Kemar Roach: Need to adapt while playing in bio-bubble environment

Roach is looking forward to a memorable outing against England and is confident that West Indies will regroup before the first Test, starting July 8. 

Kemar Roach, who is a part of the West Indies Test squad arrives at Manchester Airport.   -  GETTY

Kemar Roach is no stranger to English conditions. In fact, the West Indies quick has time and again admitted that he enjoys playing in England. And his track record against the England is impressive – 42 wickets in 10 Tests.

Things however, are different this time. Ever since touching base in Manchester on Tuesday for a three-match Test series, the West Indies players have gone for their mandatory 14-day quarantine in a bio-secured facility at the Old Trafford.

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As the world grapples with coronavirus pandemic, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has taken all the initiative to ensure health and safety of the West Indies players.

Roach, however, is looking forward to a memorable outing against England and is confident that the Caribbean side will be able to regroup before the first Test begins on July 8. 

In an interview with Sportstar from Manchester, Roach opened up on a range of issues.

As international cricket is set to resume after almost four months, what are your thoughts?

I always relish the opportunity to come to England and to play for the West Indies. A lot of changes are being made to ensure we can operate in this new atmosphere. Therefore, it’s all about adapting and keeping yourself in a cricketing mind state. It will be an interesting and challenging tour, so I am really looking forward to the opportunity.

Since the team has reached England quite early, how do you plan to utilise this period?

With the social distancing and curfew situation in Barbados (and around the Caribbean), we haven’t been able to do our regular training. I think coming to England early, gives us a little bit more time to prepare. It gives us a fair chance to ensure that we are mentally and physically ready for the first Test, starting on July 8.

During the last three months of lockdown, how did you keep yourself fit and motivated? How tough will it be for all the players to quickly get back to shape ahead of the Test series?

Obviously, being home and not being able to go to the gym and field was very tough. However, I made sure to get in the work that I could. I focused on running and doing home workouts (provided by the Cricket West Indies S&C). I think the worst of it (for cricketers) is now gone and with the assistance of the coaching unit, we will get ourselves back to proper cricketing fitness to ensure that we are ready for this series.

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For the first time, a Test series will be played in a bio-bubble environment - something which is quite unique. How challenging is it to get used to it?

Obviously, no one is accustomed to this, but it’s something we must get used to. Being in your room a lot more than usual is probably a little more taxing on the brain. However, we’re here for cricket. If you can’t go out, be sure to bond with your teammates and think of ways to improve your game. It’s both good and bad, but as I said, it’s all about adapting.

Do you feel that the bio-bubble environment will be a sustainable model in the future?

Personally, I don’t think it’s here to stay. For me, we just need to continue following the protocol, as long as it remains, to ensure that we are keeping ourselves and the people around us safe. Right now, it’s undeniably the best way to go, but hopefully we will go back to something close to normal in the future.

How different or challenging will it be to play in front of an empty stand? After all, fans make the sport more interesting. Your take on it?

It will be new for all of us. Especially considering how passionate the English spectators are about the sport and how we as West Indians tend to enjoy these atmospheres. We will miss their clapping and their cheering; we will not be hearing that and it will be tough. It may seem quite boring, but West Indies must remain focused on the task at hand.

Kemar Roach has an impressive record against England, taking 42 wickets in 10 Tests.   -  AP

 

The ICC has introduced quite a few changes in the rules, with the ban on saliva for ball shining being the most significant move. For a fast bowler, how challenging will it be to not shine the ball with saliva?

That is definitely going to be an interesting challenge. I am eager to see the alternative that the ICC will give us to spit-shining the ball. Playing cricket for so many years and using saliva to help keep the ball moving, it will be tough. So I’m excited to see what we can put in place to help the bowlers keep the ball glossed and shine.

What are the challenges that you feel could the players face in the England series, in regards to the rule changes?

There are always a significant number of challenges when playing a team like England. However, regarding the ongoing situation, I think the atmosphere (or lack thereof) will play a major part. It gets very cold in England and with no fans in the stands, that may be magnified.

There won't be celebrations, no hugs, no high-fives. Do you think that COVID-19 has taken the charm out of cricket?

This pandemic has changed a lot of things and cricket is no different. I want to see how it goes, but I know it won’t be the same and it will take a certain level of adaptation to cope with these things.

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For the next few weeks in England, what are the targets for you and the West Indies team? And realistically, how challenging will it be to stay motivated in such trying times?

It’s all about staying together and supporting each other. We know it’s tough times, but we are motivated by the fact that we have the Wisden Trophy and we can come here to defend it. Once we plan well and execute our plans, I think we stand a very good chance of taking that trophy back home. We must remain positive, play cricket in the best way we can and challenge the English players in their own conditions.

The ICC has allowed the teams to replace players if they develop COVID-19 symptoms during a Test match. Do you think such a move is necessary in such a time?

The ICC must always look at ways to keep its stakeholders safe and if a substitute is one of the practices they deem necessary, we will accept that and use it, if necessary. Hopefully, no one gets sick, no one gets ill and we can go whole Test matches and whole series’ without cases. I’m just keeping my mind focused, concentrating on the positives and looking to play some good cricket, before getting back home safely to my family. 

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