West Indies legendary wicketkeeper, Jeffrey Dujon, is convinced that out-of-favour Shai Hope remains the team’s best batsman, despite recently running into a rough patch of form.

The 27-years-old Hope was dropped from the team last year ahead of the West Indies tour of New Zealand.  The decision followed several months of off-colour form, which saw the player return scores of 16, 9, 25, 7, 17, and 31 during the team’s three-Test tour of England in July. Overall, in Test cricket, Hope averaged 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019.

The decision to drop the player, however, still stirred vigorous debate around the region, with many arguing that he should have been allowed to play his way back into form.  For his part, Dujon has backed the player to figure things out sooner, rather than later.

“There’s no question in my mind that he is the best batsman that we have,” Dujon told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Technically he is very good, from the very first time I saw him, I thought he was very good and talking to him and getting to know him, I know he is smart enough to work it out when things aren’t going right,” he added.

“He might have gotten his technique a little bit mixed up because of the competitions he was playing in, but I don’t see that lasting very long because he has quality.  You don’t go to England and be immortal and not be able to bat.”

Hope grabbed headlines around the world in 2017, becoming the first batsman to score twin hundreds in a match at Headingly in first-class cricket.

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.

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.

Newly appointed West Indies women’s team assistant coach, Corey Collymore, insists the unit must be given time to get back to its best form.

The regional team claimed the ICC Women’s World Cup with a surprise won over Australia in 2016.  Since then, not only have the Windies failed to win another title but seem increasingly unable to compete with the game’s biggest teams.

At the 2020 ICC Women's T20 World Cup the team failed to advance from the group stage after winning just one game.  In September of last year, the team found itself on the wrong side of a one-sided 5-0 loss at the hands of England.  Collymore, the specialist bowling coach, believes that based on their talent the Windies could once again be battling against the top teams, but it will take work.

“As I said to them, it will take some work.  I was with the U19s in 2016 but now being here with these ladies, and judging from England, I spoke to them and I said our overall game definitely needs some serious work,” Collymore told members of the media.

“We’ll put that in, but it will take time.  We’re not here to say you need five years or whatever the case may be, but we need a pool of players that we can put some consistent work in, then we can be able to choose a squad that will be able to go forward and deliver performances like the one in 2016.”

The team, which has been inactive since September, is currently at a training camp in Antigua with one eye on the World Cup qualifiers later this year.

Noted West Indian cricket analyst Fazeer Mohammed believes India’s triumph over Australia, at the historic Brisbane Cricket Ground, could indeed be the greatest moment in India cricket.

Of course, the Asian team has claimed the ICC World Cup twice, first in 1983 and then again in 2011.  the special circumstance surrounding the team’s spirited defense of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, for this particular series, however, will put this historical result right alongside the best of them.

Shorn of some of its most experienced players, due to injury, and having seen inspirational captain Virat Kohli head back to India after just one Test, for the birth of his daughter, few expected India to be able to make the series competitive, let alone retain the trophy.

In addition, the team allegedly faced racism from the crowd during the second Test in Sydney, which no doubt added fuel to the fire.  Perhaps it was fitting it came down to the last hour of the final day with all four results a possibility.

Spurred on by Rishabh Pant who stayed not out and hit a wonderful 89, young opener, Shunhman Gill also contributed with 91 at the top and the gritty Cheteshwar Pujara who held up his end for 56.

Prior to the unlikely triumph on enemy territory, no team had chased more than 236 at the Gabba, a ground where Australia had not lost a Test since 1988.

“It wasn’t just solid, it was inspirational,” Mohammed told the SportsMax Zone.

“All of the experts when it comes to Indian cricket, I can’t fault what any of them have said…when you try your best and put it into context with all of the different issues and primarily the loss of almost all of their prominent players throughout the four-Test matches, and being routed for 36 in the first Test.  Everyone had written them off with the departure of Kohli," he added.

 “To see Ajinkya Rahane holding the trophy, not with a drawn series but with a historic victory, they don’t win at Brisbane, no one beats Australia at Brisbane.  When you lump everything together, when you put all of the contexts of the individual players and their own personal journeys, to this point it has to be the greatest moment in Indian cricket, certainly when it comes to Test cricket”

 

 

Indian Premier League (IPL) club Kings XI Punjab are expected to predictably retain West Indian star batsman Chris Gayle but will release his compatriot Sheldon Cottrell ahead of the new season.

The 31-year-old pace bowler was bought for a sizeable INR 8.5 crore ($US1,156,239) during the IPL 2020 auction but failed to justify the price tag.  In six matches, Cottrell bowled 20 overs, claiming 6 wickets for 176 runs at an expensive economy rate of 8.80.  Unfortunately, perhaps the player's biggest moment came after being on the wrong side of thrashing from Rajasthan Royals Rahul Tewatia, who smashed 5 sixes off one of his overs during a record run chase.

