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I have to ‘reprogram my thinking’ as a batsman – Carlos Brathwaite



West Indies have won only two of their last 11 completed ODIs. It’s an alarming stat on paper, but the team, according to Carlos Brathwaite, isn’t doing as badly as those results might suggest.

“I don’t think we are that far away,” Brathwaite said after West Indies’ training session on Tuesday. “We just continue to miss key points in the game. If we look back at the World Cup it is the same thing. If we look at the game the other day we weren’t cruising, but we were in a good position, and then we lost three or four quick wickets.

“We are just missing a few key moments that could have turned one or two loses into wins and make us look a little better, give us a little momentum, and start to try to win series more consistently.”

Chasing 270 in 46 overs in Sunday’s second ODI, West Indies lost a potentially winnable game when they slipped from 179 for 4 to 182 for 8. Brathwaite felt it wasn’t a lack of belief or skills that was causing West Indies to let such key moments slip, but a failure to execute those skills.

“I don’t think it is belief per se,” he said. “I think if you ask the guys in the dressing room if they believe they can win – I think they do believe they can win. The execution of that belief is lacking in key moments like I said. So, I don’t think it’s a lack of belief or a lack of passion and in most cases it’s not even a lack of skill, but just executing what we want to execute the key moments of the game, which was the case in majority of the World Cup and this series so far.”

As to what the players need to do in order to become more consistent, and not repeat mistakes, Brathwaite said they would not find time in the middle of international series to work on their games, and would need to put in that work at the levels below, with their respective domestic teams.

“It’s practice. It’s conversation,” Brathwaite said. “If I am being brutally honest, there is not much we can change on the international tour. That is the challenge for the [domestic] franchise to be able to do enough work, get enough information from the guys at the top. and start implementing stuff. On the tour we try to get the mind right, we try to, as a group, have conversations and honest conversations – not just patting them on the back but having honest conversations, sometimes even being harsh and try to become better players eventually.”

Speaking about his own game, he said he’s been focusing on his fitness, and his mindset as a batsman.

“We are having a lot of honest conversations with the coaches and the staff and I think one thing that’s kept me back is my fitness. I am working very, very hard in the past 12 to 14 months on my fitness – I believe I can get a bit stronger as well.

“I think batting-wise I have to reprogram my thinking in thinking about hitting and swiping and batting properly. I think there has been a conscious effort for me to try to help the team as a batsman and a bowler and try to give myself the best chance for the team and try to help West Indies win cricket games.”

Going back to his 82-ball 101 against New Zealand at the World Cup, Brathwaite said he had walked in with time to build his innings – a rarity for a lower-order batsman like him – and that his challenge would be to perform consistently even without that luxury.

“I had a lot of time to bat. I had a clear thought process,” he said. “I was working very hard off the pitch, as I am now, with the bat, in trying to do the right things and the simple things as long as possible. I had enough time so I could play myself in getting so at the back end when I normally come in to bat to start my innings I already had [faced] 40-50 balls.

“The challenge for me is that that situation won’t always present itself. Obviously, being at home, we have changed the combination a bit. There I played at seven [six], here at eight, nine or maybe seven – the thing I take away from that innings is the way I structured and built the innings which allowed me to kick off at the back end.”

With a full training session under their belt, Brathwaite said West Indies were in good spirits for the third ODI, and were confident of squaring the series.

“We drew the last series against England at home as well,” he said. “And then going into the last game it’s for us to get the batting in order – if we get good starts going into the back end that’ll give us a good chance.

“I think the batting has much improved especially since the T20s and from the overall batting performance in the World Cup as well. But, we didn’t close it off. We batted well in the second game as well, it was about closing it off – hopefully that happens in the next game as well and for the lower half to close the game.”

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Haider Ali, Imran Khan and Kashif Bhatti return two negative tests for Covid-19 | Cricket



Haider Ali is one of three players who returned negative Covid-19 tests on July 1 and 4 © ICC via Getty

Haider Ali, Imran Khan and Kashif Bhatti will fly to the UK to join their Pakistan team-mates after returning a second negative Covid-19 test. They tested negative on July 1 and 4, as did masseurs Malang Ali and Mohammad Imran. The three players and Malang will fly from Lahore on July 8 to join the Pakistan squad, which is currently training in Worcester ahead of the three-match Test series against England, which begins in Manchester on August 5.

