Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

Dino Zoff is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in Italy’s history and that says much given the country is the joint second-most successful country in the world with four World Cup titles.

In 1936 Jesse Owens won four gold medals at a single Olympics. That has been equalled on the track but has never been surpassed. The moment was something track & Field would never forget.

The Olympics were to be held in Berlin, Germany in 1936 and while the World was not to know this just yet, but a second World War would give the event added significance.

Owen’s achievement, on the back of what was to come in the world of men and war, was important. The achievement was special, the where, when and why of it cannot be overstated, however, I would like to focus on one of those gold medals, more specifically, the long jump.

Owens would win the 100, 200, 4x100-metre relay, and the long jump. The last of these has a fantastic story and makes for an absolutely brilliant moment in time.

The American was an unknown quantity to the World, though he did achieve World record-runs in 1935 during his final year on the collegiate circuit.

At the Olympics a year later, the sprinter made his first gold medal look easy.

He would run away with the 100-metre dash, equaling the world record and winning by a tenth of a second.

Now that he was no longer an unknown quantity at the ’36 Olympics, Owens was in for a challenge.

The story goes, the officials would not allow Owens to win a second gold medal, especially since Adolf Hitler, the charismatic German leader, was intent on showing the world that his country was, again, a force to reckon with and Luz Long, a countryman, was a serious challenger in the event.

The story goes on to suggest that Owens was deliberately called for foul jumps on his first two attempts in the final, but that Long suggest the American jump from further back, making it impossible for there to be a discrepancy.

Even with the disadvantage and only one clean jump, Owens still managed 8.06 metres, just three and a quarter inches outside of his World Record.

Long was beaten, but the moment to remember still hadn’t come yet.

That moment would come immediately after the medal ceremony for the long jump where Long and Owens would celebrate their achievements by walking arm in arm around the stadium.

The symbol was powerful and that, even more than a black man dispelling the myth that there was a superior Aryan race in existence, every man should be respected.

Even in the midst of differing opinions on politics and what have you, people could find common ground. That common ground, on this particular occasion, was sport.

For that reason, while Owens’ achievement during those Olympics was remarkable, there was another hero who should be celebrated. Long’s gestures, during the event and at the medal ceremony, should be remembered for the great sporting moment it was.

Hitler would go on to lose World War II but the first battle he lost came at those ’36 Olympics right in his backyard.

The Caribbean has created smatterings of truly talented footballers, and if, like the West Indies cricket team, there could be a combined unit, the sky would be the limit for where this side could go. A place at the World Cup once every four years, for instance, would be almost a certainty.

But what would that side look like? Granted, these players haven’t all played in the same era and so maybe a West Indies football team is a little bit of a stretch. But it is still very interesting to see what the best XI playing team of Caribbean footballers would look like. SportsMax’s editorial team argued about this extensively and we decided to pick a 3-4-3 formation, featuring the best players the Caribbean has ever seen. Tying this list down to XI, especially bearing in mind that each position is tied to just one person, makes the undertaking gargantuan. But here goes the effort, as usual, tell us who we missed.

 

BestXI

Forwards

Walter Boyd (Jamaica)

Jamaica’s Walter Boyd is arguably the best footballer the country has ever produced, though his statistics do not back up the claim. He scored 19 goals for the Reggae Boyz in 66 appearances and also had stints with the Major League Soccer’s Colorado Foxes and Welsh club, Swansea City. For Swansea, Boyd was a popular player but was plagued by injury, forcing his release after a couple years on the sidelines. Boyd was a substitute in Jamaica’s only appearance at the World Cup in 1998, showing signs of real brilliance with the ball at his feet. During the qualifiers over the preceding years, Boyd was instrumental in getting the Caribbean side to CONCACAF’s final round of qualifying but was then passed over for the well-travelled Deon Burton. Despite his seemingly underwhelming statistics, no Caribbean defender wanted to face Boyd, who had a knack for embarrassing them with sublime ball skills. His ability to shoot with both feet and pick out great passes also made him a nightmare for backlines. In a game against Argentina in 1998 at the World Cup, Boyd, having just come off the bench, collected a throw and proceeded to nutmeg, famous defender Roberto Ayala. And again, against Mexico during the qualifiers, Boyd dribbled past a couple of defenders before sending goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa the wrong way. The goals have become stuff of legends.

 

Stern John (Trinidad and Tobago)

Trinidad and Tobago’s Stern John is the country’s all-time leading goalscorer, notching an impressive 70 goals from 115 caps. Of international goalscorers, John sits a more than respectable seventh and leads CONCACAF. John was powerfully built and even when not scoring, and that was not often, he was a handful. He had an incredible instinct for goal and was very direct, exchanging the flair that Caribbean forwards were more known for, in exchange for efficiency. He was fast and notoriously hard to track off the ball. He headed well, had a powerful shot and was arguably the most complete forward the country had produced.

He was well travelled, playing for 17 clubs all told, nine in the England.

 

Dwight Yorke (Trinidad and Tobago)

Dwight Yorke is the most successful player to come from the Caribbean, having spent 10 years with Aston Villa, scoring 97 goals, before moving on to form a famous partnership with Andy Cole at Manchester United. Silverware came for Yorke, who lead the English Premier League in goals in 1998, helping them to a famous treble. Yorke’s international career was not as glittering as his club career though, the forward scoring 19 goals in 74 appearances. Yorke’s genius was in his ability to read the game, understanding where to be, when and being completely aware of the position of whichever strike partner he played with. His awareness meant some of his goals and some of those he assisted with, were beautiful to watch. Later in his career he would move to midfield with his ability to pass the ball coming in very handy.

