Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness has indicated that more local sports could soon resume on the island, after a series of meetings that prompted a change of heart from the government.

So far, in the wake of the pandemic, only a series of selected sports have resumed with horse racing and selected track meets listed among them.  In the main, however, the majority of sports have remained shuttered since around last May, as part of efforts to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Among the more popular sports yet to resume are the National Premier League and the majority of high school competitions, which encompasses popular competitions like the Manning and daCosta Cups.  Holness, however, believes that while things will not necessarily return to normal, there is now a very likely way forward.

“Prior to now, the policy was not to allow sporting events,” Holness told parliament on Tuesday.

“We contemplated this over two days.  We had our COVID meeting on Friday and again on Monday and the decision is that sporting events can be allowed under conditions,” he added.

“The minister of local government, the minister of sports, the minister of public health will in due course explain what these details are.”

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and Ministry of Health and Wellness have been locked in negotiations for weeks regarding the return of the premier league.

 

2015 World 100m hurdles gold medallist, Danielle Williams, is expected to open her season in the United States, at the American Track League Indoor Series, next month.

The upcoming appearance will be the first for the 28-year-old sprinter since she pulled the plug on her 2020 season, in May, when the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on the international track and field schedule.

The American Track League, which is part of the World Athletics Silver Tour, gives professional athletes an opportunity to return to competition as preparations begin for an Olympic year. 

The meet, which is staged in four-parts, ran off in Fayetteville, Arkansas on Sunday.  2016 Olympic gold medalist in the 110m hurdles, Omar McLeod, who raced in the 60 metres, was one of several Jamaicans who took part on the opening weekend.  The list also included the likes of Tyquendo Tracey, Senoj-Jay Givans, and Christopher Taylor.  The meet will continue with the next three installments on January 31st, February 7th, and February 14th.

Williams, the 2019 Diamond League champion, is based in South Carolina in the USA where she trains with coach Lennox Graham at Clemson University.

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.”

Out of favour West Indies batsman Shai Hope and brother Kyle will be among three players to miss out on the CG Insurance Super50 Cup, after returning positive COVID-19 results in the latest round of PCR tests.

The Hope brothers, who would have represented Barbados Tridents, will be joined on the sidelines by left-handed opener Trevon Griffith who was part of the Guyana Jaguars batting line-up.  The latest round of tests was conducted on Sunday.

The Barbados Pride have already named Zachary McCaskie and Tevyn Walcott as replacements for the Hopes, while Kemol Savory has been named as the replacement for Griffith in the Jaguars squad.

The trio will remain in their respective territories where there will be required to follow local COVID-19 protocols.

All other members of the Barbados Pride and Guyana Jaguars squads returned negative COVID-19 tests and will undergo second tests on Thursday, January 28 before travelling for the tournament, as part of CWI's established protocols.

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup will be played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua from Sunday, February 7 to Saturday, February 27. On opening day, Leeward Islands Hurricanes will host arch-rivals Windward Islands Volcanoes at CCG.

 

Jamaica's 4x100m relay World Championship medallist, Jura Levy, has hopes of rehabilitating her career after overcoming a troublesome spell with injury and a recent move to Legacy Athletics Track Club.

The 30-year-old, former outstanding Vere Technical high school sprinter, was part of a bronze medal-winning national team at the 2017 World Championships in London.  A double injury blow experienced during the 2018 and 2019 seasons has since interrupted the athlete’s progression.

The sprinter is back to feeling in top shape, however, and the combination of a not-so-busy 2020 season, which was heavily impacted by the pandemic, and the recent move to Legacy has her feeling positive about the future and targeting a return to prominence by securing a spot on the national team for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I would like to make the Olympics team and get my personal medal,” Levy told Talking Sports.

The battle for the top three individual spots will be fierce, with decorated World and Olympic medallists Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Elaine Thompson-Herah, all things going to plan, all but confirmed spots.  Former 2018 double World U20 sprint champion and promising prospect Briana Williams is also expected to figure prominently in the race.  Levy, however, refuses to count herself out.

