Cricket West Indies (CWI) president, Ricky Skerritt, is adamant that the recent refusal by senior players to take part in the ongoing tour of Bangladesh and the subsequent results must be framed within the broader context of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The regional team was on the wrong side of a 3-0 mauling, at the hands of Bangladesh, in a lopsided series that showed a tremendous gulf in quality between the two teams.

The result could not have been entirely unexpected, as a full-strength Bangladesh comfortably beat a full-strength West Indies team in 2019.  The Jason-Mohammed team that took the field last week had at least eight players making their international debut.

Skerritt’s administration has made it clear that players who opt out of tours during the pandemic will not be punished, believes that the threat that the disease poses to the players must be acknowledged.

“We have to deal with the reality that players are facing a tremendously stressful decision about their careers and whether they participate in cricket under risky situations; even though cricket West Indies and other boards are doing everything possible to minimize the risk,” Skerritt told the Mason and Guest radio show.

“What do you do to get the best players on the park, when many of the best players are reluctant to travel and choose not to play?  Are you going to punish them? Are you going to say if you don’t play then you don’t play again ever, then you lose them forever?”

"I listen to some of the discussion’s about COVID and I wonder if we believe that COVID only affects us individually and we should be fearful, but players and others shouldn’t.  So what has happened with this particular tour and the two tours before, during COVID is that you could not get all of your best players on tour at the same time.”

 

West Indies coach Phil Simmons hopes the relative experience of the Test team, compared to the One Day International (ODI) unit, will make for a more competitive showing against Bangladesh when the series bowls off next week.

World-class spinner Shakib Al Hasan and a full-strength Bangladesh made short work of the regional team in a lopsided 3-0 sweep of the ODI series last week.  The Windies went into the series without several of its regular first-team players who pulled out of the tour for various reasons.

The ODI team, which was captained by Jason Mohammed, was the hardest hit, however, with at least eight players making their international team debut.  With more proven campaigners like bowlers Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel, and batsmen Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood, the Test team should be in better shape, in terms of experience in any case.

“It’s a big difference, we may have one, maybe two debutants for this Test series, whereas we had 10 for the ODI series.  So, it’s a huge difference,” Simmons said.

“The good thing is that those guys have been down here before.  On the last tour down here, Kraigg (Brathwaite) was captain, and Shannon and Roach were here.  So, it’s good to have that kind of experience going into a Test series,” he added.

The West will play Bangladesh in a two-Test series, which begins on February 2nd.  The second Test will take place between February 10th to 15th.

 

In-form West Indies middle-order batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, has credited brief advice received from top-class India batsman Virat Kohli as helpful in changing his mindset towards scoring runs.

The 29-year-old scored his first century against England in 2015, a plucky 112 unbeaten in a draw in Antigua.  Following that impressive achievement, however, Blackwood seemed unable to cross the double-digit threshold.  In fact, before finally breaking the streak with 104 against New Zealand, in December, Blackwood had managed to score 10 half-centuries in-between but always fell short of a triple-digit score.

Included in that number were some figures frustratingly well clear of the 50 mark, but falling just short of the 100 mark, when for all intents and purposed the batsman seemed well set to do so.  The tally includes three scores in the 90s.  He scored 92 against Sri Lanka, in Galle, in 2015; 95 against Pakistan, in Abu Dhabi, in 2016, and 95 against England, in Southampton, in July of last year.  Prior to that, Blackwood also registered 85 against England, in Bridgetown, in May 2015.  During India’s tour of the West Indies, Blackwood took the opportunity to seek the advice of run-machine Kohli when the two briefly interacted off the pitch.

“I just asked him how come all the time I score so many half-centuries and just one century, and he just replied, ‘What did you do when you scored the century? How many deliveries did you face?’ I said I faced 212, and he said that’s it, once you can bat some balls you will score runs,” Blackwood recalled.

“I took a lot from that and I’ve always told myself, after that conversation, once I can bat over 200 balls or 300, I’m going to score runs.  Once I’m there, the way I bat, I’m going to score runs regardless of who I’m playing against or where I’m playing.”