 

Midfielders

 

Russell Latapy (Trinidad and Tobago)

There aren’t very many who will disagree that the best Caribbean player to ever play the game is Russel Latapy. The little magician was a crowd favourite in Trinidad and Tobago but the same was also true for their rivals in Jamaica, where Latapy had a stint with top-division team Port Morant United. As an international, Latapy was also brilliant for Trinidad and Tobago, playing no small part in a spell of dominance for the Caribbean side that included regional titles and finally a World Cup berth in 2006. Latapy came off the bench in that World Cup and at 40, looked quite at home on the park, showing experience and awareness that told of the class he once wielded on the field. Latapy enjoyed stints with Academiaca, Porto, and Boavista in Portugal before moving to Scotland where he plied his trade with Hibernian, Rangers and Dundee United. He would also play for Flakirk, Caledonia AIA and Edinburgh City. All told, Latapy played in 494 professional games around the world and scored 92 goals along the way.

 

Theodore Whitmore

Theodore Whitmore is a legend of Jamaican football and is now the coach of the Reggae Boyz. He was one of the first players to be called so, a Reggae Boy, and shared in the country’s joy of a solitary World Cup victory, a 2-1 win over Japan in which he scored two goals. The silky-smooth midfielder looked unlikely with his slim frame and slow way of moving on the ball, but he was a genius at keeping the ball, expressing incredible composure and a trademark drag during his dribbles that kept the opposition off balance. In a Gold Cup game against Brazil that ended in a draw, defender Junior Baiano tried to stop Whitmore three minutes from time as the midfielder profited from a counter and had a full head of steam. Baiano thought he had him covered until Whitmore’s little drag left him flat footed. A forearm across the face and a red card were Baiano’s only responses to stop Whitmore from going through on goal. But rarely was Whitmore every hit, incidentally, the wirey midfielder finding all kinds of ways of getting out of challenges unscathed.

 

Rodney Jack (St Vincent and the Grenadines)  

Rodney Jack stood out for St Vincent and the Grenadines whenever he was on the park. He was one of those players that could show his class even while everything around him was falling apart. Standing at five feet seven inches, Jack played as a striker for club but as a midfielder for country. His ability to score goals from outside the box was a real asset, and his intent to attack first, even in the face of more organized opposition was refreshing. Jack played for Torquay United, Crew Alexandra, Rushden & Diamonds, Olham Athletic, Waterford United, Southport and Nantwich. He was the first player from St Vincent to pick up a professional contract, opening the doors for others from the tiny Island nation pairing.

 

Fitzroy Simpson (Jamaica)

Fitzroy Simpson is one of the first set of English-born Jamaicans to make the decision to play for the Reggae Boyz. A diminutive player, Simpson didn’t lose out too many times in a 50-50 tackle, but more importantly, he was deep-lying midfielder who could make mid to long-range passes with incredible accuracy. That ability allowed the Reggae Boyz to be able to turn defence into attack with some amount of efficiency and regularly he would catch defenders napping with little chips and dinks, the equivalent of scything open attacks with throughballs. Simpson rarely lost the ball and all without making too much fuss. He controlled the pace of the game and seemed forever involved all over the field. Simpson had stints with Swindon Town, Manchester City, Bristol City, Portsmouth, before short spells with Heart of Midlothian, Walsall, Telford United, Linfield, Havant & Waterlooville and Eastleigh. He would earn 43 caps for the Reggae Boyz.

 

Defenders

Ricardo Gardner

At 18 years old Ricardo Gardner played a World Cup game against Croatia, playing a perfect cross to Robbie Earle to register Jamaica’s first goal of the tournament. The rest, they say, is history. Gardner’s performances at the World Cup would not go unnoticed and the 18-year-old was picked up by Bolton Wanderers, who, at the time, were playing in England’s second division. They would eventually gain promotion and Gardner would begin a years-long relationship with the club in the competition’s top flight. Gardner was plagued with knee injuries for a number of seasons but was a sure pick whenever fit. The same was true for the Reggae Boyz, for whom he played 111 games and even managed nine goals from left-back. Gardner was an integral part of a system that used wing-backs as an outlet pass to create space and keep possession, a skill Gardner was very attune to. He was also so quick that his defensive work was often under-appreciated because he would intercept passes and snuff out danger.

 

Ian Goodison (Jamaica)

A hard-hitting, no-nonsense defender, Ian Goodison was the rock that the Reggae Boyz vaunted defence was built on. Goodison would earn a professional contract with Hull City before going back to Jamaica where he played for Seba united until Tranmere Rovers came calling. Goodison would become a cult hero for Tranmere, a veteran of 366 games. His sure-footedness and never-say-die attitude gave him the same standing with Jamaican fans. He would play 128 games with the Reggae Boyz over the course of three World Cup-qualifying campaigns, the most famous of which was his first, which ushered in a finals experience.

