West Indies have received a major boost ahead of the imminent Test series against New Zealand with the return to the field of strike bowler Kemar Roach.
Roach, 25, turned out for his club CGI Maple against BRC BCL at Blenheim ‘A’ on Saturday in the fifth and final preliminary series of the BCA Sagicor General T20 championship and impressed with the new ball in a winning cause.
Bowling genuinely quick, he took one wicket for ten runs off four overs on the trot as BCL were bundled out for 77 in 20 overs – the lowest total of the series – before two-time champions Maple triumphed by eight wickets with as many as nine overs to spare to top Zone ‘B’ with a maximum 20 points.
“I am glad to be back on the field playing for Maple and I am looking forward to representing the West Indies again as soon as possible with my focus on the Test series against New Zealand in a few weeks,” Roach said.
He is in a 20-man West Indies squad preparing for the series with a camp at the 3Ws Oval from May 22 to June 2. The first Test against the Black Caps is in Jamaica beginning June 8.
Roach, who has 85 wickets at 27.71 runs apiece in 23 Tests since his debut in 2009, said he was happy with his performance on Saturday.
“I hit some good areas and the pace was definitely up. I was able to contribute in a positive way for Maple,” Roach said.
“I spoke with the captain and he said he had a plan. He asked me if I wanted to bowl four overs in succession and I told him I wouldn’t mind to get the body working again. The pace is still there but I am not a hundred percent yet. I think the more I bowl, the better I will become.
“I have really missed playing. Seven months out of cricket is a long time and now I am at the point where I can play again, I want to be able to represent Maple, Barbados and West Indies.
“I am very confident that once I get some more sessions in and some strength work, I will be raring to go for the first Test against New Zealand, if selected.”
Roach pointed out that following sessions at Kensington Oval from the middle of April with BCA coach Vasbert Drakes, as well as West Indies team coach Ottis Gibson – both former Barbados and West Indies pacers – he stepped up practice recently at Trents, the home ground of Maple, with assistance from another former Barbados and West Indies fast bowler Corey Collymore, who is also a Maple player. Yet another former Barbados and West Indies seamer, Henderson Bryan, is the Maple coach.
“I was working with Vasbert and also had some sessions with Ottis. I was in the gym earlier in the year and then the bowling aspect of it started in April. It was basic stuff as in the rotation of the arm and the fundamentals of fast bowling,” Roach explained.
“I practised with Maple the entire week before the game on Saturday. I was working with Corey and he helped me to get my technique back and some basic stuff about bowling.
“Corey watched me bowl on Saturday. He gave me some pointers on what he thought about my bowling and he told me about a few flaws that can be worked on in the next couple of weeks. It was a happy atmosphere and a very relaxed environment.”
Ironically, the last time Roach played a competitive match prior to Saturday was for Maple in the final of the same Sagicor General T20 tournament against Sagicor Life UWI at Kensington last October 13 when he injured his shoulder in the field after bowling only one over.
He then travelled with the West Indies to Florida for a one-week Elite team visit before a tour of India, but was forced to return home in the second week of November following the first Test for “ongoing management and subsequent physical rehabilitation.”
West Indies team physiotherapist CJ Clarke had described Roach’s injury as “uncommon among cricketers”.
It led to an operation in Jamaica on November 22 before he started training again last month.
“I had three months of strenuous therapy with Dr. Jacqueline King and Marita Marshall. It was tough because the shoulder was very weak but they did a great job along with [trainer] Shannon Lashley in getting me back strong again,” Roach asserted.
“After a surgery like this it is not going to be a hundred percent but I am definitely fit enough to play any length of cricket, whether it be a Test, four-day, one-day or a T20 match,” said Roach, who has also played 61 One-Day International and 11 T20 International matches.