West Indies century-maker Rovman Powell admits he has spent the last few months away from the team working out a susceptibility to wrist spin.

The 28-year-old returned to the regional squad with a bang on Wednesday, blasting the first T20I century of his career, and third for a West Indian player, with 107 in a 20-runs win against England.  The crucial innings, along with 70 from vice-captain Nicholas Pooran anchored the team’s effort in taking a 2-1 series lead.

In the batsman’s previous appearance, against Pakistan, he averaged 16.5 in three games where he had real issues navigating wrist spinner Shadab Khan.

“I think it’s been overall improvement, I can strike the ball well but I also have a little problem with wrist spin.  Every time I start my innings they come and bowl wrist spin.

I went away and for the last six, seven months and I’ve been working on wrist spin and trying to open up the offside and I think that showed today," Powell said after the game.

Powell played a watchful innings in seeing off dangerous England spinner Adil Rashid, who claimed 2 for 24 in the previous match of the series.

“We know Rashid is the most threatening of all the bowlers, so all we did is see if we can get 24 or 30 off him, that’s good, just to limit his wicket count and take our chances against the other bowlers for the other 16 overs.”

Jamaica Reggae Boy interim head coach, Paul Hall, was in a bullish mood ahead of Thursday’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Mexico at the National Stadium.

The match will be the second fixture but the first World Cup qualifier for Hall, who stepped in to replaced Theodore Whitmore in December of last year.  With the team adrift in sixth place and 7 points behind the qualifying positions, it seems safe to say only a win will do for the Reggae Boyz against a typically dangerous opponent.

Hall is aware of the challenge at hand but feels confident the team can find a way to pull off the crucial result.

"We got to make sure we stay focussed and motivated with the task at hand and if we can do that and get into the game and find our rhythm and be expressive with our play then we will be ok," Hall said.

“They won’t want to lose they are probably going to have the same attitude as ourselves, so I feel it will be a tight affair,” he added.

“We will respect the Mexicans and what they bring and I would ask my team to make sure that Mexico respects what we bring, with our energy, with our rhythm, and with our desire,” he added.

The Mexicans, who will be without key players Hirving Lozano and Raul Jiminez, are currently third in the standings, on 14, the same number of points as Panama.  In the reverse fixture, the Mexicans scored late to win 2-1.  The Jamaicans will play Panama three days later before hosting Costa Rica.  All teams are directly above them in the table.  

 

West Indies all-rounder Jason Holder believes he could be getting back to approaching his best form, partly due to a change in mentality, after a tumultuous past year of cricket.

The 30-year-old was replaced as captain of the team, in March, before finding himself controversially left out of the 15-man squad for the team to last year’s World Cup.  Despite the turmoil, the player has, however, managed to put in consistent performance, particularly with the ball.

Against England, Holder recently achieved a new milestone after taking career-best figures of 4 for 7 against in the ongoing series.  In two matches, he has taken six wickets and looked an assured presence for the team on the field.  The all-rounder admits, these days, he is in a different frame of mind.

“In the recent past…I’ve probably been overthinking it too much.  I’ve been working on some things technically as well from both the batting and bowling standpoint.  Honestly speaking, I would have studied it a little too much in the game and not been as clear as I wanted to be,” Holder told members of the media on Tuesday.   

“So, I’ve tried to iron out a few things mentally and trying to be a lot more focused and committed to what I want to do on a given day and try not to focus on just having a perfect technique,” he added.

The former captain believes it has been a difficult period for the entire group.

“There’s been a lot on my mind in the last year.  I’m just trying to find ways to shut some of it out and try to narrow in and focus on what’s needed.  I think the group has that challenge as well, we are working hard.  Anybody that says we are not working hard enough, I would always challenge that, but there is a lot more to cricket and sport than just working hard.”

India captain Rohit Sharma has been passed fit to lead the team for the upcoming series against the West Indies in February.

The 34-year-old batsman is only just recovering from injury, having missed out on the team’s most recent tour of South Africa, which ended in a disappointing 3-0 loss.

