In Shannon Gabriel’s first twenty Test matches between 2012 and 2016, he took a meagre 39 wickets. Between late 2016 and 2018, he has now taken 61 more wickets in just 14 Tests. His transformation has been remarkable.
Former West Indies fast bowler and now qualified coach Corey Collymore joined the West Indies set-up on May 14 at a camp held at the University of the West Indies campus in Barbados. Prior to the first Test, he travelled to Trinidad and Tobago, a few days before the squad arrived, so he could spend time working one-on-one with Gabriel as he prepared for the opening match of the three-Test series. Speaking to SportsMax today, he gave some insights into Gabriel’s transformation.
“Shannon has worked really hard on his fitness and on his diet,” Collymore said, hours after the team flew into Barbados to prepare for the historic day/night Test at Kensington Oval starting on Saturday. “I know he is on a lot of proteins, a lot of vegs, and on training days he does a lot more running than he used to do before.”
Collymore explained that the running was not measured in terms of miles or laps around a field, but in doing the things that bowlers do during matches.
“Something that we work on with him is run-throughs, which is marking his run-up (about 30 metres from the stumps), and running for about 15 minutes with a ball in hand, just getting accustomed to that workload and getting accustomed to feeling of the ball in your hand whilst running, because as bowlers, I think, as natural runners, Caribbean people [are] good athletes but the minute you put a ball in their hands as a bowler, we tend to do different things,” Collymore said.
In addition to his improved fitness, Gabriel has also done a lot of work on ball control and bowling fast. During the last two Tests, Gabriel has been at his hostile best with his deliveries averaging well over 140kph with a generous sprinkling of short rib-tickling balls throughout.
The effectiveness of those deliveries, however, is dependent on accuracy. Collymore revealed that that was another area on which they had focused.
“Shannon has also worked hard on his seam position, something that I talk about with the bowlers since I have come onboard,” Collymore said, while emphasizing that his methods had helped the bowlers to build pressure by being consistent and accurate.
“I used to talk to the players a lot before I came on board. I love Windies cricket so I used to watch and see what the guys are doing, I would drop them a line, the guys I used to keep in contact with, a lot of them are in this squad, so it was easy to start working with these guys.
“So one of the things I talk about is the seam position, trying to keep that seam upright. I think the best way to do that is to keep your wrist locked behind the ball, also looking at your target as long as possible and then executing by putting the ball in the right areas, with a stress on bowling fast. If you are a fast bowler, you must bowl fast,” Collymore said.
Collymore’s impact seems to be paying great dividends in the ongoing three-Test series against Sri Lanka.
The 30-year-old Trinidadian has shone in the first two Tests in Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia capturing 17 wickets. In the second Test that ended in St. Lucia on Monday, Gabriel ended with overall figures of 13 for 121. Only Courtney Walsh with 13 for 55 and Michael Holding with 14 for 149 have better match figures than the burly Trinidadian, who has climbed 11 places to 12th in the latest ICC Test rankings.
Though he only got four wickets in the first Test Gabriel bowled with frightening pace clocking in excess of 90 mph consistently and striking former Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews on the helmet.
Cricviz analysis described Gabriel as the third fastest bowler in the world since 2017, behind only Australians Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. With his recent successes, Gabriel’s bowling average is now a respectable 30.66 with 100 wickets in his 34 Tests. According to Cricviz, Gabriel’s bowling average improves to an excellent 23.14 in matches won by the West Indies.