Saturday, March 25, 2023

Blood, Sweat, Tears… and Skill: The Formula for Roach’s Success

When Roach completed his five-wicket haul against Bangladesh on the third afternoon in Antigua, he equaled Michael Holding’s 249 Test wickets, and became only the fourth West Indian to take 50 wickets at the same venue. Roach’s numbers are – even if you consider the bigger picture of West Indies’ fast bowling history – impressive.

It gets even more interesting when you realize that Roach has never been part of the great pace team his country is known for. Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder are excellent operators, but the trio has only played 23 Tests together. As in this sport, Roach often has to lead the youth attack.

Four of his five wickets on Saturday were from frontline batsmen. Roach caught Liton Das and Mahmudul Hasan Joy behind the first hour mark on the third day. One in-form batsman and another who was battling for 150-plus deliveries suddenly couldn’t help his way out of his off-stump. That’s the genius of Roach. He keeps it simple. He holds it tight. And he goes on till his discipline doesn’t tire you.

Bangladesh managed to recover a bit – and even in the lead – with half-centuries from Shakib Al Hasan and Nurul Hasan. It was 36.5 overs of the last wicket. West Indies knew they needed something special and guess who they went to.

Roach, now armed with the second new ball, clean bowled Shakib, Nurul and Abadot Hossain for good measure and simultaneously took his 10th Test five-wicket haul.

In a post-match discussion with TV commentators, Roach stated that the plan was to bowl a bit wide of the off-stump, in the patch of grass on the pitch, to generate movement.

“I chatted with bowling coach Roddy [Estwick]who thought we were bowling a little too straight [on the second evening]He said, “The pitch was a bit easy. He wanted us to bowl at the fifth stump. Let the green spots on the pitch do the work. I thought we did it very well.”

“The edges were taken to the slips quite well. It was definitely the plan. Of course we did what was required. The results showed. I am very proud of the team for putting up a good fight.”

Roach said West Indies did not panic when Shakib and Nurul were scoring only centuries in the match.

“He played well. We were a little sluggish,” he said. “There were some tired bodies, but people got stuck in work. We knew that in international cricket, teams would bat well at some level or the other. There will be a partnership, so it’s about maintaining that body language and attitude “

“We noticed that the ball had become quite soft after lunch, so we tried to be as patient as possible. Shakib batted well despite being slightly injured, but he played the ball well. [Nurul] Hassan batted well. We knew it was a new ball wicket. After getting the new ball, we knew something was going to happen.”

I like my stats. I check my stats every night. Even though I’m not playing.

Kemar Roach

West Indies need just 35 more runs to win the Antigua Test. Roach was the one who bowled him in that position and so it was a good time to reflect on a career that has seen a lot of ups and downs. It actually began in 2009 in less-than-ideal conditions, when West Indies had to play a second-string side against Bangladesh as the first-choice player was involved in a salary dispute with the board.

“I’m proud, man; [Particularly considering] How [my career] clearly started. I have come into the team in very difficult circumstances. I like my stats. I check my stats every night. Even though I’m not playing. So it’s good to be there with all the great names.”

Roach also spoke about how he had to break his bowling down to a scratch and rebuild it after an ankle problem in 2014. “I had lost speed due to injury, so I had to improve my skills,” he said. “Worked very hard, bowling consistently to get you where you want to be in your career. Blood, sweat and tears. It’s good to go there and see the results,” he said.

A significant part of his skill now comes around the wicket and is a threat to left-handed batsmen. “It started in England in 2017,” Roach said. “I remember we struggled a bit in the first Test. Roddy told us to change the angle – to come around the wicket – the next day when we hit the nets. He told us to get that shape on the ball. I’ve got a lot of wickets out of it. I’ve bowled better to the left-handers. I’m very happy with how it’s going so far.”

Many great West Indies fast bowlers had other great West Indies fast bowlers. Roach doesn’t have that luxury. He has worked his way up to greatness almost entirely on his own. And he has no plans to slow down. A self-confessed stat nut, Roach is targeting the 300-wicket mark and if he gets there, even the Conservatives, who have a hard time seeing the glory days, will have to sit down and take notice.

Mohammad Isam is the Bangladesh correspondent for ESPNcricinfo. @ isam84

Nation World News Desk
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