Windies squad focused on playing Black Caps – Harper


Windies team

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – Chief selector Roger Harper said West Indies are keen to put behind them  last week’s ban from training by health authorities and focus on the real mission on the Tour of New Zealand.

Health officials in the country had prevented the Windies from training  because members of the squad had “contravened” strict guidelines in their managed isolation facility under COVID-19 protocols.

But Harper, who is travelling with the team in New Zealand, said that it has not distracted the team too much.

“I have been an observer at our training and practice sessions within the bubble that I’m assigned to and I must say the practice sessions were very exciting, so we’re very keen on looking forward to the assignment ahead,” he told the media during a video conference on Thursday.

The players and support staff that endured the managed isolation for the past two weeks were given a clean bill of health, after their third and final round of COVID-19 tests all returned negative for the COVID-19 virus.

This will be a great relief to the players and support staff because it will allow them greater freedom of movement to train and prepare for their series of three Twenty20 Internationals and two Tests against the Black Caps, and the ability to freely leave the isolation facility and mix with the general population.

“What (the ban) has done, it has affected our preparations because the squad has not been able to train for the last couple of days,” Harper said.

“But like everything else, I think it is an opportunity for us to learn how when we deviate from plans, how it affects the team as a whole and I think that will help to sharpen us and keep us more focused going ahead.”

The squad was scheduled to fly to the southern island city of Queenstown on Friday for two red-ball matches against New Zealand “A” from November 20 to 22 and November 26 to 29 at the John Davies Oval.

Nine other Windies players, who took part in the Indian Premier League, including Test captain Jason Holder and Twenty20 International captain Kieron Pollard, arrived in Auckland on Wednesday from Dubai.

They are now undergoing a 14-day period of managed isolation at the same hotel where the rest of the squad was located.

The period of managed isolation will end one day before the Windies meet the Black Caps in the first Twenty20 International of a three-match series on November 27 at Eden Park in Auckland.

Meanwhile, West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick said young pacers Alzarri Joseph and the uncapped Chemar Holder stand poised to make a name for themselves on the Tour of New Zealand. Joseph and Holder are part of the team preparing for a two-Test series against the Black Caps next month.

The two young pacers are well remembered for carrying West Indies to the ICC Under-19 World Cup title four years ago in Bangladesh. Estwick said the future looks bright for Joseph, Holder and the Caribbean side’s pace bowling stocks.

Joseph, 23, has played eleven Tests for the West Indies over the past four years and taken 28 wickets at 35.82 apiece. The 22-year-old Holder was among the leading bowlers in the regional first-class tournament earlier this year. He took 36 wickets at 18.91 each for champions Barbados Pride. He earned a selection on the squad in England earlier this year but did not play in any of the three Tests.

“Over the last two years, Kemar Roach, Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel have been our leading bowlers in Tests and we expect them to lead the attack,” Estwick said during a video conference with the media on Monday from the team’s training base in Christchurch.

“But there is also Alzarri for whom I have high expectations on this Tour. He has been around for quite some time and I have been trying to get him to realise that it is about time now that he really stands up and puts in the big performances, which will be very important for us on this tour.”

 Estwick added: “You always get excited about young fast bowlers. I said before the tour of England last June that we have about 10 young, exciting pacers, but what we have to do is to get matches for them to play. They need to play to understand the angles, to be able to understand and read the pitches, and to understand the right lengths to bowl.

 “Chemar is an exciting talent. He had a wonderful first-class season and his time will come. There is no doubt about it… He is an exciting prospect. He is also very, very, very hardworking and fit young man, so once his opportunity comes, he will be ready to grab it with both hands.”

Match Schedule:

November 20-22: vs New Zealand “A” at Queenstown

November 26-29: vs New Zealand “A” at Queenstown

November 27: 1st T20I at Eden Park, Auckland

November 29: 2nd T20I at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

November 30: 3rd T20I at Bay Oval, Mount Maunganui

December 3-7: 1st Test at Seddon Park, Hamilton

December 11-15: 2nd Test at Basin Reserve, Wellington