“I don’t think any trials or championships is ever easy, but I’ve been there before and I’m putting in the work to get there.  So, come June I hope to secure a spot on the podium,” she added.

“My goal is to finish top three but if I make the Olympic team, I will still be ok, hopefully with a personal best.”

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.   

Undefeated WBC and IBF champion Errol Spence Jr. has expressed the hope of one day fighting in Jamaica, a place to which he still has strong connections.

Although the 30-year-old pugilist was born in the United States, his father Errol Spence is a Jamaican who still has roots in the town of Axe and Adze in the parish of Hanover.

Last month, the boxer scored a unanimous victory over number one contender Danny Garcia, in his first fight since a serious motor vehicle accident in 2019.

While the boxer will be content to relax and enjoy the fruits of his labour, for now, he admits staging a fight in his ancestral home sometime in the future would be a dream come true.

“I want to fight in Jamaica.  Hope I can make that happen, hopefully, it will be a big event where I still have all of my titles.  It’s something that I really wanted, it something that my dad wanted me to do as well.  It’s something we talked about even when I was an amateur so hopefully, we can make that happen,” Spence Jr. told Talking Sports.

“I think I will be able to fight there.  I want to be among those great names.  Guys like Mike McCallum, guys that could really fight.  His name was the body snatcher and I’ve watched him sometimes, how he went to the body well, how tough he was.”

The last major fight in Jamaica came in 2012 when Jamaica's Nicholas 'The Axeman' Walters, defeated Daulis Prescott at Jamaica's National Indoor Sports Centre.

 

 

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.”

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has hailed former national striker for being a man that played the sport played the sport with his heart and soul and one that has gone too soon.

Shelton, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 2018, died on Friday after being found unresponsive at his home.  He was 35-year-old.

Shelton, who was a prolific goal scorer for the country’s national team, holds the record for the most goals after registering 35 goals in 75 appearances.  32 of his goals came in matches that the team won. The deceased player began his career for the national team against Saint-Martin in 2005 and created history by being the first man to score four goals on debut.  His final goal for Jamaica came against Guatemala in 2012.

 “Shelton was a goalscorer of repute on who Jamaica depended on for many victories,” the release read.

“The Jamaica Football Federation like the rest of the country was saddened when he was diagnosed with ALS and many hoped and prayed for a miraculous recovery. He played with his heart and soul for Jamaica as well as for his school and clubs and he will always be remembered for that.

The JFF extends heartfelt condolences to his family and to the KSAFA family in this difficult time.”

Jamaica Premier League football club, Harbour View, where recent departed national striker Luton Shelton spent his formative years, has described his loss as heart-wrenching.

Shelton died on Friday after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He was 35 years old.  In its release, the club chronicled the player’s rise from an eager youth representative to becoming the country’s all-time leading scorer.

“His late father, Luton Shelton Snr., brought him by the hand to coach Ludlow Bernard at an All-Prep vs All-Primary Final at Sabina Park in 1997 to play for Harbour View Football Club (HVFC) in the Under 14 Competition. The Tivoli Gardens resident began his journey, then accelerated his development through Under 16 Colt's, Manning Cup, and All Manning while attending Wolmer's Boys School. He quickly climbed the ladder to KSAFA Minor League, Under 20, and Premier League, attracting the glare of the national coaches,” it stated.

“International football came calling early and he embraced it with scoring a record 4 goals on debut. From there he never looked back as the goals flowed in buckets to surpass then-leading national goalscorer Paul 'Tegat' Davis, to hold the current record of 35 goals.”

Shelton represented Harbour View in Jamaica’s National Premier League between 2003-2006, scoring a healthy 44 goals in 43 appearances.  During his time at the club, he was part of the 2006-2007 Premier League championship team and also helped capture the CFU Club Championship in 2005.