According to reports, the batsman is already back in training and will be ready to go for the T20 and perhaps ODI series.  The series will get underway on February 6th, while the T20 series gets underway on February 16th.  Rohit is recovering from a left hamstring injury.  In the past, the player has captained India vs the West Indies in three matches in 2018.  India won the series 3-0.  Overall, in 17 T20Is India has won 10 and lost 6.

"Rohit is fit and available for the series against the West Indies," a BCCI source was quoted as saying.

"By the time the West Indies series starts, it will be more than seven and half weeks of rehabilitation and recuperation for Rohit.

The West Indies are expected to head to India immediately after the England tour.

 

 

West Indies Women opened their tour of South Africa on a winning note when they defeated a South Africa Women's XI by 53 runs in a warm-up match at the Imperial Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Batting first, West Indies Women posted 202 all out from 46.5 overs. Shemaine Campbelle top-scored with 42 off 48 deliveries, which included 5-fours, followed by Rashada Williams with 30 off 73, inclusive of 3-fours. Nadine de Klerk returned the best bowling figures for the South Africa Women's XI with 7-0-27-3, followed by Tumi Sekhukhune with 5-1-20-2.

Tazmin Brits and Delmari Tucker top-scored for the South Africa Women's XI, with 32 and 24 respectively. Bowling for West Indies Women, Cherry Ann Fraser caused a middle-order collapse in her spell, finishing with 4-0-11-3, While Shamilia Connell wrapped up the innings with 2-0-13-2 and a direct-hit run-out.

West Indies Women's Head Coach Courtney Walsh was pleased with the performance but says the preparations are not completed with a win.

"I thought the girls did well, it was good to get out in the middle and play today. We haven't played a lot of cricket of late so even though it was a practice match, the atmosphere and the execution went pretty well. Most of the girls had decent knocks and a decent bowl as well. What I was most impressed was the two Super-Over practice scenarios we had as well, with how precise and good the execution was. This win will give us confidence going into the series (yes) but also for the World Cup."

West Indies will return to the Imperial Wanderers Stadium on Friday, for the first of four One Day Internationals against South Africa Women. It is a day/night fixture with first ball at 2 pm (8 am Eastern Caribbean/7 am Jamaica).

 

Aston Villa forward Leon Bailey is closing in on a return to the first team, having spent over a month on the sidelines due to injury.

The Jamaica international was forced to leave the field before halftime after pulling up against Manchester City early in December.

The injury was similar to one the player had suffered against Everton in September when he was also sidelined for several weeks.  Having missed out on the Jamaica Reggae Boyz three matches for the upcoming international window, Aston Villa coach Steven Gerrard believes the period will provide the player with plenty of time to slowly ease himself back into action.

“Leon is not too far away and we are hoping to have him back in the next two weeks.

“The (winter) break will benefit Leon as he won’t miss many more games,” Gerrard said.

“Hopefully in two weeks’ time he is ready to train with the group,” he added.

The 24-year-old who moved from Bayer Leverkusen for an estimated £25million last summer has had a stop-start beginning to life at Villa Park but has shown plenty of promise whenever he has managed to get time on the pitch.  He has scored once in 9 appearances.

Legendary West Indies fast bowler, Sir Andy Roberts, insists all of the team’s shortcomings at the crease should not be blamed on coaches at the senior team level, as overall, more work needs to be put into developing the region’s young players.

On the back of a historic shock loss to Ireland in their most recent international One Day International (ODI) series, the team’s performances have come under the microscope even more than usual, particularly as it relates to the patchy performance of the batting line-up.

Against Ireland, the batsmen seemed technically incapable of dealing with either the moist conditions on the pitch or the craft of the Irish bowlers.  The team’s struggles have led some to question the work of head coach Phil Simmons and the team’s batting coaches, but while admitting that more needed to be done by the coach, Roberts insists the team’s troubles run a lot deeper.

“For what it is now, I don’t think I would blame the coach alone because of the (low) quality of our players coming out of the region,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest radio show.

