Jan 11, 2021 Sports
By Sean Devers
Kaieteur News- Former Trinidad & Tobago and West Indies pacer Anthony Gray joined former West Indies Captains Clive Lloyd and Ramnaresh Sarwan in expressing surprise at the non-selection of 22-year-old Bajan pacer Chemar Holder in the Windies Test squad for tour of Bangladesh which begins on January 20 with the first ODI.
Gray, the head of the T&T National Selection panel before being replaced last year, gave his thoughts and the selections of left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul, the unavailability of 12 of the Region’s best players due to the pandemic and feels the Windies batsmen will struggle against spin on the sub-continent pitches.
The 53-year-old who claimed 22 wickets from five Tests and 44 wickets in 25 ODIs between 1985 and 1991, was speaking on the Sean Devers Sports Watch on Kaieteur Radio last Wednesday.
“I think that when you look a Chemar Holder who performed very well in the truncated Regional season last year taking 36 wickets at just 19 runs per wicket from eight games, we saw in his first Test match in New Zealand he performed efficiently well and has a record of doing well in Bangladesh.
In the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, when he replaced Obed McCoy, he bowled very fast and has history of doing well against teams from the sub-continent.
He had a five-wicket haul not so long ago at the Queen’s Park Oval against the Indian ‘A’ team which can compete with a lot of Test teams. So I am surprised that he was not selected for the Test series and that the selectors have not gone away from being fixated on conditions. You have to look at the overall picture and you are coming up against batsmen who are more comfortable against spin,” posited the pacer whose promising Test career was affected by injury.
Permaul has 18 wickets from six Tests but his last Test match was in November 2015. During his period of non-selection he has not taken less than 40 wickets and reached 50 on three occasions. In the last five seasons, Permaul has taken 223 wickets from 45 First-Class games.
“It’s nice that Permaul has been given another opportunity since he has been highly productive in Regional cricket which is not always a great standard to measure a player to play international cricket.
Our Regional standard is very low and it sometimes difficult for the players to make a successful transition when they make the West Indies team. But it’s good to see him back after taking 50 wickets last season from just eight games and bowled 310 overs… which says a lot for him. It shows he has got endurance and experience since he is now 31 years old and hopefully he will perform well,” added Gray whose best ODI figures is 6-50 against Australia in Port-of-Spain.
Gray feels it’s going to be testing because of foreign conditions.
“In Bangladesh the pitches will be dry and abrasive most of the time, not just in the ODIs but in the Test matches also. I am looking at the skills factors, if we are efficient in skill factors, especially the batsmen then our players will be confident but Bangladesh has a very good side in home conditions.
These young players will be tested because I don’t think they have the skills to cope with the moving ball…the ball that is spinning… in those conditions where you will get prodigious swing and spin because of the abrasive nature of the pitch.
Our batsmen don’t use their feet to get the pitch of the ball to push back the spinners, while they are generally unable to sweep which are combative shots against spin. I see a testing time for our young players,” lamented Gray who played three Test against Pakistan and two against New Zealand.
Grey feels the West Indies will find the going very difficult in Bangladesh since we they toured there a few years ago with their strongest available team and we struggled.
“I don’t see us having the consistent concentration as batsmen to do well on those pitches which I expect to be abrasive on the last two days of the Test match, so I expect the batsmen to struggle,” Gray opined.
“I think it will be left on our bowlers to be aggressive on the Bangladesh pitches and get early wickets but it gives the youngsters an opportunity to show their worth and hopefully we can see some stars coming out of this tour.
The mind-set of the fast bowlers will be important, that’s why I think Chemar should have been in the Test team.
The fast bowlers have to learn to adapt and adjust on the Bangladesh pitches.
Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph bowl generally short and back of a length but in Bangladesh they will have to pitch up the ball more. When I started my career in Pakistan I got 14 wickets in three Test matches and had learnt to bowl further up to bat to get it to swing around.
But as a Trinidadian fast bowler the pitches here are slow so you are accustomed to bowling those lengths and the same can be said for the Guyanese fast bowlers.
You don’t want to put it in the minds of the young pacers that you can only perform well in certain conditions.
I want to see them attack the batsmen more. In England and New Zealand, they were bowling too wide of off stump and not attacking the bat,” Gray stressed.
Grey said predicting the outcome of the Test series depends a lot on how Bangladesh perform.
“We know that Shakib Al Hasan is back from a one-year ban and that Bangladesh has not played much cricket lately. They might be rusty and we don’t know how fit they are.
We have to wait and see how they perform. We have young players with talent but talent for me is not enough. There are other things that come along with talent; self-belief, the ability to concentrate for long periods, the ability to watch the ball onto the bat, opening face to the spinners and you must have clarity of mind,” noted Gray
“A lot of our young players don’t have clarity of mind and struggle under pressure. Hopefully they can get into the fifth day and if they can do that, who knows what can happen.
It’s a great opportunity for the young players to put their hands up and if I were in that position I would seize the opportunity and show some bravado and confidence,” continued the former T&T Coach.
“You look at Blackwood who does not have the great technique of a Gordon Greenidge or Desmond Haynes but what he does have is that inner quality of not being intimidated by anyone and we need more players like that… but they must have the skill too,” said Gray.
Giving his views on the opting out of the tour due to safety and personal reasons by the most senior players, said that it was very disappointing.
“Obviously it’s not a novelty issue again (anymore) we went to England and subsequently to New Zealand so I was very disappointed that 10 of our best players opted out of the due to safety concerns and two decided not to go for personal reasons.
So that’s 12 of our main players not being available and we want to climb the ladder in all formats. Without our best team it’s very difficult for us to do,” concluded Gray, who played for Surry in English County Cricket between 1985 and 1990 and Western Providence in South Africa between 1993 and 1994.
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