Gray: Address our fast bowlers’ problems

PORT OF SPAIN – Former Trinidad and Tobago, and West Indies pacer Tony Gray believes there are serious issues that need to be addressed among the regional fast bowlers who have failed to carry on the illustrious history of Windies quicks since the glory days of Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts to name a few.

The maroon-clad team looked anemic at the ICC World Cup, limping into the quarter-finals with bullish wins over the inconsistent Pakistan, Zimbabwe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before running out of life versus New Zealand in the knockout round. On the bouncy pitches in Australia and New Zealand, pace has been the main threat at the World Cup but minus Jerome Taylor, the Windies fast bowlers have shown themselves incapable of posing a threat to quality batsmen.

Andre Russell, the second leading wicket-taker behind Taylor, finished the tournament with an unimpressive 11 wickets from seven matches with an economy rate of 6.35. Next best was captain Jason Holder who had just nine wickets with four of them coming against the UAE — hardly effective with the red cherry in hand. Bajan Kemar Roach, once the best bowler in the region, had an absolute nightmare with the ball, taking just one scalp from three matches and was the region’s most expensive fast bowler at 6.81.

But Gray, who represented the region from 1985-1991 and also played county cricket in England for Surrey, believes the accuracy problems of the regional bowlers can be fixed.
“It’s a regional situation and each fast bowler and medium-fast bowler has his own specific issues that need to be worked on,” said Gray.

“Andre Russell consistently doesn’t have his stride patterns going … sometimes he will balanced at the time of delivery and sometimes he will not be. He doesn’t have the consistent run-up speed like (Curtly) Ambrose or Michael Holding or Courtney Walsh. What he needs is a consistent run-up speed. “The captain Holder, he collapses the front leg and back leg so he doesn’t maximise his height. He doesn’t brace that front leg so he doesn’t get the speed. “You look at Roach, he depends heavily on his bowling action which is a fantastic bowling action but he doesn’t have a run-up. He ambles up rather than runs through the crease. A lot of times he gets injuries because he doesn’t alleviate the pressure on his body at the point of delivery because he doesn’t have a run-up. There are specific issues with our fast bowlers that need to be rectified,” he declared.

Gray, who took a sensational six for 50 against Australia at the Queen’s Park Oval in a One Day International on their 1991 tour, also delved into the problems of another Trinidadian Shannon Gabriel. The burly pacer has shown immense promise since making his First Class debut in 2010. His early form had caught the eyes of regional selectors who rewarded him with a call-up to the West Indies team but with just 25 wickets from 11 Tests, he has not exactly blown them away. His returns this Regional Four Day season (13 wickets from six matches) have also been disappointing with Marlon Richards (27 wickets from 10 matches) eclipsing him as the premier pacer in the team. “One of the problems I have is we don’t work our fast bowlers in the right way.

Shannon Gabriel obviously has to learn certain things but he is willing and a hard worker. We have to be specific with the cause with each one of our fast bowlers. I have had Marlon Richards for five years at UTT; Shannon Gabriel was in our fielding workshop at UTT that was about five years ago but Shannon Gabriel needs specific help and drills. “It’s not a question of me being disappointed with Shannon Gabriel but a question of him getting specific people to work with him year-round. It’s a technical issue that needs to be handled in the right way. “He needs to get his body aligned — that’s all he needs to do. Get his body straighter with the head straight down the wicket and he’s going to bowl better. He’s going to hit the seam a bit more,” he ended. (Newsday T & T).

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