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.

 

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.   

Captain Jason Mohammed believes the West Indies substitutes sent to tour Bangladesh were simply not up to the task as the visitors suffered a 120-run loss at Chattogram today. It was their third straight loss in the three-match series.

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah

 

Kobe Bryant’s legacy is alive and well.

On Tuesday, it will be one year since the news broke that Laker legend Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, six other passengers and the pilot were passengers in a helicopter that crashed in the hills of Calabasas, California, killing everyone on board.  For so many, Bryant was an influential presence ripped away from his family and the world just as he was making a mark post-basketball career.

Bryant was an icon who won five NBA championships and two NBA Finals MVPs during his a 20-year career.  I was a child when I first saw Kobe play. I was utterly impressed. The other children I was around would launch paper balls at bins yelling “Kobe!”.  Everyone wanted to be him.

As a sports journalist his I was fascinated by his work ethic. The way he knew what he wanted and went about ensuring that he got it.  Even now, I find myself turning to old Kobe interviews and listening to him for self-motivation. I hope his family and loved ones continue to find the inner strength to deal with his tragic passing.

 

West Indies can take a page out of India’s book.

It is true that the West Indies’ poor form did not start with this Bangladesh tour. However, they can take a page out of India’s book following a second disastrous batting display losing to Bangladesh by seven wickets in the second ODI at the Mirpur Stadium in Dhaka on Friday.

A few days before this latest Windies defeat, India ended Australia’s record of being unbeaten at the Gabba since 1988 with a team that lacked key senior players.

Like India, coming into the Bangladesh series the Windies were not favourites. What worked for India was its ability to capitalize on their strengths. Much of their success can be attributed to the system that in place to allow new cricketers to emerge and thrive.

 Every successful team needs good structure and foundation. India’s “A” team programme has reaped its intended benefits. Take the case of Thangarasu Natarajan, who is the first Indian to make this international debut in all three formats on the same tour. He ended the Australia series as the highest wicket-taker.

There was also the case of 21-year-old Shubman Gill, who had been on the fringes of the Test side patiently awaiting his call and took his chance when it came

 He would go on to finish his maiden Test series with an average of 51.81. Rishabh Pant was another player that came through the Indian development system and is now reaping the rewards. The 23-year-old was left out of the first Test but in the series-decider was unbeaten on 89 and hit the winning runs that also won the series.

 

No Kohli, no problem.

Leadership is another area of India’s game where the Windies can look to India for inspiration. Like the Windies when Kieron Pollard opted not to tour due to Covid 19, India’s captain Virat Kohli returned home to witness the birth of his first daughter.

However, Ajinkya Rahane stepped up to the task at hand. Again, this reiterated the work being done behind the scenes to allow for ease of transition. I was impressed by how Rahane handled the resources at hand and worked with the team to unlock their full potential.

 

REDS-

 It is not too late for a Premier League turnaround. Liverpool has now gone four matches in a row in the Premier League without a goal. They are now six points away from league leaders Manchester United.  Despite struggling in the Premier League this season it is not too late for a turnaround.

Liverpool is a club that knows how to win and do so in style. Despite this, they have been lacking in confidence this season and it is evident in the errors that they are making on the field. There is a major lack of efficiency and energy. Once the club can find the rhythm that everyone admired last season they can get back to their winning ways.

It is evident that Jurgen Klopp is frustrated and not handling the pressure. Klopp’s frustration has been filtering to the players and emboldening the opposition. It is wise that the manager sticks to his principles and steers his players in the right direction. At this point, there is absolutely no need to make rash decisions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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.

 

Bangladesh took an unassailable 2-0 lead following their seven-wicket win over West Indies in Dhaka this morning.

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.

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