Digicel Feature Article: Bajan scares the Aussies – The Roach revelation by Ponting
Active Australian captains in general, but Ricky Ponting in particular, are not the type of men who busy themselves heaping praise on opposition players. Under Ponting’s captaincy, that time honoured Australian cricket tradition of publicly targeting opposition batsmen has not waned.
The latest instalment was Mitchell Johnson’s pre-series boast that his side believed Shivnarine Chanderpaul to be susceptible to the short ball so they intended to test their theory during the three Tests.
And so when Ponting – upon completion of the Second Test – had more than half a sentence of incoherent mumbling kudos for Kemar Roach, it was enough to cause one to sit up and take more than passing notice.
“He’ll be a handful in Perth,” Ponting was quoted as saying.
“As you can see, every spell he’s bowled, almost every ball he’s bowled, is hovering around 150kph. We knew that he was capable of that. He’s hit his areas really well. He hasn’t sprayed the ball around too much. He’s bowling well at the moment,” Ponting continued.
Oh such lavish praise! These are the sorts of concessions you might half-expect to hear from an Australian captain about, say, Malcolm Marshall or Wes Hall – but not a 21 year-old rookie playing his fourth Test. And certainly not half-way through when the series has not yet even been won.
Ponting even almost confessed that his team was wary of Roach as far back as their pre-series preparations.
Is this some sort of reverse-psychology being employed by the Australians? Or is that a hint of – dare it be said – fear at the corner of Ponting’s eye? He did after all sit in the pavilion and stand at the non-striker’s end and watch several of his batsmen hopping to Roach’s fury.
And West Indies captain, Chris Gayle, also agrees with Ponting on the Perth point.
“I am sure he will play a big part in Perth. We are really looking forward to seeing him go on the Perth pitch. I hope he goes out and expresses himself and keeps enjoying the game,” wrote Gayle on his DigicelCricket blog (available on www.digicelcricket.com).
And Gayle, who has faced the fastest of bowlers going around the international circuit in his ten years playing for the West Indies, has an eye-opening observation.
“He was regularly clocking 150kmp and that is something I haven’t seen in a long time in the Test arena,” Gayle wrote.
Fast bowlers in Test cricket bowl at high speeds but not as consistently as Roach has done in the two Tests thus far. In the last edition of the ICC Champions Trophy, he was the fast bowler on show.
“Kemar unsettled every single one of the Aussie batsmen and they really didn’t look comfortable against him,” Gayle reports.
Those are noteworthy observations from a man who stood at slip and watched his young fast bowler firing through. Gayle is not a man to mince words but seldom does he get as excited as his words suggest he is. He could have been thinking similar thoughts to Clive Lloyd after Super Cat set eyes on Michael Holding for the first time. And it was Perth where Holding took 11 wickets in two Test matches inclusive of 6 for 21 in 1984 when Australia were routed for 76 and lost the Test by an innings and 112 runs.
It is Perth where the Australian cricketing authorities – with every good reason – did not schedule a Test for nine years, from 1975 to 1984.
The scene of fast bowlers laying eyes on the Perth pitch would be akin to Sir Walter Raleigh had he managed to discover El Dorado. And the final Test will be Roach’s maiden voyage to this fast bowling gold mine.
When he first wore West Indian colours – against Australia in a Twenty20 match in Barbados last year – he hustled the batsmen, accounting for both openers in the match.
Ponting did not play in that match so he had his first taste of Roach in Brisbane and two out of the three times he has gotten out in the series – Roach was the man taking his wicket. Little wonder then that Ponting has not been able to conceal more than a passing concern.
“He’s a handful, there’s no doubt about that. He’s someone who could play a fair bit of Test cricket for them in the future,” the Australian captain went on.
“Anyone that’s bowling that sort of pace will trouble any batter, especially later in the game when the bounce gets a bit variable. That’s when you’re at your most vulnerable against guys who bowl at that sort of pace,” Ponting said further.
Critically, Roach has remained grounded. He has not been overawed by playing in a full strength West Indies side for the first time, has not been over-excited by the pace-friendly Australian wickets and has not served up a diet of wild short-pitched deliveries. He has bowled with pace but accuracy in line and has favoured a full length. The Barbadian pacer who is of a shorter stature has used his short ball more sparingly and with telling effect. The short deliveries have given Marcus North and Michael Hussey in particular several uneasy moments at the crease.
North was hit on the body and arm, Hussey has jabbed at the short deliveries like the novice his Test average of 52 confirms he is not. Roach is part of a West Indian team which itself has registered three centuries but denied the hosts any. His own efforts, particularly with the absence of the more seasoned Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor, have not gone unnoticed in this regard.
So if perchance you catch a glimpse of Roach gingerly bouncing out on the first morning in Perth looking like a kid who has just spotted that XBox360 under the tree on Christmas morning, let it not be too much of a surprise.