 

Emmerson Boyce (Barbados)

Barbados does not have a significant footballing history but England-born Emmerson Boyce decided to play for them and added some real grit and determination to a team that otherwise, might be pushovers for some of the bigger teams in the Caribbean. Boyce’s organization and strength at the back meant they were pushovers no more. Barbados would not have had as many internationals as would some of the other Caribbean teams in the region, meaning Boyce would only make 12 appearances in eight years from 2008-2016. The defender was a veteran of 263 games for Wigan Athletic and before that played 69 times for Crystal Palace. From 1998 to 2004, Boyce was a mainstay at Luton Town, playing 186 times.   

 

Shaka Hislop (Trinidad and Tobago)

Shaka Hislop was good enough to make it as an England under-21 player in 1998, but a year later, he decided to turn out for Trinidad and Tobago. Hislop was known for his positioning. He would get into great positions, making difficult saves look, almost routine. Hislop spent 1992-1995, playing 104 games for Reading before moving to Newcastle United where he spent three seasons, playing 53 times. After that Hislop would play for West Ham on two occasions and at Portsmouth. Hislop was voted Reading’s greatest-ever keeper ahead of names like Germany’s Marcus Hahnemann and Steve Death who played his entire career with Reading.

Now that we have picked our terrible XI, we have some honourable mentions who we've chosen to make part of an 18-man squad. We've used one goalkeeper, two forwards, two mdifielders and two defenders for the bench, just in case we need to make changes during our game.

Bench

Goalkeeper - Donavan Ricketts

Forwards – Deon Burton, Lindy Delapenha

Midfielders – Peter Cargill, Robbie Earle

Defenders – Wes Morgan, Jocelyn Angloma

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, has ignored the concerns of ousted Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) President William Wallace, and completed negotiations with the organization’s Normalisation Committee for the use of the Home of Football to house those suffering the effects of COVID-19.

Rowley made the announcement while speaking at a post-cabinet media briefing on Thursday, saying the building could accommodate up to 72 people.

"It has been offered to the Government and the Government has accepted the offer. It has been evaluated and found to be excellent and my advise is that it can accommodate up to 72 persons of a category that will be designated by the Chief Medical Officer and the Minister. This is as good as any accommodation you can get anywhere in Trinidad and Tobago."

The Prime Minister added that the facility should be available within a week.

He also indicated that the Home of Football will be outfitted by the private sector.

"Within a week or so, that facility could be available. There are one or two things to be done. I may also add that the private sector has been approached to put in some put in some outfitting items and the private sector has come forward and has committed to ensure whatever is required to make it comfortable and fully utilised. It is offered to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago at no cost."

The multi-million dollar facility was opened in November 2019, but was temporarily closed one week after by Wallace.

Wallace claimed that the facility did not have property insurance or fire approvals.

Wallace did not have a problem with the use of TTFA facilities to help in the fight against COVID-19 but believes the government’s negotiations with the Normalisation Committee means offers legitimacy to it when he is the rightful head of the TTFA.

“This Committee has no legal or other standing in Trinidad and Tobago. As you are aware, the TTFA was formed by an act of Parliament(Act 17 of 1982) and is to be governed by its Constitution. The Constitution of the TTFA places the responsibility for negotiating and entering into any contracts or agreements on the President of the TTFA, a post I have held since the 24th November 2019,” Wallace had written in a letter to the Prime Minister.

The FIFA-sanctioned Normalisation Committee is being run by Robert Hadad.

Former West Indies captain, Daren Sammy, is not being left out of the fight to stave off the spread and aid in the care of persons who have contracted COVID-19.

Sammy chose to help in a fairly unique way, recognizing that medical workers, on the job for long hours do not have the time to stock up on essentials the way other members of the society in St Lucia do.

With that in mind, the big-hitting all-rounder visited the Saint Jude Hospital in Vieux Fort, where he donated thousands of dollars worth of supplies to 23 medical workers.

“We can all do our part whether it is reaching out to an elderly person in your community or just saying thank you to the many healthcare professionals who are on the front-line,” said Sammy in a press release from his Daren Sammy Foundation.

Sammy also made a call for others to find ways of aiding in the fight against COVID-19, saying it was important to appreciate the hard work of the healthcare professionals in what are ‘extraordinary times’.

Cassava Piece, Grant’s Pen, Commons, and Stony Hill are some of the first communities in Jamaica to begin benefitting from the Leon Bailey Foundation.

Leon Bailey and his manager Craig Butler, through his Phoenix Academy, had announced recently, a partnership to help alleviate the inevitable hardships that would come to especially poorer communities amid economic downturn, a symptom of the spread of COVID-19.

According to reports, more than 100 people from the communities benefited from the foundation’s gift of groceries.  

“We see the needs of our people and will do our best to help where it counts most,” said Bailey, a Jamaican winger, who plies his trade for Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga.

Before the spread of COVID-19 shut down football the world over, Bailey had been rumoured to have, not for the first time in his fledgeling career, been the target of English Premier League clubs. Chelsea FC have been banded about as frontrunners for the star’s signature after it was said the club had been preparing an £85 million bid.

However, there is also interest inside of Germany with Bayern Munich said to be on the lookout.

While there is no football and obviously no transfer business, Bailey has found a way to give back.

According to a report in the Jamaica Observer, recipients of groceries would be receiving every two weeks.

