Iconic West Indies umpire Steve Bucknor believes the game’s recent embrace of technology must make it easier for umpires to sleep well at night, as bad decisions can be corrected quickly.

Bucknor, whose career behind the stumps lasted for 20-years, officiated in 128 Test matches and 181 One Day Internationals.  In addition, he stood in 5 World Cups.

 With the Jamaica-born official having retired in 2009 and the Umpire Digital Review System (DRS) being trialed in 2008, he never had the advantage of appeals and instant replays but is certain it has made the game better for all involved.

“I am not certain if it affects the confidence of umpires, but I know it has improved umpiring,” Bucknor told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“It has improved umpiring because there was a time when we were saying the batsman was so-called playing down the line, therefore he is not going to be given out leg before, but if the technology is saying the ball is hitting, then you have to give him out.  So, we learn from the technology,” he added.

"The umpires who do not enjoy having technology around, I hope that they have a rethink.  What it does if you make a mistake it can be corrected on the field,” Bucknor said.  “Now thinking about when I was umpiring and I gave a batsman out who was not out, realizing I made a mistake it took a long time to fall asleep that night.  Now you can fall asleep quickly because the correct decision is eventually given.”

Bucknor infamously and incorrectly gave legendary India batsman Sachin Tendulkar out on two occasions.   The first of the mistakes came in Australia (at the Gabba in Brisbane off Jason Gillespie in 2003) where he declared Tendulkar lbw, when the ball was clearly flying over the stumps.  Another decision was a caught behind (at the Eden in Kolkata off Abdul Razzaq in 2005) when he thought the batsman had nicked the ball. 

“It is human to err.  These were mistakes.  I don’t think any umpire wants to do the wrong thing, it lives with him and his future could be jeopardised.  I was unhappy but human beings make mistakes.  Accepting your mistakes and moving on is a part of life.”

 

West Indies all-rounder Roston Chase insists he is ready to assume whatever role it takes to help the regional team secure a rare success for the upcoming tour of England.

The 28-year-old batting rounder has emerged as a valuable utility player for the Windies in recent years.  That ability was on full display the last time the teams met, in the Caribbean, where Chase scored a half-century and took eight wickets in the first Test, a win for the West Indies, and scored 102 in the dead rubber loss.

As it stands, heading into the upcoming series with no clear direction on the match-day team composition, Chase, in terms of his bowling, could be used from anywhere between the first spin option to back-up spin option.  For batting options, he could be moved further up the order with the absence of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo or be tasked with providing crucial lower middle-order runs.  According to Chase, however, whatever configuration he is picked in will suit him just fine.

“I’m ready to do whatever it takes for us to be victorious, to be successful.  Last time we came to England its something I had to do quite a bit of, so it’s not new to me,” Chase told members of the media.

“I am looking forward to that challenge if we go with the four-pronged attack, if not I’ll just try to contribute to my team in any way possible,” he added.

 As a part of the last tour in 2017 Chase struggled with the bat but managed to claim seven wickets.

Former West Indies batsman Philo Wallace believes the inclusion of spinner Rahkeem Cornwall could yet be a masterstroke if the player manages to break into the final matchday squad.

Cornwall was named as part of a 14-man squad for the tour of England, as the regional team returns to international cricket next month, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic struck.  With the series still some weeks away there is yet to be any indication of an official starting line-up, but Wallace believes any picked should include Cornwall.

 “I think that Cornwall is going to be our match-winner because he is the man that is going to apply the pressure.  I like him, he is skillful.  He is a skillful bowler and he is smart.  I think he can be the trump in England,” Wallace told the Mason and Guest radio program.

Wallace believes Cornwall should be used as part of a six-man bowling line-up that would also include four fast bowlers.  The combination, he believes, would also have the benefit of adding a deep batting line-up.  The off-spinner has played two Test matches for the West Indies so far, claiming three wickets against India on debut before claiming a five-wicket haul in a one-off Test against Afghanistan.

“I would play four fast bowlers Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzzari Joseph, Chemar Holder and those two spinners Cornwall and Chase.  When you look at those six bowlers, four of those six bowlers can bat…so you are still playing with long batting," Wallace said.

“It’s time that Cornwall recognizes his ability as a batsman, he has only played a few matches but you have to give him the confidence that he can go out there and bat."

 

 

Former West Indies opening batsman Suruj Ragoonath foresees the West Indies having a difficult time competing against  England, with weather conditions having a significant impact on the outcome of the series.

With the talented middle-order batsmen Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo opting out of taking part in series, Ragoonath believes the regional team could struggle to put runs on the board, particularly in humid conditions.

