Tony Gray

FORMER RED FORCE CHIEF SELECTOR: Tony Gray

With the first phase of the West Indies’ home season now over, former Windies fast bowler Tony Gray believes genuine progress is being made now.

But he says closer attention has to be paid to how players are managed and prepared for competition.

Sri Lanka’s tour of the Caribbean ended last Friday with the Windies having won the T20 series 2-1, the One-Day series 3-0 and drawing the Test series 0-0. That drawn series followed a 2-0 win in Bangladesh.

However, Gray felt the Windies would have had a better chance in the Tests if fast bowler Shannon Gabriel had been prepared differently.

“Shannon Gabriel should have played the Best v Best (warm-up) game along with Kemar Roach,” former Trinidad and Tobago Red Force selector Gray told the Express. “In that way they would have given them a three-day game to simulate what they would have got in the Test matches where overs are concerned.”

Noting that Gabriel had been the outstanding bowler the last time the Sri Lankans toured the Caribbean in 2018, he said: “Coming into this Test series he would have been the main factor in destroying the Sri Lankans but he was under-prepared and the Sri Lankans would have been happy with his under-preparedness.”

Gabriel finished with a solitary wicket in the two Tests and ended with a hamstring injury.

Gray also felt certain batsmen could have been used differently in the lead-up to the Test series: “Because of the pandemic, there are not a lot of games before a Test series starts. In the President’s XI game, (Jermaine) Blackwood and (Nkrumah) Bonner should have played.

He added: “In the President’s XI game there were too many bowlers to really prepare the bowlers who were going to play in the Test matches. While it’s great the selectors have embraced inclusivity, it is important to prepare for the immediate goal which is to beat Sri Lanka. It was not the right thing to prepare so many bowlers.”

Gray also felt a mistake was made in sticking with the same final XI for the second Test.

“Two players should have been changed,” he said. “(Darren) Bravo should have come in instead of Blackwood who struggled against that type of opposition since Bangladesh, given that Bravo got a century in the One-Days against similar opposition and he played in the-President’s XI game against them, so he would have had practice against them.”

Gray would have also played a second spinner.

“The selectors have generally done a good job of picking squads for the different formats but I don’t think they prepared certain players the right way,” he added.

The former selector was also disappointed with the pitches for the Sri Lanka series saying: “Sri Lanka had home advantage away from home. It is the kind of pitch (at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium) that their batsmen would have been accustomed to and their bowlers. It was a disadvantage for the hard-working West Indies bowlers. There was not the type of bounce. I think we missed an opportunity to win at least one Test match against a team that is rebuilding.”

Nevertheless, Gray was impressed by the team’s Test match batting.

“If you look at the batsmen, they are scoring runs now. They are concentrating longer... Different batsmen are scoring runs, even the lower order batsmen are scoring runs. The batsmen definitely have improved... You are seeing less rash shots and guys are getting to milestones and consistently so. It tells me that players are working very hard, the attitudes of these guys are highly professional,” he noted. (Coach) Phil Simmons must be complemented with his coaching staff along with manager Rawl Lewis.”

Gray also felt that the Windies bowlers were also working “extremely hard.”

“In Bangladesh they were absolutely brilliant and in this series on a dead track they were dedicated. They came back all the time and showed an unremitting spirit.”

Gray also gave full marks to new Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite. He said he was the right man to replace Jason Holder, “based on the power of influence he had in Bangladesh.” Gray said that, “although he did not get the volume of runs in Bangladesh, he was more positive in his strokeplay. His general mindset has changed and that’s why he is much more positive in his field-placing. He is being assertive with his field placing. I think that he did a wonderful job.”

Gray also said the Windies were moving forward in white ball cricket under Kieron Pollard.

“Pollard is an excellent captain,” he said. “He has brought his winning culture from the Kolkata Knight Riders in to the Red Force team and the West Indies T20 and One-Day teams. He is not allowing complacency... He wants to win all the games and it showed unequivocally in the Trinbago Knight Riders’ 12 wins straight (Caribbean Premier League) and the Red Force’s seven wins straight (Super50 Cup).”

And going forward for the home assignments that follow the break for the Indian Premier League, Gray says the homework must continue.

“What we have to do now is be specific against the teams we have to meet next. What these guys are supposed to be doing between now and then is online technical work because there are technical deficiencies.”

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