Haris Rauf, meanwhile, tested positive once again, though he remains asymptomatic. Rauf is now the only player still returning positive tests among the ten who originally tested positive last month. Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz have already flown to England after returning two negative tests.

The tour comprises three Test matches and three T20Is in August and September. All six games will be played behind closed doors.

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Into the unknown: Kemar Roach says England changes present pros and cons for West Indies



Some key unknowns in the England side will pose fresh challenges for West Indies when their long-awaited Test series begins on Wednesday, Kemar Roach says.

Roach, who will again be crucial to West Indies’ vaunted pace attack when the sides open their three-match contest at the Ageas Bowl, believes the absence of captain Joe Root from England’s batting line-up leaves “some big shoes to fill” and that could work for – and against – the tourists.

ALSO READ: ‘I am bowling much better now than when I was bowling 145-150kph’

“A Test match without Root, the fantastic stats he has, is going to be a bit of an advantage for us,” Roach said via Zoom press conference on Sunday. “He’s one that keeps the England batting together, he’s done fantastically for them for the last couple of years.

“Without him it is a bit of an advantage for us, but also a little bit of a disadvantage because there’s some new guys coming in that we obviously have to work out and see what their weaknesses are and try to exploit them. So it goes 50-50, but once we get stuck in and hit our straps and put the balls in the right area I think we stand a very good chance of going out there and performing well.”

While Roach’s first-innings 5 for 17 decimated England and set up West Indies’ 381-run victory in the first Test in Barbados 18 months ago, he could potentially come up against just two of the same batsmen in England’s top six this time around in Rory Burns and Ben Stokes, who will stand in as captain while Root attends the birth of his second child.

Newcomers Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Ollie Pope are set to show their faces in Southampton along with Joe Denly, who played the second and third Tests of England’s Caribbean tour last year. Even among England’s reserves are two new names after Dan Lawrence and James Bracey impressed with the bat during last week’s intra-squad warm-up match.

But Roach acknowledged that England hosting presented different conditions, which would only be more unfamiliar with Covid-19 prevention measures including no crowds and the ban on using saliva to shine the ball. And he said Stokes as skipper added another layer of intrigue to the first Test.

“I’m a huge fan of Ben Stokes,” Roach said. “He’s a fantastic cricketer. He’s very energetic, brings a lot of energy to the field and a lot of confidence when he bats or when he bowls, so I’m expecting a very free and relaxed England team to come out there and express themselves because that’s the way he plays.

“It’s interesting to see him captain, obviously it’s the first time we’re going to see it, but I’m sure that with him at the head, they’re in good hands as well, so I wish him all the best.”

Roach was keen to see his skipper, Jason Holder, “battle” with Stokes as captains and allrounders – the pair are No. 1 and No. 2 respectively on the ICC’s Test allrounder rankings.

“It’s always good to have challenges, it’s always good to have battles, it brings out the best in you,” Roach added. “I hope he and Ben Stokes go at it in a couple of Test matches here. They’re both fantastic cricketers and I’m sure that once they’re battling it will be great cricket to watch.”

The touring camp have expressed concerns over their own batting line-up in recent days. A likely top five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope and Roston Chase managed just 29 runs between them in West Indies’ second intra-squad warm-up match, a rain-affected four-day game at Emirates Old Trafford last week.

While Brathwaite, Hope and Brooks did manage fifties in the first tour game, they were unable to build on that in the second as West Indies’ first-choice pace attack of Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Holder and Alzarri Joseph reduced their side to 49 for 5 in their only innings.

Holder managed just seven runs, facing fewer than 30 deliveries in three warm-up innings, and he bowled only five overs across the intra-squad matches while nursing an ankle problem.

ALSO READ: WI batsmen ‘need to stand up and make a difference’ – Brooks

But Roach had every confidence that the bating unit – and Holder – would be set to go come Wednesday morning.

“They’re trying their best to get going in the series,” Roach said of the West Indies batsmen. “I think they’ve made some strides. They’ve had some discussions, I’ve been told, and I’m confident in the guys. Their work ethic has been spot on and they’ve done everything to put themseves in a good head space and perform in this series.

“I’m confident in them. I’m sure they can go out there and get the job done so I’ll just sit back and watch them bat. Hopefully someone can get a couple hundreds in this series and we can take it to the English.