“It going to be tough if you look at the players on the tour, from a batting standpoint. Shamarh Brooks averages just under 35 in his very short tenure, next to him is Jason Holder and Kraigg Brathwaite, each around 33," Ragoonath pointed out to the Mason and Guest radio program.

If you add up our batsmen’s averages, whatever combination you play, you will have an average score that is less than 250, which is not going to complete against England.  Especially if the atmosphere is such that the ball is moving around, you re going to be in real trouble,” he added.

"The fast bowling aspect is exciting and I think that’s where our one element of surprise is, but a lot will depend on the weather conditions."

Ragoonath believes the Windies may still be able to do well if the conditions are hot and dry, but once typical English weather conditions prevail, a battery of quality England swing bowler could make runs scoring an impossible task.  

West Indies batsman, Shai Hope, believes it will be crucial for the top order to meet the challenge of carrying on from starts to post ample totals, if the team is to have success on the upcoming tour of England.

The inconsistency of the batting unit has been a sore point for the Caribbean team for the past several years, particularly the top order, who are often accused of not spending enough time at the crease.

As expected, the performance of the top order has been crucial to the outcome of matches against England in recent outings.  In the last two series, the top order has averaged somewhere around 158, in wins for the West Indies, and around 66 in losses.

“We’re missing some key players right now, so it’s very important for us as top-order batters to get those runs on the board, see off the new ball and make it easier for batters coming down the line,” Hope told members of the media.

“As soon as we get those starts, we have to capitalise and go big for the side,” he added.

“It’s the first series back for us, it’s the perfect opportunity for us to showcase our skills and win the series.”

Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite were two of the standout performers for the regional team on their last tour of England.  In the only Test match that the team won, Hope, scored 147 and 118 while opening batsman Brathwaite made 134 and 95.

Legendary West Indian umpire has admitted watching iconic batsman Brian Lara was always somewhat of a guilty pleasure and that behind the stumps was the best place to be when the batsman was on the go.

The 74-year-old official stood in 128 Test matches and 181 One Day Internationals (ODI) in a career that spanned 20 years.  While admitting an affinity for the destructive power of Viv Richards, the Jamaican-born umpire admits there was something otherworldly about Lara.

“Viv Richards, the Master Blaster, I rate him very highly on my list because he destroyed every type of bowling…then there is Brian Lara who I think is the best thing the eyes can behold when he is on the go.  He was poetry in motion.  He did things that others couldn’t do,” Bucknor told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

"Once he was on the go then Lara is the batsman that I enjoyed umpiring.  In other words, I didn’t want to be a spectator when Lara is batting, I wanted to be in the middle to enjoy the cricket there.  As someone who has played the game you must enjoy the game out there,” he added.

“Umpires enjoy the game. In your heart, you cheer. You clap in your heart to see a good shot.  You clap in your heart to see a good delivery.  You enjoy that but you cannot show it on your face, in your eyes or anywhere.”  

 

West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel insists there is no malice between himself and England captain Joe Root, after a heated exchange between the duo led to a four-match suspension when the teams met in the Caribbean last year.

During the series, Root was picked up on the stump mics responding to an unheard comment from Gabriel. "Don't use it as an insult," he said. "There's nothing wrong with being gay."

Gabriel was charged the next day for an alleged homophobic remark and did not contest the charges.  The footage received widespread attention.  The player was charged with a Level Two offence under article 2.13 of the ICC's Code of Conduct, covering "personal abuse".

Having recently recovered from injury, Gabriel could be in line to face up with Root again when the teams compete in a three-Test series next month.  The bowler has downplayed the incident and has insisted he has long moved past it.

"To be honest that was in the past," Gabriel said. "I don't really think about it too much. Whatever happened or whatever was said, I don't really want to harp on about that, I'm just looking to the future now. I've just come here to play good cricket if selected, and do my best for West Indies cricket,” he added.

"I just think the way they dealt with it was blown way out of proportion," he added. "The story that was told was not entirely true, but I just want to move on and forget that."  

West Indies opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite insists he is focused on the task at hand and not recent criticism or past successes as the team prepares for its upcoming tour of England.

The 27-year-old Brathwaite was a standout player when the regional team played in England three years ago.  The opener scored 40 in the first Test, before scoring 134 and 95 in the second, forming part of a crucial partnership with Shai Hopes as the West Indies leveled the series.

