Following a commanding 2-0 Test series win for West Indies against Bangladesh, head coach Phil Simmons has praised the fast bowlers.
And he pointed out that veteran Barbadian Kemar Roach, who celebrated his 34th birthday yesterday and is now the West Indies sixth highest wicket-taker in Tests with 252 (ave: 26.83), was “helping the fast bowlers to mature quicker”.
While West Indies savour their success – they also beat Bangladesh 2-0 away last year (February) – some observers, however, argue that Bangladesh’s Test record is pathetic, as they have now lost 100 of 134 matches, having won 16 and drawn 18.
Yet, that should not take away from the performance of West Indies.
There were slow pitches at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St. Lucia, but Bangladesh were unable to cope, losing by big margins of seven wickets and ten wickets with both matches ending inside four days.
Scores were: 1st Test – Bangladesh 103 and 245; West Indies 265 and 88/3. 2nd Test – Bangladesh 234 and 186; West Indies 408 and 13/0.
“The first (Test) wicket wasn’t conducive to fast bowling but we got them out for low scores,” Simmons said.
“In this Test match, to get them bowled out on the first day on a comparatively slow wicket, gave us the driver’s seat. The fast bowlers deserve a lot of credit. We have worked hard in the two series, and come out victorious. This one maybe wasn’t as hard as the first one, the important thing is that at the end of the day, the W is behind the two Tests. We won in Bangladesh in 2021 as well. You have to take all those things, and sit back and enjoy it.”
Simmons lauded Roach, who took three for 54 in the second innings to move ahead of Michael Holding (249). Roach made his debut in 2009 against Bangladesh.
“(Roach) is helping the fast bowlers to mature quicker. I think he has an exceptional influence on all the young fast bowlers. He has taken his role as the senior pro very seriously. It shows on the field. You can see him talking to them, who are trying to do the right things all the time. I think his influence has been massive to these young fast bowlers,” Simmons said.
The top ten West Indies wicket-takers in Tests (with averages and matches): Courtney Walsh (519; ave: 24.44, 132 matches), Sir Curtly Ambrose (405; ave: 20.99; 98 matches), Malcolm Marshall (376; ave: 20.94; 81 matches), Lance Gibbs (309; ave: 29.09; 79 matches), Joel Garner (259; ave: 20.97; 58 matches), Kemar Roach (252; ave: 26.83; 73 matches), Michael Holding (249; ave: 23.68; 60 matches), Sir Garfield Sobers (235; ave: 34.03; 93 matches), Sir Andy Roberts (202; ave: 25.61; 47 matches), Sir Wesley Hall (192; ave: 26.38; 48 matches).
Joining Simmons in praising Roach were Ambrose and Holding.
Holding made special mention of Roach’s longevity and said there is no reason why he cannot continue on and play for a few more years yet.
“I am more impressed in the fact that he has been playing for so long as fast bowlers don’t usually extend their careers as long as he has,” Holding said.
“He has been going for 13 years now and he has quite a few more years in front of him if he so wishes.”
Ambrose remarked: “Kemar Roach has been a great servant of West Indies cricket for a number of years and I remember when he came onto the scene first, bowling with extreme pace. We all can remember that tour of Australia when he had the great Ricky Ponting hopping and skipping and not too many bowlers do that to the great Ponting.
“He got an injury that curtailed his pace, but he came back even though he has lost some of his pace, but he was still very clever in seaming the ball around, so Kemar Roach is somebody that I am really happy for. I have a lot of time for him; he is a very respectful person, a hard worker and he listens to what you have to say.”
Roach was ecstatic.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s a good feeling. Obviously, I’ve worked hard over the years to get to this point,” he said.
“I still have some ways to go. I have some other goals to reach but right now I’m just living the moment, enjoying the moment. The team is doing well as well so I’m extremely proud of the day.”
One must truly admire Roach for his commitment. Statistics show that he had a solid start to his Test career, picking up 82 wickets in 21 matches across the first four years. He averaged 27.69 while claiming five five-fors. However, the performance in the following four years led to him getting dropped from the Test side. He took only 40 wickets in 16 Tests between 2013 and 2016 while averaging 35.45. Roach returned in August 2017 on the tour of England, where he finished as his team’s leading wicket-taker.
Now in 36 Tests since his comeback in 2017, Roach has taken 130 wickets including four five-fors, at an average of 23.64. All told he has ten five-fors, and one ten-wicket match haul.
As far as the series against Bangladesh was concerned, all-rounder Kyle Mayers topped both the batting and bowling averages for West Indies. He scored 153 runs (the most) including 146 – his second Test century in the final match – at an average of 76.50, and as a medium-pacer took six wickets (ave: 16.00).
Mayers was Player Of The Match in the second Test, and also Player Of The Series.
Three other batters made over 100 runs. Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite 150 (ave: 50.00), John Campbell 136 (ave: 68.00) and Jermaine Blackwood 129 (ave: 64.50).
With the pacers dominating, Alzarri Joseph took 12 wickets (ave: 16.25), Roach 10 (ave: 18.50), Jayden Seales nine (ave: 16.88) and Anderson Phillip two (ave: 26.50), having made his debut in St. Lucia.
Brathwaite said: “I think the confidence in the guys, especially from the first game, was high.
“But I was really happy with the group – (especially) the planning (and) how we went about planning and then executing. I was really happy with that, especially the batsmen.
“Kyle Mayers (got) a chance to bat and I think the partnership with he and Jermaine Blackwood was superb and that really set up the (second) game.”
Simmons, too, lauded Mayers’ showing in the series.
“He brings in the wicket-taking factor. He is not express, but he puts the ball in the right areas. If he bats normally, he scores quickly in all three formats. I have to get him to understand that he needs to bat normally. Once we get that, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Simmons said.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (rebranded Elite in 2012) Championship for four decades and provides statistics and stories for the BCA website (www.barbadoscricket.org). Email: [email protected]