“Jason is very important to us going out there. He had a niggle early in the camp, he’s been treating that and I think he’s ready and rearing to go now. I’m sure that he can come out here and get himself ready and mentally prepare to start on Wednesday so I’m not really too concerned about it.”

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Quinton de Kock will wait for ‘serious cricket’ before hitting the nets



Quinton de Kock, South Africa’s white-ball captain, has not hit a single ball in more than three months and only plans to return to the nets when “serious cricket,” is ready to resume, which he can’t see that happening “for a while.”

The game has not been on de Kock’s agenda since mid-March when he returned home from India with the ODI squad. Their trip was due to include three matches but after one game (which was rained out), the series was postponed as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold.

On March 16, CSA suspended all activities and two days later, when de Kock and the traveling party returned home, they were required to self-isolate for 14 days as South Africa went into lockdown. Although restrictions have eased since it came into effect on March 27, the stay-at-home order is into its 101st day and limitations on domestic travel still apply. Cricketers were given the green light to return to training on Monday last week but de Kock has yet to get going.

“I haven’t done anything,” he said after being named cricketer of the year at the CSA awards which were held virtually on Saturday. “Obviously I’ve kept up with fitness. I’ve done my training in the gym but I haven’t hit a ball yet. There’s still so much time until the next serious cricket game is going to happen. So to go back to serious training, I don’t know when it needs to happen. I mean, you can go back to hitting balls, for now. But we could actually be hitting balls for no reason. That’s where I feel I’m at.”

Though de Kock has taken what he described as a much-needed break, he will be required to turn out in less than two weeks’ time when a CSA exhibition game is scheduled. The event marks the launch of a new format called 3TC in which three teams will play in the same match and was originally scheduled to take place on June 27 but failure to obtain government permission led to its being pushed back to July 18.

De Kock is due to captain one of the teams with proceeds due to go into CSA’s hardship fund, which aims to assist those who livelihoods have been affected by lockdown. Only 24 players are involved in that event (eight per team) and CSA have also named a 45-man high performance squad, who were asked to return to training at their franchise grounds last Monday, but de Kock confirmed he has not done so yet.

“Because of the regulations, it’s hard to have such a big squad in a certain environment,” he said. “I’m based in a very remote place. There’s not much cricket around where I live. I’ve made sure my fitness is up to date. Practice almost becomes muscle memory. For me, at this point in my career, a break is more important than training.”

De Kock lives in Knysna, a town on South Africa’s Garden Route in the Western Cape. His franchise team, the Titans, is based in Centurion, which is almost 1200 km away and the nearest training facility to him would be St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, which is 261 km away. But to get there, he would need to cross a into a new province, which is not easy right now.

So, de Kock decided to take some time off and address the wounds from South Africa’s toughest summer since readmission. “I’m sure other guys have trained, but I kind of needed a little bit of lockdown. I needed a break to spend time with myself, my family, friends. You know, do my own thing,” he said. “But as soon as we get the full go-ahead, when serious cricket is going to happen, then I’ll get back into it. I’m not too sure when it’s going to happen, but as soon as we get the go ahead then I’ll get back into it.”

Uncertainty over South Africa’s future tours program abounds as they await the ICC’s decision over the T20 World Cup and the rescheduling of their tour of the Caribbean. The two-Test, five-T20I series was due to start this month. But with West Indies in England until the end of July, CSA are in talks about alternative dates with nothing confirmed just yet, except for the fact that when the Tests do happen, de Kock will not be captaining the side.

“Me and Bouch had a very informal chat and I told him, look, I don’t know how I feel about being Test captain also. The reality is that’s just too much for me to handle. I know that and I realise that. I don’t need all that stress on myself,” de Kock said. “I could see from a mile away that I didn’t need that on top of my shoulders. I’m wanting to come up the order in Test cricket and so I don’t need all that extra pressure.”

South Africa have long used de Kock at No.6 or lower despite several calls from former players, including Ashwell Prince, for him to bat higher and it seems that may be on the cards. But for that to happen, South Africa needs to get over the peak of the pandemic, which experts suggest is still several weeks away. “It’s going to be tough to play professional games,” de Kock said. “We’re going to have so many regulations. Realistically, I don’t foresee cricket being played for a while.”

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