The package of groceries includes flour, rice, corned beef, salt fish, baked beans, sausages, condensed milk, cooking oil, and toiletries.

“We want to help as best as we can and are giving out packages each day, so they can at least cook food and be okay for the day, and tomorrow we come again,” said Butler, who is in Jamaica while Bailey remains in Germany.

In a video message, Bailey implored other sports stars and those who have the means to, to join in his campaign to help fight the spread of the Coronavirus.

“Anyone who wants to help the movement and play a part can reach out, and together we can overcome this obstacle. So, please, guys, be safe, stay strong and look forward to better days. Keep our fingers crossed and believe in God,” he said.

The foundation is a partnership among Bailey, the Phoenix Academy and Empire Entertainment.

Former Aston Villa and Manchester United star Dwight Yorke has a struggle on his hands.

Just as he did when he tried to break into Premier League football in England, so it is today, where the Trinidad and Tobago native, the most successful footballer in the countries history, is finding it today.

Based in Dubai, Yorke is now trying his hand at managing but has found that the colour of his skin provides barriers just as it did during his playing days.

"I'm actually trying to get into coaching here, which is another challenging part of my career. It's a different challenge now," said Yorke during an interview with T&T radio station i95FM.

"The challenge was to break in as a black player in the UK,” said Yorke speaking of his 10 years with Aston Villa where he scored 97 goals before becoming a household name with Manchester United in a famous partnership with Andy Cole.

“I managed to do that, and now I have to fight extremely hard and ... it's the same thing coming to management. You have to fight extremely hard to get a look-in to it,” Said Yorke.

"You just have to look around the world; it's very challenging. I'm not ashamed to say it - the black aspiring managers are not getting a look-in. You look in the Premier League and you look around globally."

Former Manchester United star and Trinidad & Tobago’s most successful footballer, Dwight Yorke paints a picture of frustration at not being able to contribute to the development of sport in his country.

According to Yorke, a member of T&T 2006 World Cup team to Germany, he remains available to give back in whatever way he can.

“I would always love to contribute to my country the experience that I’ve gained at the level I’ve played at for so many years. You would’ve thought I would’ve been involved in Trinidad and Tobago football, certainly in the future,” said Yorke during an interview with T&T radio station i95FM.

Yorke explained that he was fortunate to have been given much from the sport of football and would only be too happy to give back.

However, Yorke said, there has never been an approach for such an occurrence to take place.

“I've always wanted to contribute to my country, I always want to help. I feel that with the experience and knowledge I've got, I could certainly help out in some capacity. However, that hasn't happened, I haven't been approached," he said.

The former striker, who scored 27 times in 72 appearances for the Soca Warriors says, the problem is not one he faces alone, with stars like Brian Lara and Russell Latapy finding it difficult to make their marks.

"It does make me feel a little bit concerned that someone like Brian Lara, who is the most accomplished cricketer in the West Indies, hasn't got a role in West Indies cricket," said Yorke.

“[…] the reality is there is no greater accomplishment than Lara, Latapy and myself. Why would you not use that to your benefit? I find that very, very strange, when other countries would love to use our expertise in trying to find out what it takes, what it means ... to be out there.

Chairman of selectors, Roger Harper, said in an interview recently that Caribbean territories needed to take more responsibility in the arena of developing world-class cricketers and he is right.

Now, as chairman of selectors, he may have good reason to turn attention away from the Cricket West Indies, since it is they who employ him. But even if that is the case, he still has a point.

For a long time, the blame for the dwindling fortunes of West Indies cricket has been put squarely at the feet of the West Indies Cricket Board now Cricket West Indies.

As the governing body of the sport in the region, placing the blame there is, on the face of it, the natural thing to do.

After all, what else are you there for?

I read a column from one of my esteemed colleagues, a one Leighton Levy recently, where he pointed to the death of grassroots cricket as one of the reasons for West Indies’ demise over the last 25 years.

Furthermore, Leighton went on to vaguely describe a plan to expand grassroots cricket and to create a system for the transitioning of that grassroots cricket to the senior levels and ultimately to the production of more world-class cricketers.

Leighton’s theory doesn’t seem to fall too far adrift of Harper’s, who while not charting a way forward as did the journalist among the pairing, seems to suggest the problem lies at the beginning rather than at the end.

So while Cricket West Indies is the obvious ‘scapegoat’ in analyzing the reasons for the senior team’s decline, there may be merit in pointing a finger elsewhere.

But here’s the kicker. No longer is the Caribbean an escape from the fast-paced world, a place where time stands still and where the things of importance are what they’ve always been.

Today, there is cable television, android boxes, firesticks, and websites that bring the world rushing into the Caribbean.

That has created, and understandably so, a bit of an identity crisis, although maybe it is no crisis at all.

Cricket is no longer the most popular sport in the Caribbean. Through no fault of Cricket West Indies, children are growing up with heroes on the NBA courts, on the football fields, on the track.

Players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, impose larger-than-life characters on the Caribbean but it is not the same as the days when Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards walked the region as Gods.

The West Indies, over the course of 15 years had already proved that men from humble beginnings can compete with and beat the world.

That’s nothing new.

Maybe the West Indies were too successful.

Harper suggested the territories in the West Indies were to be blamed for not producing players who could make the jump to the next level, but these territories have much to compete with.

