Scoring 100s: The Kohli advice to Blackwood

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By Akeem Greene

Since his return to the West Indies Test team as a concussion substitute for Darren Bravo in August 2019, Jermaine Blackwood has scored 465 runs at an average of 42.27.

His best has been 104 against New Zealand in Wellington last December, to go along with three half-centuries, mainly batting at number six.

Prior to the role as concussion substitute on India’s tour to the Caribbean, the Jamaican had not played Test cricket since October 2017.

His surprise call-up produced only 38 runs, but it was the chat with the prolific Virat Kohli which was the greatest reward.

Kohli, who has scored over 7,300 Test runs at an average of 53.41, with 27 hundreds and 23 fifties, advised the Jamaican on the importance of spending time at the crease if he wants to convert his starts.

“I talked to Virat Kohli a few times on social media because the last time India toured the Caribbean I was there in Jamaica subbing, so after the game I just had a small conversation with him,” Blackwood revealed at Wednesday’s Virtual presser.

“I asked him how all the time, I have a lot of half-centuries and only one century, and he just said what do you when you score the century? How many deliveries do you face? I said I faced 212, he said, well that’s it, once you can bat some balls, you are going to score runs.”

West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood celebrates reaching his century on the fourth day of the first Test cricket match between New Zealand and West Indies at Seddon Park in Hamilton on December 6, 2020. (Photo by DAVID ROWLAND/AFP)

In last season of the Regional Four-Day Championship, Blackwood racked the most runs (768) at an average of 51.20 and best of 248 to go with six half-centuries.

“I always tell myself after that conversation that once I can bat over 200 balls, I am going to score runs because once I am there and the way I play I am going to score runs regardless of who I am playing or where I am playing.”

The second Test ton was over five years from his first, made against England in Antigua, and had all the signs for a promising Test career ahead. However, inconsistently from injudicious shot selection meant he was labelled a next talent unfulfilled from the Caribbean.

A hunger erupted to make amends and a serious effort was placed on improving fitness to bring better performances.

“Being on the sidelines looking on for three years, I got some time to reflect on my game, how I was playing [and] how I was getting out. I just went back and train very hard; I started to train twice per day, hit the gym every day, put in a lot of hard work trying to stay fit as possible, and just try to come back as stronger as possible and you can see the result.”

“One of the things I changed was my shot selection [and] I am better. I am starting to understand my game and that’s a positive for me.”

His countryman Andre Russell too has offered advice on what is needed to improve on consistency.

“We did a lot of talking about me not scoring more runs or not going on to score more runs, and that’s a thing I need to improve and as you can see I am slowly improving on that.”

“When I started playing for West Indies, I was young and excited so my style of batting was just playing a lot of shots to put the bowler under pressure, but what I learned is you can’t make a hundred in an over or two, you have to spend hours at the crease.”

The 29-year-old further indicated he has reached out to India’s rising talent Shubman Gill since A-team days.

“Me and Shubman normally have some conversations over Instagram. I know him personally from when we played against him in an A-team series. We talk and he seems to be a very cool guy and one for India in the future for sure.”

With several of the West Indies’ first choice Test batsmen absent from the tour to Bangladesh, the confident Blackwood will be under added pressure to score hundreds in the two Tests.

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