“We have to put some emphasis on the coaches from our lower levels coming up because that is where you learn the skills of batting because most focus today is on batting.  I read where the captain said that the West Indies has a batting problem but we’ve been having a batting problem for years… we want to blame others at the top when this is a problem that comes from the lower level.”

 

West Indies T20 star Chris Gayle has made himself unavailable for the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League, which could signal an end to his time at the tournament.

The 42-year-old has played in the world’s premier T20 tournament for the past 13 seasons, where he has played a total of 142 matches since making his debut in 2009.  Gayle has represented the Punjab Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

After experiencing inconsistent playing time during the last edition, for Punjab, and leaving the tournament early to prepare for the T20 World, questions had been raised regarding the player’s future.

The batsman has been one of the league’s most iconic players and is its seventh-highest runs scorer, having scored 4,965 runs at an average of 39.72 and with a strike rate of 148.96.  Gayle tops the list with the most centuries (6) and also holds the record for hitting the highest number of sixes (357).  The West Indian has, however, never managed to win a title.

On the back of a disappointing World Cup, Gayle was expected to retire from international cricket but has registered to play for Fortune Barishal in this year’s Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).  The BPL got underway yesterday, but Gayle is not expected to join the squad until later in the season.

Former Ireland batsman turned commentator, Nyle O’Brien, believes the West Indies batsmen have become caught-up playing an old fashion type of cricket, which has little chance of success in the modern game.

The Caribbean side was beaten by Ireland, in a One Day International series, for the first time in their history earlier this week.  The team had a poor showing all-around but as has become custom in recent times their substandard display at the crease was noticeable.

The team struggled to come to grips with not just the surface, but also the Irish bowlers, particularly Andy McBrine who took 10 wickets over the three games. O’Brien believes a major part of the issues at the crease stems from the batting unit’s outdated philosophy of run-scoring.

“The West Indies, they’re playing a very old school type of cricket.  They just stand around in the crease and either block or try to hit the ball for four or six.  Unfortunately, when you are playing international cricket that doesn’t happen very often.  Very rarely do you see a West Indies batter come down the pitch, using their feet, knock it to long-on, or long-off for singles, rotate the strike, or manipulate the field.  We saw very few sweeps, when Shamarh Brooks did play a sweep he was out lbw,” O'Brien told the Mason and Guest radio show.

“When you’re a batter if you’re going to stand in the crease waiting for a bad ball, this is international cricket, the bad balls don’t come very often…It’s a technical thing, it’s a tactical thing…it’s something for West Indies cricket, it’s been a pattern for many, many years they don’t play spin very well.  They really on their brute force and teams are getting more clever with how to go about that.”

 

 

Prominent Napoli forward Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano will miss out for Mexico against Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, in the upcoming crunch World Cup qualifier, due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

The match is shaping up to be a crucial fixture for both teams.  The Jamaicans still harbour hope of securing a spot at the upcoming FIFA World Cup but find themselves off the pace in 6th place, seven points behind the final qualification spot with a few games to go.  However, the Mexicans could also find themselves out of the qualifying spots if the result does not go their way, as they are currently in third on 14 points, the same amount as third-place Panama. 

With crucial points on the line, Mexico would love to have the Napoli player to call upon.  The player, however, received a yellow card in the game against Canada, in the last round, on November 16, and prior to that one against El Salvador in October.

The player has nonetheless been called up for the round of matches and is expected to feature in follow-up games against Costa Rica and Panama.

 

Life under interim manager Paul Hall got off to a shaky for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz following a 3-0 loss to Peru at the Estadio Nacional, in Peru, on Thursday.

Following a scoreless, even first half the game burst into life when Lewis Iberico outjumped the Jamaican backline to head past goalkeeper Amal Knight in the 48th minute.  Another bit of poor defending saw Alex Valera intercept a ball played across the area to double the host’s lead in the 66th minute.

Given too much room just outside the area, Yosimar Yotune finished things off with a long-range blast, which saw a diving Knight come up empty-handed.  The mostly locally-based team put together enterprising play at times but seemed to lack ideas and accuracy in the final third of the pitch.