The player has not been in the best of form since then.  The top batsman averaged just 16 from his last six Tests, to see his overall average drop to 33.  During the recent first-class championship, he was averaging a mere 25 after the seventh round of matches before knocks of 48 and 84 not out against Guyana Jaguars in the eighth round, boosted his numbers.  It has led some to question his inclusion in the squad.  The player, however, insisted he would not focus on either those negatives or dwell on his strong showing in England the last time around.

“I look forward to any series against England but what I’m really focusing on is obviously doing my job on the team and built that foundation, that’s all I’m focusing on,” Brathwaite told members of the media on Wednesday.

“There’s no pressure.  You can’t always do well.  I know my role and it just about going out there and focus on each ball.  The batting hasn’t been going well the last few innings but I’m up for challenge,” he added

“Looking back, you obviously see things that you did well (2017) but that is history.  I have an important job to do here and now and I’m raring to go.”

 

 

West Indies middle-order batsman Shai Hope insists players must be willing to put up their hands and be counted in order to be successful on the upcoming tour of England.

With the team missing two of its most explosive batsmen in Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, runs could be hard to come by against a dangerous England bowling attack.  On his last visit to England, Hope certainly did stand up for the Windies team.  In the second Test, his two centuries proved crucial in a five-wicket win that saw the regional team level the series before going on to lose 2-1.

Although admitting the team will be missing the duo, Hope insisted the big match-winning performances needed were simply about the players' available accepting the challenge on any given day.

“It just happened to be my day at Headingley but it can be anyone else’s day on any given day.  The key is just to make sure that whenever you get an opportunity in the middle you grasp it and do whatever you can to put in those performances for the team," Hope told members of the media.

“It’s a case where the performances will matter.  Yes, we are going to miss those guys, they play a big role on the team.  But it’s more performances that we miss rather than players, they could be here and it just doesn’t go their way, that’s how cricket goes sometimes.  You always just need someone to put their hands up, I always stress that.  It’s just key for us that we as batters put those runs on the board.”

The West Indies will defend the Wisden Trophy against England in three Test matches, beginning next month at the Rose Bowl Cricket Ground.

 

The West Indies team will be sporting new eye-catching training and playing kits during the Sandals Tour of England 2020 as part of Cricket West Indies’(CWI) new three-year partnership with Castore, CWI’s official team kit and merchandise partner.

West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick is confident that the bowling unit’s steady improvement over the past several years means they are now a match for any team in the world.

The Windies are currently preparing for a return to international cricket with the upcoming tour of England, after a globally enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Ahead of the series, the regional team is likely to be encouraged by the fact that it once again has a full complement of first choice strike bowlers. The likes of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, and Alzarri Joseph are all available having recovered from injury.  The regional team’s bowling attack has on occasion shown that they can be a handful for even top batting line-ups.  Against England, in the Caribbean last year, Roach and Holder both claimed four-wicket hauls, with Gabriel and Joseph getting among the wickets as well.  Estwick believes a major difference that has boosted the team's bowling performance in recent years is its level of fitness.

“What we’ve done is to improve our fitness,  now we can sustain pressure,” Estwick said via a news conference.

“If you look back in the 80s, that’s one thing the fast bowlers had, it’s fitness.  Another thing is that they (current players) are now understanding fast bowling.  They have got to that age, Kemar and Shannon they are leading the charge and they are very experienced,” he added.

 “Jason Holder has become a much better Test match bowler in the last two years and Alzarri Joseph is now beginning to show his potential.  So were have four fast bowlers where we can challenge any team in the world.”

Former West Indies all-rounder Ian Bradshaw insists focus will be key for the regional team considering the prevailing extraordinary circumstances for the upcoming tour of England.

The West Indies and England will return to international cricket with a three-Test match series, in England, next month.  With the prevalence of the coronavirus still a major concern and ongoing racial equality protests around the globe, the situation to begin the tour is anything but typical.

In a bid to mitigate the risks of exposure to COVID-19, the teams will spend the entire period of the tour in what has been termed a bio-secure environment, which will keep everyone associated with the series quarantined from the general public.  With all the distractions, Bradshaw believes the task of focusing on just cricket is likely to be tougher for the team.

“We could lose the series mentality if we are distracted before the start of that series.  So, it’s going to be incumbent on the management team to keep the guys focused,” Bradshaw told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“These are trying circumstances that they are playing under, but they are professionals and they must act as professionals and really utilize the preparation time to the best of their advantage.”  

Retired West Indies all-rounder Ian Bradshaw has advised the team to realistically face up to its lack of quality all around batting and look to mirror approaches taken by past New Zealand squads, in order to be successful on the upcoming England tour.