Nobody plays cricket anymore.

I’m in a few sports groups with serious sports fans. They talk about everything from table tennis to curling, but lately, the conversations about cricket have dwindled.

These sports fans are fathers of upcoming sports fans and maybe serious players. They won’t be told about the greatness of West Indies players of old, not that they would listen anyway.

When I was growing up, I had to watch whatever was on TV. And sometimes, that meant missing out on cartoons for, you guessed it, cricket.

I was usually pissed by this, but something happened.

I would sit and watch with my Dad and I would learn.

I would learn about the difficulty of playing the game, and the bravery of standing up to a big, strong fast bowler and how quickly the .33 of a second you had to figure out what to do with a ball and do it, really was.

I grew an appreciation for it.

But at the time, there wasn’t a lot of football on TV to compete with cricket, there wasn’t a lot of anything.

Now, with a competitive media industry, filled with the pitfalls of rights buying, I don’t have to watch cricket for an entire day.

A couple of things happen with this increased content.

One, you won’t learn very much about cricket because that takes time, and two, you may never acquire the taste for it because it isn’t fast enough. Then, to add to that, your parents don’t drill the stories of Viv Richards having his cap knocked off only crash the next delivery over the boundary ropes.

All of that combined means cricket is slowly being forgotten.

So today, the talent pool that the territories have to draw from is a much smaller thing than in recent times.

How then do these territories produce world-class players?

World-class will come from talented players vying to be the best against many other talented players.

Today, the few talented players excel very easily because there isn’t a lot of talent around them. Then they get stuck in a rut.

A few half-centuries at the regional level, mixed in with one or two centuries is enough to get your team winning more often than not.

There was a time that players had to score six or seven centuries for their team to have a chance.

Then there are the few bowlers with talent. They get easy five-fors and six-fors and have great stats. But then their opposition has come from the dwindling talent pool and the work that they have to put in to be really good isn’t understood until a 16-year-old Indian thrashes them to all parts of the ground for an entire series.

Now they’re playing catch up.

And if you watch world economics, and you’re from the Third World, you understand how difficult it is to do that.

So Harper has a point, and Leighton has a point, but how do we get our youngsters loving and playing a game they have forgotten?

For West Indies cricket to get back to being a dominant force, Chairman of selectors and former West Indies bowler, Roger Harper believes changes need to be made from the ground up.

According to Harper, all the blame for West Indies’ performance woes cannot be put at the feet of Cricket West Indies and that individual territories need to take responsibility for the cricketers they produce.

"I think a lot of buck-passing has been done. We are very proud to say when a Brian Lara is breaking all those records that he is from Trinidad but when a player is not doing well, you say what the West Indies cricket board is doing,” said Harper.

The former off-spinner who ended his career with 100 ODI wickets from 105 games and 46 Test wickets from 25 matches, believes that when the Caribbean was in its hay day, the territories were much stronger on their own.

“I think there is some inconsistency and we need to get back what we were doing in the past and take the responsibility of developing quality, world-class players," he said.

In terms of creating more world-class players, Harper believes the players in the region need to be more ambitious as well.

According to Harper, who was speaking on T&T radio station i9555, the goal shouldn’t just be to get into the senior team, but to be dominant, because without more than just a few world-class players, consistent top performances won’t exist.

“We need to have world-class players in the West Indies team. That's how our cricket and our team will get to the top, if we have a number of world-class players in the team giving us world-class performances on a consistent basis,” he said.

“[…] We have to encourage our players to do: think bigger, aim higher, think of putting in world-class performances and raise their standards to be match-winning world-class players,” said Harper.

"If you are just making 30s, and the press is slamming that he deserves a strike... I would like my job to be that I don't have to pick somebody. If you are making 30, we have a person who is making 31, then I have to decide which one to select.

"But if you are averaging in the 60s or 70s, all I have to do is write your name down, you pick yourself.

Harper said the players can compete with the rest of the world at the U19 level but then there is an issue transitioning. While the other teams have players who make the leap to the big stage.

"We have to ensure our guys can make that leap as well. A lot of it has to do with their thinking and maturity in terms of cricket. We have to help them along by developing their mental skills and tactical awareness, and help them apply their skills better."

Sir Vivian Richards, Legendary West Indian batsman and former captain, has had many instances when his greatness was on show for all the world to see, however, there was one, in particular, that stands out in my mind.

Apartheid South Africa had been banished from the world of sport and while the two, politics and sport, should never meet, it was widely agreed that those sanctions were the right thing to do.

South African cricket was decimated by the sanctions, which started in 1971, and they needed to revive it.

The country hashed a plan to play unsanctioned international cricket inside South Africa, which while frowned upon, could not be stopped.

In all, South Africa would host seven tours to the country, dubbed Rebel Tours, between 1982 and 1990.

A precedence had been set in 1981 with England’s Graham Gooch going to South Africa with eleven other players. They world wholeheartedly bashed them for their actions, labelling the group the “the Dirty Dozen” in England’s Houses of Parliament.

The rebels were banned for three years, including Geoffrey Boycott, who was the world’s leading Test run-scorer at the time. Most of their careers, except for Gooch’s and John  Emburey’s, was ended by the ban.