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.   

Captain Jason Mohammed believes the West Indies substitutes sent to tour Bangladesh were simply not up to the task as the visitors suffered a 120-run loss at Chattogram today. It was their third straight loss in the three-match series.

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.”

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.

 

Bangladesh took an unassailable 2-0 lead following their seven-wicket win over West Indies in Dhaka this morning.

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.

West Indies fast bowler Alzarri Joseph believes he and his teammates need to strive to be better for the second ODI against Bangladesh that bowls off on Friday. The Windies trail 0-1 in the series following their six-wicket loss to the home side on Wednesday.

The West Indies suffered a humiliating six-wicket loss to Bangladesh in the first of three ODI’s today, going down by six wickets with 97 balls to spare in the match played at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Dhaka.

West Indies captain for the upcoming One Day International (ODI) series against Bangladesh, Jason Mohammed, says the team will draw inspiration from India’s surprise triumph over Australia, at the much-vaunted Gabba fortress, on Monday.

The relatively inexperienced India team ended a 32-year unbeaten run for the Aussies on the back of a stellar innings from Rishabh Pant.  The team’s performance broke Australian hearts, and records as well, with the mammoth target of 328 runs representing the highest ever successful runs chase at the venue.  It was achieved with 3 wickets remaining.

Heading into the series as huge underdogs, the team owed a large part of the victory to resilience, Shubman Gill's crucial 91 and the dogged determination of Cheteshwar Pujara who faced 211 deliveries and 10 body blows to defend the Border-Gavaskar trophy on a dramatic final day.

For, Mohammed, who will lead a hastily assembled and likewise inexperienced squad against Bangladesh, starting on Wednesday, there is plenty about the India performance to draw encouragement from.

“It’s obviously something we will look to.  It depends on the day and how you play,” Mohammed told members of the media via a press conference call on Tuesday.

“A lot of the guys will be making their debut, but once you have that belief and belief within the team that you can do well and that you can win games then these things are achievable and it showed in the India versus Australia series,” he added.

“We have the same mindset.  We are just looking to play some good cricket starting tomorrow and hopefully, the results will be on our side as well.”

 

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

  1. Windies men- Nothing to lose so much to gain!

It is no secret that as the West Indies get set to face Bangladesh on January 20, in their first One-Day International, the home side is the overwhelming favourite, especially because of their track record of winning at home. The Windies enter against a backdrop comprising of several senior players opting out, Hayden Walsh Jr getting Covid-19 mere days before the first ODI, eight players making their ODI debut and the captain, Jason Mohammed, who last played for the Windies in 2018. Despite all these factors, they walk into this series with nothing to lose and so much to gain.

It is easy to point out the lack of experience in the Windies team. Simply put, as I mentioned before, eight of the players suiting up will be making their debuts. In the ODI setup, Rovman Powell is the most experienced having played 34 matches with the skipper Jason Mohammed ranked second with 28. While this is enough to say the Windies team is inexperienced we must also note that Bangladesh also has three uncapped players - off-spinner Mahadi Hasan and pacers Shorful Islam and Hasan Mahmud.

Similarly, it is natural to feel uneasy that ODI skipper Jason Mohammed has been out of Windies cricket since 2018. However, we cannot forget that Mohammed previously captained the Windies in an ODI against England in 2017 and in three T20Is during their 2018 Pakistan tour.

It was during a similar situation when key players refused to play and CWI thrust Mohammed to the helm.

All things considered, it is not always a disadvantage to be the underdogs if the team is physically and mentally ready. In World-Cup-winning captain Clive Lloyd’s open letter to the team, he highlighted that he made his debut on short notice against India 1966. He got his call up just hours before the game and went on to score 82 and 78. 

And, in that is the bigger picture. A ticket to the World Cup awaits any player who seizes this moment. Wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva impressed on his Test debut in New Zealand where he scored an impressive half-century.

Batsman Kjorn Ottley is another player who could force his way into the first team. In 2019, he played for Barbados in the 50-over competition and scored 325 runs in the nine innings at an average of 54.16.  All-rounder Akeal Hosein will be eager to transfer his CPL form into this format of the game.

