A tough test ahead: West Indies will be challenged during England tour, Daren Ganga says

Former West Indies captain Daren Ganga. (Photo: DNA India)

Former West Indies captain Daren Ganga doesn’t think the Caribbean side will triumph over England easily in the upcoming three-Test series, even though it enters armed with an exceptional pace bowling unit.

Ganga, now a leading cricket commentator, said the lack of practice during the long break in the sport as a result of COVID-19 and the home advantage of the hosting side, will serve as a disadvantage to the visitors.

“It is going to be a huge challenge for the West Indies to retain this Wisden Trophy, and I say that because they lack match practice,” he said on Trinidad’s i95.5 FM ISports programme on Thursday (June 18).

According to Ganga, players who had not been on the field for months before now would need time to reach their optimal level of performance in international competition.

Although acknowledging that the English cricketers had also been affected by the pandemic-forced hiatus, Ganga argued that with the advantage of playing at home, the odds are already stacked against the West Indies.

“Playing against any England team in English conditions is always going to be a challenge because these are guys who are very attuned to the conditions,” said the retired right-handed, top-order batsman and part-time right-arm, off-break bowler.

The Windies Tour of England, originally slated for April, was rescheduled for August amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The Caribbean team is currently observing quarantine in the United Kingdom ahead of the three-Test series. (Photo: International Cricket Council)

“You’re hearing some new names that might be in the new setup for England – guys talking about reverse swing. That is something that the West Indies traditionally haven’t catered for and [they] haven’t played that type of bowling for quite a while. Once the bowl starts to swing, I think it produces a different type of challenge to batsmen from the West Indies, because we’re accustomed to abrasive surfaces where the ball very rarely swings but you will get a little bit of lateral movement. So, it will test the technique of the batting unit,” he explained.

On the positive side, however, Ganga said the Windies’ early arrival in Manchester at the beginning of this month to prepare for the series which will include a Test match at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton from July 8-12 and two others at Old Trafford, Manchester on July 16-20 and July 24-28, would serve them well.

“I think it’s a real positive for a touring team to get a chance to be in a host nation to prepare for an upcoming series. I think that’s a positive for the West Indies – having a chance to travel to England way before the start of the first Test match in July, to acclimatize with the conditions,” he said.

“There’s been a lot of debate around teams now not having the opportunity when they tour to play warm-up matches to get themselves attuned to the conditions, get themselves possibly attuned to the particular format of the game that they’re playing,” the retired Trinidadian cricketer added.

Former cricketer, now respected commentator and analyst within the sport, Daren Ganga. (Photo: YouTube)

Ganga further pointed to the psychological boost the West Indies could get from having a “very experienced bowling lineup that also has the confidence of winning the last Wisden Trophy against England”.

“I think that confidence is going to do the West Indies very well because these are guys who have a good track record,” he said, making specific mention of Kemar Roach – the Man-of-the-Series with 18 wickets in the 2019 contest – who is now closing in on his 200th Test wicket mark.

Roach, fellow pace bowlers Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Shannon Gabriel played key roles in last year’s 2-1 series victory in the Caribbean when the West Indies lifted the Wisden Trophy for the first time in a decade.

The quartet is included in the 25-man contingent that was selected in England, even though Gabriel, who is recovering from an ankle injury, is among the 11 reserves in that group.