A tour that started so promisingly for the West Indies ended in an abject surrender in Manchester on Tuesday as England wrapped up a comprehensive 269-run win. While Stuart Broad and England might have taken the spoils, the visitors earned many admirers.
The very fact that they have opted to undertake the tour in current circumstances has been lauded by the cricketing world, as has the pride in battle they have displayed over the course of the three-match series. Having won hearts with their exemplary poise on the tour, the men from the Caribbean now make the journey back across the Atlantic with their heads held high.
Throughout the course of their stay in England, one man has been keenly following his former wards through the television set in his native home of Glamorgan, Wales.
Several players in the travelling group, including Jason Holder, have come through the West Indies High Performance centre in Barbados set up in 2010 under the supervision of Toby Radford.
Radford has a near decade-long association with Windies cricket, with the former Middlesex batsman handling assistant and batting coach responsibilities in various spells. The Welshman’s stint with the West Indies ended just a month before the 2019 World Cup after a complete overhaul of the coaching staff.
While he terms the decision to change the backroom staff as a ‘political’ one, Radford has managed to retain ties with several players in the current West Indies camp. Since his departure from the Caribbean last year, Radford has been lending his coaching expertise to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
He has been rewriting the syllabus of the Level 3 and 4 coaching courses for the ECB, while also travelling across the country to deliver the new programmes. Among his several commitments, Radford has also been imparting his wisdom to young cricketing enthusiasts in the UAE through online batting masterclasses.
Offered free of cost to youngsters aged between 12 and 19, the batting masterclass is part of Zurich Middle East’s commitment towards developing sports in the regions.
Catching up with Sport360 on the sidelines of one such online masterclass, Radford spoke fondly of his association with West Indies cricket.
“I miss the day-to-day sort of analysis and working with the players since I have built up a bond with the guys,” he told Sport360 in a video chat.
“I have known them a long time and travelled the world with them. So, I do miss that camaraderie and the day-to-day works.
“However, there are still quite a few in this team that I still work with currently. I have been working with Jermaine Blackwood before this tour, I have been working with Jason Holder, Shane Dowrich and Kraigg Brathwaite. I am still working with them sending me footage and we then analyse it and that type of thing.”
In his eight-year stint with West Indies cricket, there have been several highs and lows for Radford and the rest of the coaching staff. Two moments though, stand out for him.
“I think the 2012 T20 World Cup triumph is right up there. It was brilliant beating Sri Lanka in the final in their own country, in their capital in Colombo. I was assistant coach and batting coach at the time,” he reminisced.
“There have been several good wins more recently. I would say last year’s Test series win over England in the Caribbean. We beat them after 18 years or so and being part of that was great. So there have been real highs with the West Indies. I do think that in the last few years, we have started to develop a real group of good young talented players who are coming through.
“In fact, most of this team playing now in the Test match started in the West Indies academy that we set up when I first moved there in 2010. We had Jason Holder and Shannon Gabriel as 19-year-olds, Shamarh Brooks, Dowrich. A lot of the players in this team were there in that group. It was nice to see them develop and grow with them.”
While he has been largely encouraged by West Indies’ showings in the ongoing English tour, certain aspects and decisions haven’t sat well with him. Among those is Holder’s decision to bowl first in the deciding Test despite fielding two spinners.
“I prefer to bat first I think. And especially when you play two spinners (Rahkeem Cornwall and Roston Chase), you want them to use the wicket when it is worn and got more turn on it,” he explained.
“So, it is unusual to play two spinners and then bowl first. Normally when you have two spinners, you want to bat first and put on a score. All this shows to me a lack of confidence in their batting, which I think is worrying. You have to back your batters.
“If they get bowled out for fifty-odd batting first, then they get bowled out for 50. You just have to back the batting.”
Having arrived on English shores with a solid pace attack, it was the batting which has let the visitors down for the most part in the series. No century was forthcoming, with Jermaine Blackwood’s 95 in the Headingley win being the highest individual score by any West Indies batsman.
Radford believes that the current West Indies crop have all the makings of a top Test side, but insists that batsmen will need to make a bigger contribution.
“I think the only thing missing on this tour is that a lot of guys have been getting fifties, sixties or seventies. What they haven’t done is to convert it into a century,” he said.
“I think the minute they start converting these 60s to 120s and the 70s to 140s, you will see a real difference in the team totals and wins. You will get more consistency.
“They are clearly good enough and are batting two to two-and-a-half hours. They just need to start batting for four hours now.”
Their batting shortcomings notwithstanding, West Indies did put the hosts on the back-foot for significant spells across the three-match series. One player who has stood out in particular is skipper Jason Holder. Having overseen a huge chunk of Holder’s development from a talented youngster to one of the best all-rounders in the game, Radford is a big fan of the Windies captain.
Although Holder’s more notable contributions in the series have come with the ball, Radford believes he has the potential to move up the batting order for West Indies.
“There have been occasions where he has batted higher up the order and he is very capable of doing that. We know he can score runs there, he got a double hundred last year against England,” he said of the all-rounder.
“I think it depends on the composition of the team too. Occasionally they might want to put another specialist batsman and he (Holder) will always bat one spot below the specialist batsman. It is really a horses for course thing where you take the pitch and the conditions into account for the make-up of the team.
“I am sure we will see him batting higher at some point and he is pretty good. He is the No2 ranked all-rounder currently and was No1 last week. You’re talking about a top-end player with bat and with ball and has delivered.”
Though they return home with a series loss against their name in the end, Radford is proud of the West Indies squad and is confident that they will go places in the coming years. Given how close his association with the Caribbean side has been over the best part of the last decade, you wouldn’t really argue against that notion.
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