West Indies legend Brian Lara hinted disappointment with three players opting out of the tour of England despite all safety protocols put in place.
Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul decided to stay back home and not tour England over safety concerns with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a team that’s not at full strength. Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Cottrell (Keemo Paul) felt that they don’t want to risk in going to England and playing cricket. I am one who felt that if I had the opportunity to play cricket, I would be going to play cricket especially with all the protocols put in place.
“You’re playing for the West Indies, that’s something you dream of,” Lara told Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar in a video chat.
Lara said he was also disappointed that Jason Holder has not been given a longer rope as captain like Graeme Smith was for South Africa. Holder has been Test captain since 2015 but was stipped off ODI captaincy last year with Kieron Pollard replacing him.
“In terms of the present team, Jason Holder’s leadership is critical. I’m disappointed that he’s not been named leader for a very long time to give him that confidence and comfort, and if there’s any problems within the team it can be handled much better. A good example is Graeme Smith being named (South Africa) captain at age 22-23, given the opportunity to lead a team that has a lot of experienced players. That’s one of my little problems, but I think Jason Holder is true professional, a great allrounder,” he said.
“Kemar Roach, the style and flair of Shai Hope I’m hoping comes true in this series. He has been really good in ODIs but not so good in Tests, he’s definitely a Test batsman I want to see flourish.”
Tendulkar, meanwhile, called Holder the most underrated all-rounder.
“Jason Holder is the most underrated allrounder. On the fielder, you’d look at Roach, Cottrell or Gabriel who hits the deck hard,” he said. “But Holder, only when you look at the scoreboard you realise he has picked up three wickets. Or when he’s batting, he’s scored those 50-55 runs when it mattered. He contributes on regular basis, terrific player to have in your team,” he said.
“Roach is the most experienced bowler. When he got into the team, he could hit the bat hard and bowled at 150 kmph. He has slowed down but isn’t slow, is bowling at 140 kmph. He’s become a complete fast bowler now, understands when to press the pedal, build the pressure on batter with dot balls. I think he will play a big role.”
Lara agreed with Tendulkar but said the pacers will be effective only if batsmen put runs on board.
“Partnerships, rotating strike, making sure you keep the best deliveries out and punish the bad ones… protect your stumps,” Lara said on the approach to batting in England. “In England, it’s protect your stumps and get acclimatised quickly. Get the pace and bounce of the pitch, and when you feel comfortable, then grow. You don’t have to dominate every single bowler. Even when you’re 70-80 and there’s somebody that’s giving you trouble, then back off.
“That’s key, you know that Sachin as well. With the innings you played at Sydney, it wasn’t about a particular bowler getting you out but a particular shot getting you out. And you stopped yourself from playing it and scored in other areas. So it’s a similar sort of approach. Example against Australia, I’ll be playing on 70-80 and McGrath comes back for a spell, and I know he’s going to bowl 6-7 overs, and I don’t need to take risks against him.”
To a question on which England bowler will be the major threat in the series, Lara said James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be the key components of the English attack.
“I played I think in Anderson’s debut at the Oval, not sure if it was his debut but he got me out. I played for the inswinger and it straightened and I was caught in slips,” he recalled.
“These guys have the ability to keep improving. If you don’t improve, batsmen around the world are going to get accustomed to you. These guys are aged, maybe that life they have isn’t there. They’re key components in any England line up. Jofra Archer will do his thing as the youngster. I’m hoping that they’re not ready and firing at full strength. When they are, they’ve mastered English conditions. We’re going to have it tough but hopefully things can work out.”