks told members of the media.

“Spending time at the crease will be key, as long as we apply ourselves and spend some time out there it will get easier,” he added.

“Not to put down the England bowling attack but we need as a batting unit to stand up in this series and I know it will make a difference,” he added.

Regional cricket analyst Fazeer Mohammed has taken exception to recent comments made by Windies coach Roddy Estwick, who recently compared the current bowling unit to the famed West Indies pace attack of the past.

The bowling unit of Kemar Roach, Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel and on occasion Alzarri Joseph has done well for the West Indies in recent series, leading an excited Estwick's claim that the West Indies were ‘beginning to get blessed again with fast bowlers’ and that 'the current crop was the best group since the great days.’

While agreeing that the unit did possess some amount of talent, Mohammed insisted Estwick’s comparison was a bit over the top.

“I think there is too much being made about the quality of our fast bowling.  Roddy Estwick made the point that this is our best fast bowling unit since the great era, that is complete nonsense,” Mohammed told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“These four fast bowlers are really good and show tremendous talent, but I think Roddy is getting a little carried away, there is no way this quartet compares with the like of Roberts, Malcolm, Croft, and Garner,” he added.

In addition to the afore mention trio, however, the current crop is also able to call on the likes of bowlers Chemar Holder and O’shane Thomas who have plenty of pace, if not the necessary experience.

West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel has been included in the Test squad for the upcoming series against England.

Initially, the 32-year-old quick was included as a reserve, having recovered from an ankle injury in the past several months.  With no competitive cricket available to the player during the COVID-19 pandemic, doubts had surfaced regarding his fitness.

Gabriel has, however, proven himself match fit over the last couple of weeks and is expected to return to the bowling line-up.  In the warm-up matches, the bowler has claimed eight wickets at an average of just over 15.

Thursday was the last day of the West Indies' second and final warm-up game.  The team’s coach Phil Simmons returned to the bench after his latest negative coronavirus test.

West Indies captain Jason Holder, who has struggled for form with the bat, tried to gain more time in the middle by promoting himself up the order to open the batting for his team, against the Kraigg Brathwaite XI.  The all-rounder could only manage two off 15 deliveries, for a total of just seven runs in the warm-up games.

Gabriel was much better as he took four for 42 as Brathwaite's XI were bowled out for 178 in a drawn encounter, after resuming on 112 for seven.

West Indies interim batting coach Floyd Reifer has dismissed concerns about the team’s batting line-up, ahead of the Test series against England, insisting the unit is more than ready to adapt to difficult conditions.

Despite the team widely being acknowledged as having a potent bowling line-up heading into the series, many have raised concerns about how the Windies will fare at the crease against experienced English bowlers and potentially damp, cold conditions.

The absence of the talented duo of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who opted out of the tour for health reasons, have done little to assuage those fears but Reifer, who was recently returned to the coaching unit, insists the team’s hard work so far gives them a good chance of success for the upcoming series.

“I keep hearing everyone saying they are concerned about our batting.  We have some experienced guys here and the boys have been working really hard,” Brathwaite told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“We understand the English conditions now. Young Hope and Brathwaite who were here before are now experienced players…” he added.

“What we have been working on is playing the ball late, in the Caribbean, our batters tend to go fairly hard at the ball but we are working on playing the ball as late as possible, and trying to leave alone as many deliveries as possible on top of the off-stump.  It’s important when the ball is moving around you try to play as little as possible and rotate the strike.  We have been having a lot of discussion on battling their spells and building innings.”

The Caribbean team will not need to look far for an example of its batting line-up struggling in English conditions than the first Test of the tour three years ago.  After England made 514, the West Indies were dismissed for 168 and 137.

West Indies captain Jason Holder continues to struggle to shake off a bit of rust, or allay injury concerns, after being dismissed cheaply in the second and final intra-squad match at Emirates Old Trafford, on Tuesday.