Gayle, on the other hand, was sensational.  Despite starting the season on the sidelines, the big left-hander became the driving force behind the team's push for a playoff spot, although it ended with the team narrowly missing out on 6th spot.  The West Indian had been left on the bench for the first seven games of the season.  He was not picked for the first five, and food poisoning ruled him out for the next two.  He ended with 288 runs at an average of 44.14 and a high score of 99.

India batsman Karun Nair is also expected to be released but the team remains undecided on Australian Glenn Maxwell, who had a mediocre IPL season but had a splendid series against India.

  

Bengaluru FC coach Naushad Moosa insists the club parted ways with Jamaica international Deshorn Brown in order to allow the player to search for more playing time.

The 30-year-old forward recently completed a move to top-flight Indian team NorthEast United, away from Bengaluru, who he joined last year on a one-and-a-half-year deal.  Brown scored three goals in 17 appearances and increasingly found first-team football hard to come by.  

Moosa replaced outgoing coach Carles Cuadrat, as the club looks to begin a rebuilding process, that has seen the former B-team coach step up as head coach.

"When you talk about Brown, as a club we want to help the player. Now if you see Ajay (Chhetri), he is getting playing opportunities with East Bengal. Brown was not getting enough playing time (at Bengaluru). So, for his development, we should allow him to go and play [elsewhere]. We thought we should help him get more playing time," Moosa said.

Brown will be looking to regain his goalscoring form with the Highlanders who will be without Kwesi Appiah who is set to miss the rest of the season with an injury.  The Jamaican has previously played for the likes of DC United and Colorado Rapids.  It is hoped will be able to link up with Idrissa Sylla and Luis Machado. 

Brown has played 14 games for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz since making his debut in 2013.

 

 

 

 

Jamaica track and field star, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, does not anticipate that age will be a barrier to achieving success when the 2021 Olympics finally rolls around.

 At 34, Fraser-Pryce will be one of the oldest women lined up to face the starter's gun, should the event eventually be staged in Tokyo later this year.  The 32nd Olympiad was initially slated to be staged last summer but was postponed due to the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.

The postponement of the quadrennial event has meant another year of training and preparation for some legendary athletes facing another race, the one against time.  The situation will not be an entirely new one for nine-time World champion and two-time Olympic champion Fraser-Pryce.  In 2019, at the age of 32, she became the oldest female sprinter to win a 100m world title.  In that event, by comparison, silver medalist, Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith was nine years her junior.  Showing herself to be very much at the top of her game in 2020, however, despite the havoc the global pandemic wrought on the international schedule, Fraser-Pryce is clearly in the mood to defy the odds yet again.

“Yes, I’m 33, but if I can come back from having my son and be able to stand on the podium, my age is not going to stop me.  I’m still going to work hard.  I’m still going to be committed and I’m grateful for the years of experience I’ve had,” Fraser-Pryce told the BBC.

"I'm probably older than most of the women in the race but so what? I'm just focusing on getting the job done and being happy."

Legendary West Indies batsman, Brian Lara, has pointed to a performance that emanated from one of the uglier, darker moments of a largely sparkling career as one of his most memorable.

In one of a few instances the batting star was not greeted by applause and gestures of widespread adoration on his sojourn to the crease, Lara was booed by the Sabina Park crowd when strode out for the second Test of the 1999 Australia tour of the West Indies.

During a tumultuous period for the Windies, the issue for some home fans stemmed from what they believed to be disrespect shown to bowling legend Courtney Walsh in what they deemed to be a hostile takeover of the captaincy by the Trinidadian.  Walsh, who was appointed captain in 1994, served as captain for 22 Test matches before being replaced by Lara in 1998.  On the back of a heavy loss to Australia in the first Test and having also previously been whitewashed by South Africa, The Prince found himself occupying the unusual status of public enemy.

His response, a classy, shot-filed 213, which would go on to underpin a massive 10 wicket win at Sabina Park to level the series, it must be said, went a long way in lightening the mood.

“Everyone says the 153 was second maybe to Sir Don Bradman’s (Against England at Melbourne in 1936-1937), maybe post-war, one of the better innings, but a week before that I was in Jamaica where we played against Australia in that second Test match,” Lara told 7Cricket.

“We came off scoring 51 in the fourth innings in Trinidad and I stood there in Jamaica, I was given the captaincy for two Test matches, on probation, never before had that happened in the history of West Indies cricket…that 213 in Jamaica was for me (special) in terms of not just batsmanship but my inner strength to come out of that situation I was in,” he went on.

“I was facing expulsion as the captain, of course, I was going to be playing, the captaincy was not that important to me that I wouldn’t play, but the threat of the expulsion and the fact that everyone was sort of jeering against me, in the Caribbean, was just unbelievable.”

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.”

 

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.

  

Windies batsman, Andre Fletcher, has pointed to a call from legendary batsman Brian Lara as pivotal in helping to turn around his form in this season’s Big Bash League (BBL).

On Thursday, Fletcher smashed a brutal 89 for just 49 balls to underpin the Melbourne Stars massive 111 run win over Adelaide Strikers.  The knock was timely for Fletcher as he had not passed 18 in his first nine BBL encounters.

