- Roddy Estwick: ‘Our fast bowlers can challenge any team’
- Series against England due to start at Ageas Bowl on 8 July
Jofra Archer was lost to West Indies when making his England debut last summer but there is a growing belief among the tourists that the current crop of Caribbean fast bowlers could be their best since the glory days.
Speaking from Old Trafford, where West Indies are training in the lead-up to the first Test on 8 July, Roddy Estwick, the assistant coach, compared the depth of quicks in the squad to the 1980s – a time when he was battling simply to crack the Barbados team, let alone the international side, despite averaging 21 with the ball.
It is a bold assessment, but not entirely without merit after the 2-1 home victory against England last year. A four-pronged pace attack of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Jason Holder blew England away and is now bolstered by Chemar Holder, the hotly tipped Bajan right-armer, and the Jamaican quick Oshane Thomas.
“The fast bowling is key to us and we’re beginning to get blessed again with fast bowlers in the West Indies,” Estwick said.
“It’s an exciting time for us. We’ve got a group of fast bowlers we think can challenge any team in the world. The key will be to get that match fitness and sharpness up again and we can challenge England.
“You respect what the greats have done but you have to forge your own identity. We had six outstanding fast bowlers in the 80s. If you remember, Wayne Daniel and Sylvester Clarke probably only played 11 or 12 Tests [each] but both have more than 900 first-class wickets. We have four or five now who can lift that standard again.”
Gabriel is the only current doubt, having flown out as back-up following ankle surgery last November. But prove his fitness during three upcoming training matches and the 32-year-old Trinidadian will likely be added to the official squad.
This competition for pace spots may have been greater still but for Archer’s decision to invoke his British citizenship and qualify for England after being overlooked for the Under-19s World Cup in 2014. Estwick was head coach of that West Indies side – as well as a mentor during the 25-year-old’s formative years – but he harbours no ill will.
The 58-year-old said: “Jofra is Bajan by birth but he made a choice to represent England. I’m happy for him, but the friendship ends once we walk on that park and Jofra knows that. When you lose a player of that talent you have some tinge of regret but you can’t hold that regret for the rest of your life, you have got to look forward.
“All I’ll say to Jofra is, good luck to him. I speak to him quite a bit. As long as he doesn’t do well against West Indies, it’s all good. He can do well against all the other international teams.”