But in 1982, the South Africans were back at it, inviting Sri Lanka this time, with 14 of their players convinced into making the trip. The players were banned for life by the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka. Only Flavian Aponso would play again, turning out for the Netherlands in the 1996 World Cup at the age of 43.

Fast forward to 1982 and South Africa came calling in the Caribbean. For the first time, the South African side would get real competition because the West Indies, kings of cricket at the time, could afford to field at least two world-beating teams.

At the time, first-class cricketers in the West Indies weren’t paid at all and had to live off employment outside of cricket. In fact, the majority of those who played for the West Indies had jobs outside of cricket and so South Africa made sure to make an offer that would mean they could become financially independent.

For the first time the unofficial games had some real legitimacy as the South Africans had a West Indies team that could compete with them.

But even while the Lawrence Rowe-led team that included real talent like that of Richard Austin, Herbert Chang, Sylvester Clarke, Colin Croft, Bernard Julien, Alvin Kallicharan, Collis King, Everton Mattis, Ezra Moseley, and David Murray, was brilliant in its own right, it still needed some real star power to make it more legitimate.

There was no greater star in World cricket at the time than Viv Richards.

Viv played a swashbuckling brand of cricket few dared to attempt or had the talent to pull off for that matter.

South Africa wanted him.

In the critically acclaimed documentary ‘Fire in Babylon,’  Viv opens up about being offered a blank cheque from the South African cricket board.

To prove that the ravages of Apartheid would never impact him, or the other cricketers in South Africa, those agreeing to the tour would be called ‘Honorary White’.

Viv would never have to work again.

Then he reacted in a way that cemented his place, at least in my mind, as West Indies cricket’s greatest hero, by simply saying no, when many others would have said different.

He didn’t hit a ball out of the park, challenge an Australian quick, he simply said ‘no’.

And for that, I will be eternally grateful as it has shaped, in large part, my attitude towards racism.

 Just recently, Sir Viv was asked if he had regrets about not taking the offer and living the rest of his life in the lap of luxury.

“No sir, that has never even come to mind and I am one of those individuals that when I make my mind up in terms of the decision making and all that, then that’s it and that, to me, was worth much more than money,” he said.

Of course, Viv saying ‘no’ had the knock-on effect of making sure that nobody else, outside of Croft, would say otherwise.

Sir Viv’s ‘no’, had the knock-on effect of ensuring that the West Indies’ great legacy of the 1980s was created.

Without it, West Indies’ tour to England in 1984 where they won the Test series 5-0, would not have happened. There would have been no ‘Whitewash’.

And, of course, not losing a single Test series between 1980 and 1995 would probably not have happened.

Sir Viv’s moment may just have saved what turned out to be the greatest sporting achievement in the history of sport.

Because now, saying ‘no’ was markedly easier for Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Jeffrey Dujon, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner and Michael Holding.  

And Viv had to say ‘no’ again, the following year. He did and the rest is history.

Apartheid would come to an end in 1994.

Former West Indies captain Darren Sammy believes his contemporary, white ball skipper, Kieron Pollard is right for the job but needs time to get his team going.

According to Sammy, Pollard always wants to win and that is the mindset that is needed from the leader of a team if it is to be successful.

“I think what Pollard will bring is that attacking mindset,” said Sammy.

“I think his mindset is always geared towards winning and I think that’s what a leader’s mindset should be,” he said.

However, the mindset alone will not be enough to give the West Indies the edge they need to successfully defend their T20 World Cup set for November.

“He needs time. They need time to learn as a playing group,” said Sammy.

According to the only skipper to lead a team to two T20 World Cup titles, he benefitted from that time ahead of the team’s first World Cup title win.

“I am only talking from experience, from captaining in 2010. By the time 2012 came I knew so many of those guys, what situations to use them in and from constant dialogue, how I would go and who I would want to execute for me in different situations,” said Sammy.

While he is aware that his playing days with the West Indies are over, Sammy, who said he had a vision of being part of a successful T20 World Cup title defence, still wants to contribute to Pollard’s rise.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is feeling a sense of relief after the announcement that Reggae Girlz goalkeeper, Nicole McClure has recovered from COVID-19.

McClure, who is with her mother in the United States, told Radio Jamaica Sports, she had been fully recovered over the last two weeks.

The 30-year-old McClure plays for Northern Irish club, Sion Swifts, but is most fondly remembered in her country for pulling off two penalty saves in the CONCACAF final round World Cup qualifiers against … , helping to secure a spot in France last Summer.

McClure got sick after being in close contact with her mother, who likely contracted it from her job.

McClure’s mother is one of the many brave health workers in the United States on the front lines of the battle to contain COVID-19 and save as many lives as possible.

To date there have been more than 1.7 million cases of the Coronavirus worldwide with almost 109 thousand deaths.

The epicentre of the disease is by far and away, the United States where there are more than half a million cases and more than 20,000 deaths.

New York has the highest numbers of instances of the virus with 181,144 cases confirms and well over eight thousand deaths.

The importance of good spinners in Test cricket has fluctuated over the years, with different environments changing the need for them. Over the decades, the spinners to stand out are those who defied their environment. The list of spinners who have done that isn’t as small as you would think and finding the best Test spinners of all time is not the easiest task. But here is the best that we have come up with to date.