The 33-year-old had previously also performed below expectations in a low-scoring Caribbean Premier League (CPL), where he scored 211 from 12 games despite his team St Lucia Zouks making it to the final.  As it turns out, it was a call from the legendary West Indian batsman, who is on commentary duty at the BBL, which proved critical in helping Fletcher turn around that recent run of bad form.

"He called me, and I was surprised, to be honest," Fletcher said following his explosive performance.

"He was telling me that, looking from the outside, I've been striking the ball cleanly and he just told me to give myself that opportunity. Giving myself that chance and playing each ball on its merits,” he added.

"I'm an aggressive player so there's no need to go out there and look to [over] power the ball. To be honest, that's what I did today.

"I've met him before. He's a great guy. I told him over the phone, after what he told me I was like, 'So Brian, now I understand the reason you were so great'.

"He told me, feel free to call him any time I wish to, he's there, he's open for anything and willing to give me advice."

Former West Indies fast bowler, Tony Gray, believes it is a mistake for selectors to get caught up with selecting teams based on conditions.

Recently, Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors Roger Harper set off a firestorm with an explanation that promising fast bowler Chemar Holder had been left out of the Test squad for the Bangladesh tour, in order to include an extra spinner to exploit conditions.

For some, the decision was all the more vexing considering the absence of Jason Holder, who was typically part and parcel of a four-prong pace bowling attack, and Chemar Holder’s promising debut in New Zealand where he took two wickets in trying circumstances.

For his part, in addition to pointing out that Bangladesh were exceptional at handling spin, Gray pointed to the fact that a multitude of pace bowlers had done well on Asian pitches for several decades.

“I think that they (selectors) are fixated on the conditions, you cannot be fixated on the conditions,” Gray told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I played my first Test series in Pakistan and I got 14 wickets in three games.  You want the mindset to be there.  If you are telling a young fast bowler, for example, who can bowl some 90 miles an hour deliveries, that you are not going to perform well because of bowling conditions that are not really suited to your pace and your style of bowling, then you are doing the wrong thing,” he added.

“So, I think they have been fixated on conditions and there are other things to take note of for example the strengths of the opposition, the Bangladeshis are very adept at playing spin bowling.”

Windies fast bowling legend Sir Andy Roberts has hailed current West Indies captain Jason Holder as an excellent cricketer but concedes aspects of his captaincy could use a bit of work.

Roberts believes that, in particular, the all-rounder still struggles with the setting of his field and making key leadership decisions at crucial times.

Holder’s captaincy has come under the microscope in recent months, on the back of disappointing results and underwhelming performances by the team against both England and New Zealand.  The issues disgruntled pundits have pointed out have had to do with the his field placings and decisions whether to bat or bowl after winning the toss.

“I think Jason Holder as a captain on the field is lost. I don’t think he is aware of what is going on on the field because if I win a toss as a captain and before lunch on a green top pitch I am having a man on the point boundary, then I am lost,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“That’s the first thing. His field placing (leaves) a lot to be desired and I believe the time should come where he takes instructions from the coaches who can see the game better than he can,” he added.

Roberts, however, also believes Holder has been let down by players around him, while also calling on the all-rounder to be more aggressive.

“A captain is only as good as the men who he leads, so there has to be something wrong with the 11 guys on the field and cannot pinpoint certain things to the captain,” Roberts said.

“I would give him an ‘A’ grade for his interviews – he interviews very well. He’s a damn good cricketer but he needs to be more aggressive in his approach as a captain. He’s too defensive-minded.”

West Indies legend Sir Andy Roberts insists the region’s fall off in producing top-class bowling talent is due to the unwillingness of the current generation to put in the hard yards required to be successful.

For decades, the region was the producer of fearsome fast bowling talent, which often left opposition batsmen with plenty to think about.  The likes of Roberts, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Wes Hall, and Michael Holding are only a few of the names who could leave opponents with plenty to dread once they strode to the crease.

Many will point to the pace-bowling lineage being broken with the end of twin towers Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, with no bowler since managing to come close to consistency matching that once fearsome legacy.

“I don’t think that these guys are prepared for the hard work that fast bowling entails,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest program.

“If you look at it, most players now prefer to play T20s, it's only four overs.  I must say that fast bowling is hard work, I would say donkey work, but I just believe they are not prepared,” he added.

In recent times, some have blamed poor preparation of the region’s pitches for suffocation of the Caribbean’s fast bowling talent, Roberts, however, does not agree.

“A lot of people blame the pitches, but I always ask, Pakistan is supposed to have some of the slowest pitches in the world, yet still they produce some of the fastest bowlers in the world.  How do they do it and we can’t,” Roberts said.

 “People believe that during the 60s, 70s, and 80s we used to have really fast pitches, that is far from the truth.  We used to have Kensington Oval, the ball used to swing around and move off the seam on the first day, but after that, it became one of the best batting pitches in the region.  It has nothing to do with pitches, it has a lot to do with the work ethics of the young cricketers, they don’t want to work hard.”

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