Harper “very optimistic” West Indies can win in England
By Akeem Greene
Touring England and winning is an extremely difficult task for most teams, and while acknowledging it would be a tough assignment, current Chairman of Selectors, Roger Harper, feels if the current tour goes ahead, West Indies can beat England in their own backyard.
Notably, it has been 32 years since West Indies defeated England in England in a Test series. In 1988, Harper himself was a part of the crushing 4-0 success in the five-Test series.
The best touring result for West Indies since then has been a 2-2 draw in 1995 where Brian Lara and Carl Hooper where the only men to score centuries for the regional side.
Now holders of the prized Wisden Trophy after a sublime performance in early 2019, the number eight ranked West Indies could be engaged in battle with the number four ranked team this July.
The Chairman related to News Room Sport he is confident those selected from the 30-man training squad are capable of doing the job should the tour occur.
“I am very optimistic. Tours of England can be difficult for players who have not experienced English conditions, especially if the climatic conditions are cold and damp. So the time prior to (the) first Test would be very important to players acclimatising and getting technically prepared for the series. It would be tough, but I am optimistic that the team can retain the Wisden Trophy.”
From June 2018 to November 2019, West Indies played 15 Tests across seven series, winning six, drawing one, and losing eight.
During that period, only eight centuries were scored by the Caribbean batsmen. Roston Chase, Kraigg Brathwaite and Shane Dowrich had two each, while Jason Holder and Shamarh Brooks had one apiece; however, there were 21 half-centuries.
When India toured in August 2019, Brooks’ score of 50, in what was just his second Test, was the best by a West Indian in the two-match series.
From the playing eleven against Afghanistan – the last Test to date by West Indies- no batsman averaged 40 or more in Tests. Brooks, with just three Test matches, has a best of 34.80 followed by opener Brathwaite (33.29) and all-rounder Holder (32.72).
The issue of scoring centuries occurs at the domestic level as well. In fact, the leading runscorer this season, Test player Jermaine Blackwood, made 768 runs with one score of 100 or more; it was top-score of 248 to go with six half-centuries.
No batsman made more than two centuries.
According to Harper, the former West Indies Head Coach, the art of scoring centuries and doing so consistently starts at the youth level.
“Scoring centuries is a habit that has to be developed, from the lower levels through to the top. Players need to be hungry for big scores and not be satisfied with just half-centuries. We need to develop a culture where players understand that they can no longer just aim to make a West Indies team and survive.”
He added, “They have to strive to be World Class players, players who perform at a consistently high level and must show that they are capable of doing that at the regional level.”