 

Muttiah Muralitharan (Sri Lanka)

The wide-eyed steer of Muttiah Muralitharan has signaled the demise of batsmen in Test cricket 800 times over the course of 133 Test matches, making the Sri Lankan, the most successful bowler, let alone spinner, in the history of the game. His doosra meant that for about four and a half years, the off-spinner remained the number one bowler on the ICC Test bowlers rankings, a record to this day. For some, Murali should never have been allowed to bowl, a deformed elbow forcing a change in the laws of the game that some believe legitimized throwing. But wherever you stand on this point, for at least five Sri Lankan captains over the course of his 18 years in Test cricket, he was the man you could depend on to change the course of a game. In fact, his greatness was given an exclamation mark, when in 2004, he was asked to stop bowling his doosra. It never mattered, he would go on to devastate batting line-ups over the next six years with the same kind of consistency.

 

Shane Warne (Australia)

Shane Warne can lay claim to being the man that made being a leg spinner a thing again. After the 1980s and ‘90s where pace ruled supreme for both Australia and the West Indies, the two kings of cricket throughout those decades, the spinner was left a forgotten artform filled with people whose job it was to give the high-energy, high-impact quicks a breather. Warne was never a space filler and became Australia’s go-to bowler. Warne was rated as one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century, no great surprise when you remember the remarkable turn he could impart on a ball, his ability to drift it away from the batsman’s eyeline at the last moment, as well as an incredible ability to vary his pace without a discernable difference in the speed of his action. Then there was the addition of the flipper, which for the most part, batsmen never saw coming. That combination has led many to agree that Warne and not Muralitharan is the greatest bowler of all time and one couldn’t mount a serious challenge to the argument without creating some animosity. Warne was certainly a headline maker and the ball he bowled England’s Mike Gatting with in 1993, is the most famous delivery ever released from a bowler’s fingers. The ball was full and pitched well outside Gatting’s leg stump and turned so big, it clipped off stump. Warne was the first bowler to 700 wickets and would end his career with 708 from 145 Tests at an average of 25.41.

 

Jim Laker (England)

Jim Laker is most notably remembered for taking 19 Australian in wickets in a single Test match at Old Trafford, a feat that has not been repeated at the Test level or at the first-class one for that matter. But the off-spinner was more than that. Initially he was seen as good in County cricket but not quite at the Test level, however, that would change in 1952 when his 100 wickets for Surrey forced him back into the England set-up from which he was routinely dropped. He ended among the five cricketers of the year, according to Wisden. More regular inclusion meant he played 46 Tests, taking 193 wickets at an average of 21.24. That average made him one of the most dangerous spinners in the history of the game. In addition to his Test career, which admittedly could have included more Tests had his value been seen differently, he took nearly 2000 first-class wickets at the incredible average of just 18.41.

 

Anil Kumble

Tall and elegant, fairly quick through the air, Anil Kumble was not the typical Indian spinner who used flight and guile to dig batsmen from the pitch. His results weren’t typical either. Even among a country notorious for creating the best spinners in the world, Kumble still has the feather in his cap of being the bowler to have won most matches for India in their history. Kumble, rather than relying on flight and variations in pace, preferred to spear his deliveries in, extracting bite upon pitching. The leg-spinner’s tac made him notoriously hard to score off. He would get his variation from changing where he delivered from, creating illusions that were very difficult to manage. Kumble would go on to stand only behind Muralitharan and Warne in the wicket-taking department, ending his career with 619 wickets from 132 Tests at an average of 29.65. The figures meant he would break every bowling record for an Indian player.

 

Lance Gibbs (West Indies)

Lance Gibbs had unusually long fingers and it allowed him to extract prodigious turn from even the most pace-friendly wickets. Running in chest on, Gibbs was remarkably accurate and seemed to possess unlimited stamina. That stamina, combined with his ability, led to him becoming the West Indies all-time leading wicket-taker and the first spinner to go past 300 Test wickets. What was more impressive, was the fact that Gibbs, who ended his career with 309 wickets, did so in just 79 Tests at an average of 29.09. His accuracy meant he would end his career with an economy rate of 1.98 runs per over. On 18 occasions Gibbs would take five wickets in an innings, making sure that even if the West Indies batsmen were not at their best, they would never be completely out of a contest.

 

Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka)

It is not often that an active player can lay claim to being one of the greatest of all time at anything. Those athletes are usually so far ahead of the competition in their era, that it begs the question of where they could find greater. Rangana Herath has played 93 Tests for Sri Lanka, and in that time, he has taken 433 wickets at an average of 28.07. For a long time, Herath was the man that held one end, creating pressure, while Muttiah Muralitharan destroyed batting attacks from the other. With Murali’s retirement, Herath has stepped out of the great spinner’s shadow to become Sri Lanka’s go-to bowler. The left-arm orthodox spinner is accurate to a fault and his ability to bowl long spells makes him a true Test for even the most obdurate of batsmen. His greatness has been added to, by the inclusion of a mystery ball to his arsenal, a quicker delivery that darts back into the right hander. That arsenal includes the ability to vary his pace and flight, ever so subtly. But there is nothing subtle about his wicket-taking ability.

 

Bishan Singh Bedi (India)

Like the West Indies or Australia could fill a greatest of all time list with their pacers, the same is true about India and their spinners. At different times in their history, India have been able to field four high-quality spinners, keeping opposition attacks at bay. The patriarch of using spin to devastate oppositions, is one Bishan Singh Bedi.