The full squad will be back in action next Thursday when they host Mexico in the World Cup qualifiers.  Three days later the team will head to Panama, before hosting Costa Rica at home.  Hall replaced Theodore Whitmore as head coach of the team last month, following a string of disappointing results.  

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts has expressed disappointment with the government’s decision not to allow fans to attend the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Mexico, and possibly Costa Rica.

The Reggae Boyz will return to action against El Tri on the 27th of January, in a crucial World Cup qualifier at the National Stadium.  The team has played the majority of home matches so far with empty stands, impacted by the government’s Covid-19 management protocols.

The exception came against the United States in the last round, where up to 5,000 vaccinated fans were allowed to attend the fixture.  The JFF was hoping to have the same number of fans, if not more, but the recent increase of coronavirus cases, however, meant they had other ideas.

“Covid will be here if not forever, for a very long time so you just have to put things in place and figure out how best you are going to navigate this pandemic,” Ricketts said.

“We must live with Covid, so we must adhere to the protocols and be as careful as we can, but we must also understand that life goes on.”

The Reggae Boyz have been the only team in the octagonal round that has been affected so severely by coronavirus restrictions, with many other teams sticking to the practice of limiting the numbers of fans allowed at the venues.

Jamaica, however, has the lowest vaccination rate of all the countries participating in the qualifiers.

 

  

History-making Jamaica Alpine skier, Alexander Benjamin, believes the country possesses the attributes to produce top-quality skiers on a consistent basis and hopes to be the first of many.

At 38 years old Benjamin made history for the Caribbean after qualifying for the event at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.  He is, however, the second skier to do so for Jamaica behind Errol Kerr who competed in Freestyle skiing at the 2010 Winter Olympics where he finished in 9th position.  Kerr’s finish remains the best placing by a Caribbean athlete at any Winter Olympics.

Despite the fame garnered from the 1988 Winter Olympics four-man bobsled team, immortalised by the cult classic Cool Runnings, it is the Summer Olympics that have been the forte of the Caribbean island.

Led by Jamaican track and field legend Usain Bolt, Beijing was a happy hunting ground for the country’s Summer Olympic team in 2008, where they claimed 11 medals.  While Benjamin won’t necessarily expect that type of success, the newly minted Olympian believes there is plenty of talent to harness within the country and throughout the diaspora.

“What my story is all about is encouraging the next generation of Jamaicans to start before 32, so that we can have a real chance at medaling,” Benjamin told the SportsMax Zone.

“I’ve already identified three Jamaicans in New York, who started skiing when they were less than two years old, and they’ve been race training for the last 10 years.  So, they’re now 14 years old and these guys are going to come with force when we get to the 2026 Games,” he added.

“I think that we can get a really strong ski team from the pool of talent we already have in Jamaica and the diaspora.”

Benjamin has targeted being actively involved with the Jamaica Ski Federation (JSF).  Richard Salm the former president of the JSF died of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident last year.

 

 

West Indies opener, Brandon King, is looking to keep things simple on his return to international cricket after recently returning to the team.

King was named as part of the Windies T20 squad who will play against England in the upcoming five-match series.  The batsman looked in solid form after returning to the team against Pakistan last month, after more than a year away from the team.  He scored 111 runs in three matches, with an average of 37 and a high score of 67.

On the back of another controlled showing against a BCA President's XI in a warm-up match at Kensington Oval, on Tuesday, King will be looking to provide solidity against the English for a Windies team that has struggled as of late.

“For me mentally, I play my best cricket when I am keeping things simple out there while I am batting.  I just try and play the situation as it is and that has really helped me to do better out there,” King said of his form since returning to the team.

Despite the World Cup coming up later this year, however, and the West Indies in rebuilding mode, he insists he is not looking too far ahead in terms of regular selection.

“I try to focus on the things that I can control.  For me, that is just every game that presents itself I just try and do my best and perform.  Selection and those other aspects I don’t have any control over it but I just try and put myself in a position to be in the conversation.”

 

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