The West Indies will return to international cricket, following an enforced absence due to the coronavirus epidemic, with a three-Test tour of England next month.  The unpredictability of the team’s batting line-up, much as it has in recent years, will again be a source of concern, particularly with explosive middle-order batsmen Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmeyer unavailable for selection.

The duo, along with all-rounder Keemo Paul, opted to miss the tour over health concerns.  The West Indies will need no further illustration than the opening Test of their last England tour for an example of a dismal batting performance.  On that occasion, the team was dismissed for 168 and 137 in pursuit of England’s 514 declared.

“We've been concerned with our batting for a while, let’s just stop and be realistic.  We don’t have the quality of batting that we want," Bradshaw told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“We don’t have the quality batsmen but what we hope for, is that collectively we can rally and that we can get 300 and 350 and 400 by batting deep and by batting sensibly," he added.

"There are other teams in the world that have a similar challenge and they manage to fight through.  For a number of years, we saw that with teams like New Zealand, where each player coming to the crease understood your job was to build a partnership that allowed the team to put a competitive total on the board.  Getting runs in England is important, especially in the first innings, so there is no doubt that we will have to bat deep.”

 

West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel will have a good chance of featuring for the final Test squad against England if he can prove his fitness in the coming weeks.

The 32-year-old pace bowler was initially named as the 15th member to the official Test squad for the upcoming tour.  Gabriel, one of the team’s lead strike bowlers, has not played cricket since September of last year after a brief spell with Gloucestershire.  The player was sidelined after suffering an ankle injury that required surgery.

Head coach of the West Indies Phil Simmons, however, recently revealed the player had been training well and would be in contention for a spot in the final day Test squad.

“We have to put this in perspective.  We selected 14, but Shannon, as we know, has come back from injury and being a senior member of the squad in the past two or three years we would have to look at him if he is up to that fitness level heading into the first Test,” Simmons told members of the media on a conference call on Saturday.

Gabriel claimed eight wickets and bowled with plenty of menace when the teams met in the Caribbean last year.  The West Indies won the Test series 2-1.  The player was, however, suspended for five One Day internationals after a verbal exchange with England batsman Joe Root.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy had every right to be angry with former Sunrisers Hyderabad teammates after their use of a racial slur to refer to him, even in jest, someone’s ‘blackness’ should never be the butt of a joke.

As such, it was a major disappointment to see some fans of the sport, not only accuse the player of seeking attention but also going on to further insultingly claim that he has no right to be upset.

The word used to describe the West Indian, Kalu, by one of its definitions on a list of ethnic slurs is itemized as literally meaning ‘blackie, generally used for black-skinned people in India, can also have racist overtone when referring to Africans.’ 

In a region with a long history of racial discrimination, it's hard to buy the excuse that the use of ‘blackie’ to refer to a black West Indian was used as a term of endearment. In all likelihood, it might have been used mockingly and in jest but why should that be accepted as normal or ok, how can the colour of a person’s skin be a source of even casual, 'harmless' ridicule.

If there were a bunch of roses would it be funny that one rose was redder than the rest?  It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Of course, it does.  Perhaps the reason Sammy is being told to lighten up may come from the fact that some of us, at some deep subconscious level, believe being darker than someone else is somehow misfortune. 

To some Asian and Caribbean societies that have had their mentalities warped by the negative effects of slavery and/or by the oppressive regime of colonialism, perhaps such a thing seems casual or normal. The time is right though to call some of these things what they are, even if we don’t expect them to change, or are not necessarily offended by them. Let us not insist that someone else does not have the right to do so.

After all, we haven’t heard about any nicknames given to Brendan Taylor, Dale Steyn and Aaron Finch some of the white teammates who would have been on the squad with Sammy.  If there was, I stand corrected but would love to hear the light-hearted or playful joke or nicknames for how ‘white’ they were. If it is that jokes about standing out for having different colour skin is funny or is deserving of cuddly nicknames, then it should surely fall on both sides of the colour spectrum.

It is also disingenuous to suggest that because the West Indian captain has referred to himself as black, then it shouldn’t be a problem.  

Surely we don’t mean to associate Sammy’s reference to himself as a proud or confident black man with being called the equivalent of a ‘blackie’.

What would have been more hurtful for the player was the fact that he even laughed along with it, only to find out later on that he was in fact, the subject of the joke.

Coming out in support of Sammy, however, former West Indies teammate Chris Gayle rightly pointed out ‘it’s never too late to fight for the right cause’.  In this case, Sammy is well within his right to demand an apology and he should get one.

 

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