NZ tour a chance for “surprised” Shepherd to cement spot

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By Akeem Greene

Romario Shepherd was surprised he got the call to replace mentor Dwayne Bravo in the West Indies T20 squad for next month’s tour to New Zealand. The Caribbean side play the hosts in three T20Is, followed by two Tests.

Bravo was ruled out of the tour due to a groin injury he sustained last weekend whilst playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

However, out of Bravo’s misfortune comes a chance for the blossoming talent to seize a chance to be a regular face in the squad.

“I am happy with the call-up; a bit surprised at first but unfortunately Dwayne got injured, but I was happy when I got that call. I am not looking too far ahead, [just] looking to capitalise on this tour to cement my place for when the seasoned payers return,” he told News Room Sport on Thursday.

Bravo was the man who gave Shepherd his hat on his T20I debut against Ireland this January, and has been a reservoir of advice for the 25-year-old.

“He is someone I looked up to over the years and not just me, a lot of other young players as he opened the door for them. I looked up to him a lot over the years, looking at what he did and following him step by step; I was happy to receive my cap from him.”

Romario Shepherd (centre) celebrates a wicket with captain Kieron Pollard and Hayden Walsh Jr

Adhering to the words of wisdom from Bravo, Shepherd has reaped rewards on the field, taking six wickets at a decent economy rate of 7.31 in the seven innings for Guyana Amazon Warriors in Hero CPL 2020.

While his numbers are not off the charts, it is the growing reputation of the go-to man in the ‘death’ overs with his slingy action and yorkers that has stood out.

“I have been working with Dwayne over the last couple of seasons; in that T20 series against Ireland he showed me some stuff and during the quarantine when I was home, and I get the chance to bowl, I actually worked on that stuff.”

He added: “Dwayne told me no matter who is batting at the ‘death’, it is hard to get hit when you nail the yorker so I have been working on it very hard and it showed during the CPL.”

Even though West Indies are two-time World T20 champions, their tours to New Zealand have seen them come away empty-handed on most occasions.

In eight matches in New Zealand, they have lost six and won one, with the other being a no-result.

For the Berbician, who has played five One-Day Internationals and two T20Is, the past is to be left there and West Indies should approach with a positive mindset.

“We always played well in T20s, and we are also backing the Test guys, but the T20 guys just coming off the tour in Sir Lanka [where they won 2-0] and we need to believe in ourselves and not worry about the past.”

Shepherd, who had previously expressed a desire to play Test cricket, said he looks forward to the two Four-Day matches for West Indies A team as an audition for a future Test spot.

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