The 27-year-old was the leading wicket-taker in T&T’s 2020 first-class season with a total of 36 wickets at an average of 20.61. 

 

  1. Brooklyn Nets Success: One Word- Sacrifice.

News of James Harden leaving the Houston Rockets and joining the Brooklyn Nets did not sit very well with me as a Rockets supporter. It took me a few days to process his exit. However, as Harden’s biggest supporter and critic I understand the reason for the move. The three-time NBA scoring champion is desperate to win a Championship and he is not getting younger. However, if the Nets are to be successful it comes down to a key factor - sacrifice.

 The “Big Three” of James Harden, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant can only work well if they share the ball. Over the last 10 seasons, all three players have ranked in the top 10 in the highest usage rate in clutch time. Harden described it best while addressing the media. 

“When it comes to facilitating it depends on the flow of the game. Some nights I’ll be a facilitator. Some nights I might get it going and score the ball at a high clip. That is the beauty of being versatile and being able to do more than one thing. Same with Kevin and same with Kyrie. Every night is going to be different.”

 Each of the three players will be required to sacrifice whatever is going on behind the scenes of their lives if they are to win a championship. Irving was fined USD$50,000 for breaching the NBA Covid-19 protocols after a video surfaced on social media that showed him at a birthday party with no mask.

He also made an appearance at a Zoom fundraiser for a progressive political candidate half-hour before the tipoff of a Nets game.  He needs to show up mentally and physically.  Harden is out of shape and will have to avoid getting into Covid-19 trouble again. Additionally, it will be in the team’s best interest if KD stays injury free and avoids getting the virus again.

 In order for the Nets to get the best of the Harden trade all egos have to be put aside and the players need to allow rookie head coach Steve Nash and assistant coach Michael  D'Antoni to do their jobs without interference.

A positive to draw from this is Harden has worked well with D’Antoni at the Rockets and even cited his move had a lot to do with the influence of the assistant coach.

Kevin Durant, without a doubt, is a selfless player. He sacrificed his Achilles when he returned to the 2019 NBA finals too soon.  His value to the team goes without saying, however, a key element of the Nets success this season will be his acceptance of the leadership role. 

The Brooklyn Nets are championship contenders for 2021. The big question is then “Who is selfless enough to step back?” 

  

  1. Widespread vaccination and speedy rollout can ensure the Tokyo Olympics proceed.

Japanese government officials say they are committed to hosting the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo despite a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.  Reports indicate that the international Olympic Committee is working on ways to ensure that athletes are vaccinated so the event can proceed safely in July.

As of Friday, 15 January, Tokyo confirmed 2001 new infections. The number of new infections and the shortage of hospital beds are making it difficult to hospitalize coronavirus patients.  Deputy head of the Tokyo Medical Association Masataka Inakuchi has warned that the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients could rise to approximately 4600 in a week and 7000 in two weeks.

One can only hope that there will be widespread vaccination rollouts and speedy distribution in Tokyo so the Olympic Games can proceed without any further delay. 

 

 

West Indies vice-captain for the One Day International (ODI) team Sunil Ambris is hoping to stake his claim for a regular place in the first-team squad, by scoring at least one 100 in the upcoming tour of Bangladesh.

The 27-year-old Ambris was among several players unexpectedly named to the West Indies squad for the tour after 12 first-team players made themselves unavailable for the tour.  Prior to that Ambris had last played for the team in February of last year, on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka.  On that occasion, the player averaged 26 in three matches.  He was not selected to the team for either of the team’s previous tours to England or New Zealand.

Ambris, in addition to providing support for less experienced players on the tour, hopes to push himself back in the conversation for regular selection.

“This is the first tour that I’m actually confident that I will be starting.  So, I would like to use this tour to cement myself in the starting 11 for other tours,” Ambris told members of the media via an online press conference on Friday.

“I’d love to get at least one hundred out of these three games, I think that would do me a lot of good,” he added.

  

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