This time around, the West Indies skipper made it to five, with his innings lasting just 13 deliveries.  The disappointment at the crease followed on the all-rounder’s golden duck in the first internal match that ended in a draw last week.

In addition to time away from the pitch, Holder has recently been bothered by what is thought to be a mild ankle injury.  Despite claims that he has not been hampered by it, Holder has looked less than comfortable at the crease.  In fact, he could have departed a lot sooner had Preston McSween held on to a relatively straightforward chance when the Windies skipper nudged the second ball of his innings to midwicket.  Holder had yet to score at the time.

Earlier, intermittent showers had wiped out the first four sessions of the four-day fixture but eased in time to allow play to start at 2:20 pm under lights.  Holder and Jermaine Blackwood were, unfortunately, part of a top-order collapse that saw Holder's side go from 79-1 to 108-5 against a Kraigg Brathwaite-led XI, before ending the day 120-5 when bad light stopped play.

 

Former India opening batsman turned cricket pundit Aakash Chopra has excluded West Indies batsman Chris Gayle from an All-time XI IPL squad, opting in favour of a more ‘consistent’ David Warner.

Gayle, the big Windies left-hander, has his name etched on a host of IPL records and accomplishments at the top of the order in the IPL.  The opening batsman has the tournament’s highest individual score (175), most sixes (326), fastest century and the most 100s (6).  The Australian, however, has 222 more runs overall, in one more match than Gayle, and has also scored the most 50s with 44.

While acknowledging Gayle’s explosiveness as an opener, Chopra explains he chose Warner based on consistency.

“My first pick is David Warner, the first overseas player as an opener. You will also think of Chris Gayle, but he is not more consistent than David Warner,” Chopra said on his YouTube channel.

“He [Gayle] has been explosive but Warner is not behind anyone. So, Warner as one of the overseas players. He has been one of the most consistent batsmen ever.”

Mystery spinner and sometimes pinch hitter Sunil Narine was the only West Indian to make Chopra’s XI, with the former opener also finding no place for another big hitter and fan favourite Andre Russell.

 

Aakash Chopra’s All-time IPL XI

  1. David Warner
  2. Rohit Sharma

       3. Virat Kohli

  1. Suresh Raina
  2. AB de Villiers
  3. MS Dhoni
  4. Sunil Narine
  5. Harbhajan Singh

      9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar

  1. Lasith Malinga
  2. Jasprit Bumrah

The absences of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo on the West Indies tour of England are still causing a few headaches for the structure of the team, with head coach Phil Simmons yet to decide on what is the best line-up ahead of the first game which begins July 8.

The West Indies are playing in the first bio-secure Test series since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted sports worldwide and Hetmyer, Bravo and Keemo Paul decided against touring England on the back of health concerns.

The absence of the trio means there are questions about how the team will line up but head coach Phil Simmons, speaking during a press conference this morning, believes the answers are to be found in the next few practice games.

According to the coach, who was responding to questions about the batting positions of skipper Jason Holder and wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich when the three-Test series begins at the Rose Bowl in Southampton, the options are numerous.

“We have thought about quite a few things. The three-day game which starts tomorrow and then the four-day game will help us to decide how we structure the batting,” said Simmons.

“So there are possibilities in different directions. Jason could bat six, Dowrich could bat six, so we look at the three-day game and the four-day game and then make a decision from there,” he said.

There are also places to be considered with the returning Jermaine Blackwood to the batting line-up along with the likes Shamarh Brooks and Nkrumah Bonner and where they bat, if at all, in the new-look line-up.

The West Indies will play a three-day match game at their Emirates Old Trafford base beginning tomorrow, June 23, before a four-day encounter beginning on June 29.

 

Test Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach

 

Reserve Players: Sunil Ambris, Joshua DaSilva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shayne Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican

With a disastrous run of scores - 4, 5, 0, 0, 1 and 14 - during the West Indies’ tour of England in 2017, Shane Dowrich would have returned to the Caribbean a broken man, low on confidence.

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