TRUST the talent you have.
That was the call from former West Indies fast-bowler Tony Gray who said West Indies probably didn’t have as much faith in their back-up players as they should have had during the recent “bio-secure” tour of England where they lost the Test series 2-1 after winning the opener.
Gray, himself a former West Indies fast-bowler, noted that facing a tight schedule of three Tests in 21 days - from July 8-28 - West Indies used their main fast-bowlers, skipper Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach in all three encounters while rookie pacer Alzarri Joseph played in the first two before making way for spinner Rahkeem Cornwall.
Speaking with The Express yesterday, Gray also said that while England kept getting better as the series progressed, with Joe Root returning for the second match and James Anderson and Stuart Broad teaming up for the final game, the Windies failed to keep up and the batsmen came up short on both occasions.
Gray said the visitors started well but, by the end, they seemed to have run out of steam.
“I thought we started off well, we were fresh and it seems were very prepared for that first game, and we performed well. We batted well with Blackwood hitting 95 to really give us the wind at our back. We had contributions from the captain with the ball and Shannon Gabriel was excellent as well, getting nine wickets,” he said.
He added, however, that the Windies’ technical deficiencies were found out and exploited by the England bowlers in the second and third Tests, and that a remedial batting programme had to be undertaken if they were to improve.
Gray also felt that England grew stronger with captain Joe Root’s return for the second Test.
“He took over the captaincy and that allowed Ben Stokes to play his natural hand and he subsequently got the Man of the Match award in that game. England were able to analyse the West Indies batsmen and work with a specific game plan for each of the batsmen and execute it well enough,” he explained.
“We had some instances where we could have drawn the game. The thing about it is that we don’t sustain positive performance, because of a number of factors, one being the fact that we are not playing at a high level in the Caribbean,” Gray noted.
“Then they picked the best side for the conditions in the last Test match with the best four fast bowlers in England. In the last match, I would have given our players a two (out of 10) because they ran out of steam,” he said.
And Gray surmised there would have been a domino effect from the second Test when a less than 100 percent Shannon Gabriel started again for the Windies.
“... if Shannon wasn’t totally fit, it would be hard for him to recuperate with only four days in between. It was 15 days of Test match cricket played in 23 days. That is difficult. The difficult decision in the second game was Shannon Gabriel because he was the Man of the Match in the first Test.
“You have to take into account his recent injury age and the fact he was coming from injury into a Test match and then having to play another Test match in four days. That, for me, was the turning point because you could see that he struggled. When he is off the field it puts a strain on everybody else. Shannon should not have played that second Test but you have to save him from himself because he would always want to play and he has a high pain threshold,” Gray argued.
Suggesting former Under-19 fast-bowler Chemar Holder could have been given an opportunity at some stage, Gray also did not agree with playing in Cornwall for the final game, noting that pitches in England often do not assist spinners.
“If you carry a young fast bowler all over the place without playing him, then he goes down the ladder, so we have to learn to trust our talent,” he said.
Gray called for a policy of rotation in order to manage the older seamers.
He also suggested the time should to be spent with the batsmen doing remedial work on their techniques, particularly against good fast bowling.
“We have the use of technology to look back at the great batsmen who play well against fast bowlers and spinners and look at the technique. Technical proficiency in playing spin and pace will not change over the years so you can look back and see what worked.
“What is foolhardy and fatuous is that we have the modernisation of technology where we could look at our past great batsmen and their technique and how they move in the crease,” he added.
And Gary felt coaches needed to think about future development when it comes to young players.
“We also need to have a vision for our players, to know what to do very early to correct technical and other problems,” Gray concluded.