“So long as this struggle known as life goes on, there will always be the music to fit the mood and make it better”, Patrick James Balthazor. As life continues to struggle against a deadly virus, it also aims to move on; in such a scenario the series between England and West Indies becomes even more pivotal, especially for sports.
There has always been a thrill to England and West Indies’ rivalry in Test match cricket. The level of competition is immense, the reward even bigger: the Wisden trophy.
The history of the coveted trophy has witnessed a number of heroic performances by some of the most remarkable players of our times. The world has witnessed a certain 24-year old amassing 829 runs and a 22-year old Jamaican walloping the English batting line up for breakfast.
Sir Vivian Richards and Michael Holding became household names post 1976 series. Malcolm Marshall blowing up a hapless English side at Headingly in 1984 with a fractured hand defined the intensity of legendry West Indian side.
Who can forget Graham Gooch’s 154* in summer of 1991, who played one of the greatest innings of all time standing amid the ramp walk of his teammates against Caribbean attack?
That said, as the West Indies will try to play out of their skins to contest England, which players from the hosts’ camp can dictate terms?
Dom Sibley: A young right-hand batsman from Surrey, Dominic Sibley had an impressive tour of South Africa where he racked up 324 runs in 4 Tests at an average of 54. His 133* at Newlands showed he could bat for long periods. At a time, when England is searching for an opening combination for its Test team, Sibley could ensure that he could nail one of the spots for a long period. In this crucial series, he is one player who might be a key figure to ensure that England gets a good start and defies a very good West Indian pace attack.
Sam Curran: A young 22- year old all-rounder who has a penchant for scoring crucial runs and taking key wickets, Sam Curran’s status as a player has risen in the past couple of years. His performance against India two years back ensured that English cricket will have the services of the youngest Curran brother for years to come.
As a batsman, Curran provides a much-needed boost to England’s lower middle order with Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, his runs have proved pivotal for the team’s cause and his left-arm swing bowling provided a much-needed variety to the English attack. He is one player who would be the key in England’s plan to provide much-needed breaks their 38-year pace spearhead, James Anderson. He surely will be a player to watch out in this series.
Jack Leach: After a troubled winter last year where Jack Leach suffered sepsis and his health continued to deteriorate, he saw himself falling out of the flavor of selectors. However, his inclusion in the 30 players squad indicates that he is in the team’s scheme and with Moeen Ali, Dom Bess, Matt Parkinson, and Amar Virdi the other four spinners in the squad, the competition is tough but there is no doubt he will lead the English spin attack in the initial phase of the summer. Leach has a penchant of not only bowling long spells but also picking up crucial wickets, his test though lies to be a consistent performer so that team’s long due jigsaw puzzle of the spin department is resolved.
James Anderson: How many bullets are left in the arsenal of England’s most potent weapon? The one who has continued to fire for over 17 years now, James Anderson might be 38 years old but still England’s premier pacer and probably the one from whom West Indies has to vary off. With tons of experience behind him and a favorable home, conditions make him a dangerous customer. Against the West Indies, Anderson has taken 82 wickets in 20 Tests, and in England; his record is even better (10 Tests 46 wickets at 20.08). He surely will have a major impact on the series.
Jofra Archer: The one battle every one would be looking forward to, Archer has been one of the most talked cricketers even before he made his international baptism. Choosing England over his native West Indies had not won him many friends in the Caribbean.
However, in his short career, Jofra Archer has shown a lot of promise and will surely be a key cog in the English bowling line up. However, England will have to be cautious of not overusing him just like they did in the last summer when he was totally out of gas by the time he landed in New Zealand.