Bedi was the consummate master of deception, conjuring variations in flight, loop, spin and pace all without changing his action. He would challenge batsmen to hit over the top, yet he wasn’t expensive, becoming a consistent wicket-taker throughout his career. In 67 Tests, Bedi carved out 266 wickets at an average of 28.71. His economy rate of 2.14 runs per over was not at all shabby.

 

Richie Benaud (Australia)

His brilliance from the commentary booth meant there are many who do not realise that at one time Richie Benaud was one of the best bowlers in the world. Benaud, who would captain Australia with the same quiet authority that he displays as a commentator, didn’t start very well, remaining a fairly ordinary player in the Australian side for the first six years of his Test career. But as captain, he thrived, leading from the front to end with 247 wickets from 63 Tests at an average of 27.03. His leg break googlies would be filled with little nuggets for batsmen on the attack to fall for, and as his wicket haul suggests, they often did. Benaud was the guru who Shane Warne would look to on his way to becoming arguably the greatest spinner of all time. Later Australian captains like Ian Chappell, who never lost a Test series as captain, would also look to the example of Benaud.

 

Clarrie Grimmett (Australia)

While Clarrie Grimmett turned out for Australia, he was really born in New Zealand, a fact which may have been why he never got the chance to suit up for Australia until he was 33 years old. Despite the advanced age for a debut, so high was his skill level, that he went on to play for 11 years, from 1925 when he started against England at Sydney, until he faced South Africa at Durban for his last.

At 44, he took his 216th wicket from just 37 Tests at an average of 24.21. Grimmett’s bowling was the stuff of legends. He was as accurate as a machine, adding the top spinner, the googly, and the flipper, by the time he began his foray in the Test arena. He was a wily customer and worked out whatever strategy batsmen had worked out for him. For instance, he would snap his left fingers when he bowled a regular leg spinner so as to hide the snap of his fingers when he produced the flipper. Australia put Grimmett out to pasture after the Durban Test, but his 7-100 in the first innings and 6-73 in the second, proved he may still have continued to twirl his magic for a few years more. Many believed, that in his earlier years, he was as important to Australia’s fortunes as was the batting of a certain Don Bradman.

Ravichandran Ashwin (India)

Ravichandran Ashwin leads the new generation of Indian spinner, who have now taken a more traditional role in bowling line-ups with the cricket-crazy country investing in fast bowlers in recent times.

Still, Ashwin has proven to be a go-to bowler, notching up 365 wickets in just 71 Tests at an average of 25.43. Ashwin broke into the Indian side via the Indian Premier League. He found it difficult to get into the Test team and play a major role thanks to the presence of Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan’s fortunes began to fade and in the meantime, Ashwin began to put together an impressive tally of performances. In his first Test against the West Indies, Ashwin took nine wickets but it was agreed that a weak batting line-up may have contributed to that. The world waited to see if the performances could have been replicated and Ashwin duly provided the proof he was for real after a lean spell. While a far more dangerous limited-overs bowler, his progress since his Test debut in 2011 has made him one of the most impressive spinners in the modern age.

 

Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan)

Saqlain Mushtaq can most be remembered for being the bowler who first mastered the doosra, a delivery from an offspinner that turns the other way. Saqlain has been accused of trying too many different deliveries, always trying to get a wicket. Despite the differing attitudes to the spinner, Saqlain still managed 208 wickets in just 49 Tests at an average 29.83. His 10-155 in a match against India that brought about a close 12-run win is still talked about today.

The West Indies can win in England this summer, so says their Test captain, Jason Holder.

The skipper believes his team, having experienced English conditions in a heavy defeat in 2017, have the experience to make restitution for that earlier performance.

The West Indies are scheduled to to play three Tests in England beginning June 1 but there isn’t a lot of hope that it won’t, at the very least, be postponed because of the government’s directives to combat the spread of COVID-19 in that country.

The England Cricket Board and Cricket West Indies have had preliminary discussions and should be meeting again on Sunday to decide a way forward, with the possibility of playing to empty stands, postponements or both still on the cards.

Before the series, the West Indies were to have played three warm-up matches with a camp at the Rose Bowl in Hampshire, but that is also not expected to happen, at least not in the same way or maybe even at the same time.

Holder though, is hopeful that the series will go on.

While the series in England was destructive to the West Indian confidence, last year in the Caribbean, the West Indies had bested England 2-1 in a series that showed they could, not just compete, but hurt the generations-long rivals.

"This series will be tougher than the one in the Caribbean because we are obviously going in their backyard. England are a very, very good team in their backyard. Even although we beat them in the last series I'll still say England will start as favourites," said Holder.  

According to Holder though, the West Indies aren’t the inexperienced bunch England would have played three years ago when they lost 2-1.

"You've got guys like Kraigg Brathwaite who has played county cricket as well and international cricket there. Shai [Hope] has played enough international cricket and did really well as well. So we have some guys going back there with a vengeance.

"If you speak to a lot of guys who were on that tour in 2017 everybody will say they can't wait to go back and probably just make amends for what would've happened in 2017. We believed personally in our abilities, it is just a matter of understanding the conditions and now that we've had that experience, I should only hope that we should be able to then put into practice and make a better show than we did last time," said Holder.

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