The forward signed for Sweden’s Helzinberg, in 2007, and went on to play nine years abroad at various clubs, including a brief stint in the English Premier League with Sheffield United.  He returned to Harbour View in 2017 but was forced to retire soon after suffering injuries and later being diagnosed with the disease.

“As he returned home to HVFC, he battled training and match preparations as injuries interrupted, but at the National Stadium on February 20, 2017, he lit up the floodlights with a goal made in heaven as the bright 'Star Of The East' shone one more time to equalise against Tivoli Gardens FC. He never returned to the field after halftime.

Fond memories of a career filled with scorching runs, dribbles, and a ton of goals remind us of the man, the goalscorer, and the legend Luton George Kieshawn Shelton. Rest in eternal peace; your goal was well scored."

Tributes have poured from around the globe for former Jamaica striker, Luton Shelton, who died on Friday, after a battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Shelton, who was 35 years old, spent several years plying his trade abroad between 2006 and 2015, where he represented six clubs.  On Friday, many of those clubs that once celebrated when his lighting speed resulted in breathtaking goals, paid homage to the fallen striker.

 Prominently featured among them were Swedish club Helsingborgs IF, English club Sheffield United and Norwegian football Vålerenga, along with world governing body FIFA.

Shelton represented Sheffield between 2007-2008 where he made four Premier League appearances towards the end of 2006-07, that included a debut against Manchester United but the club was relegated that year.  He then scored four goals in 21 outings the following season.  Famously, the striker was part of a famous 2-1 FA Cup win against Manchester City when the ball deflected to him having hit a balloon.  The Blades paid tribute to Shelton with a message posted to the club’s official website.

"Sheffield United is saddened to hear reports in the Caribbean indicating the passing of our former striker, Luton Shelton, aged just 35.

"In recent years he has bravely battled Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) - a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

"The condolences of all at the Blades are with Luton's family at this difficult time."

Vålerenga, where the player scored 17 goals between 2008 and 2011, also memorialized the player.

"The sad news (of) Luton Shelton's untimely passing has reached us.

"He had ALS and was only 35 years old. Our thoughts go to his family and friends. Rest in peace Luton, in Valerenga you will never be forgotten."

Helsingborgs IF, who first signed the player from Jamaica Premier League outfit Harbour View, in 2006, took to social media platform Instagram to express their condolences.

“We have been reached by the tragic news that our former player Luton Shelton has fallen asleep at the age of 35 after a period of fighting the disease ALS.

Our thoughts go to his relatives. Rest in peace, Luton!”

Through its official Twitter website, FIFA declared that global football was in mourning, following the passing of the young Jamaican.

"FIFA and World Football are mourning today.  Jamaica’s all-time top scorer Luton Shelton has passed away.  He was 35 years old.  Rest in peace, Luton."

Jamaica middle-distance runner, Aisha Praught-Leer, has signed with sporting goods giants Puma ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held later this year.

The 31-years-old Praught-Leer is Jamaica’s record holder in the 3000m Steeplechase event and represented the country at the 2015 and 2017 IAAF World Championships, as well as the 2016 Olympics, where she qualified for the final.

In addition, the athlete also captured gold in the event at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.  Praught-Leer has, however, contemplated switching events to try her hand at competing in the 1500m. 

The athlete had hoped to make her 1500m Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games but like many others had to set aside those plans as the event was postponed due to the onslaught of the coronavirus.  She has already begun her quest to qualify for this summer's Games by targeting three events, the 3000m steeplechase, 5000m, and 1500m.  She currently has personal best times of 15:07.50 in the 5000m, 9:14.09 seconds in the 3000m steeplechase, and 4:05.52 in the 1500 metres.

Praught-Leer previously represented Under Armour after signing a contract with that brand in 2017, earlier this month, however, she announced via social media that her contract with the company had come to an end.

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.

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