The Roach resurrection

The delivery is 80.3 miles per hour, and Chris Woakes, England’s No. 9, pulls it like he’s facing a middle-aged England pro. It flies to the boundary. Next ball has some extra effort, it tails away late, and it takes the edge, but bounces before it reaches slip.

Kemar Roach puts his hands on his hips and looks towards nowhere; it’s not the first time he’s done that this series, or over the last few years. Like an embittered office worker who is staring out the window after another workplace disappointment.
There was a time when everything looked so effortless for Roach. From the moment he arrived in Tests he seemed destined for a great career. He was fast, and not inconsistently fast, not showy fast, but continually properly fast, and easy fast.

His run up was like poetry; there was no jerkiness, he wasn’t trying too hard, it was just an ever increasing jog into the crease finishing with 90 miles an hour (145kph) – and beyond – deliveries. He came close to the stumps, his wrist looked great, it was a teen dream action. Big chain flapping, top speed, and also sideways movement.

He looked like a 400 Test wicket player.

And he bowled like he believed it. This was a man who took on Ricky Ponting with the short ball, and won. Not through a catch on the boundary, or a pull shot smashed to mid wicket, Kemar Roach sent Ricky Ponting off the field, and into a hospital, after he slammed him on the arm. Ponting doesn’t do pain, to even admit that he was hurt was a huge thing, but to be retired hurt to go to a hospital, that’s massive.
From the start of his career until April 20, 2014, the dreamlike Roach took 85 wickets at 27. When the West Indies could keep him on the field – not often enough – he looked like a star. He took a ten-wicket haul against Australia at home, and worried more than a few batsmen with pace or movement, usually both. He was, as you would expect of a young quick with a fragile body, a bit up and down, but the talent was stupefyingly obvious, and a bowling average in Tests of 27 with almost a 100 wickets in this era is remarkable.

On the 20th of April 2014 this happened: “Roach, 25, crashed his BMW sedan after losing control due to slippery road conditions at traffic lights near Wanstead Drive, just outside Bridgetown. According to local reports, the car flipped several times before landing in the 3Ws Park, approximately half a mile from the 3Ws Oval.
Two wheels of the vehicle were broken off and the airbags deployed reports stated. Roach sustained a head wound but appeared coherent as he was taken by ambulance from the scene. Roach took to Twitter a few hours later after the accident to reveal to follows that he was recovering and in good health. “Sorry To Scare My Friends, Family And Fans But I’m Straight! Thanks For The Love! #BlessUp.”.

Since the crash, he’s taken 39 wickets at 36, and only one five-wicket haul.
It’s not as simple to just say the crash has changed him, but the Kemar Roach before the crash is not much like the one after it.

For two of his wickets this series, Roach has been comically wide of the crease, Colin Croft wide. The ball to Mark Stoneman at Edgbaston – which was so obscene it should be rated 18 – was delivered from very wide. And again today, the ball to Tom Westley was from wide on the crease, probably wider still, and it not only came in on the angle but swung in further as well.

If you look at the ball from 2009 when Roach smashing Ponting on the elbow, you’ll also see something completely different; his release was completely normal. Bowlers often play with the crease, and Roach certainly does that, he bowls from wide, or very wide. But that’s not what he was doing to Ponting, it wasn’t a surprise ball from close to the stumps, at that stage of his career he bowled close to the wicket all the time. And now he bowls wide of the crease all the time.

CricViz’s data over the last few years suggests he has gradually gone 30cm wider on the crease, although that data was still in its infancy when he started. The gap between where he bowls now and where he was bowling in 2009 looks closer to 60cm than 30. Roach said after the day’s play to Sky that it was a “technical problem” he was trying to work on, and was partly brought on by all the injuries he’s had.

That’s not the only change, the other one is partly from the accident, and partly from being an older bowler – Roach is no longer quick. His average speed on the opening day at Headingley was 83mph (133kph), his top speed was 85. It’s not slow, but it’s not busting-Ricky-Ponting’s-arm fast.

So instead of being a 90 mile-an-hour bowler from close to the stumps who can beat you with pace or movement, he’s now an 83mph guy from wide of the wicket with the occasional magic ball.

That doesn’t mean he’s finished, he was by far the best bowler at Edgbaston, and while that’s not saying much, with support from the other end he could have troubled England. Here, Roach got two of the three early West Indies wickets, and put them completely on top with a draining nine-over opening spell.

When he came back for his second spell, with Root gone, it was all about getting Ben Stokes.

He started with a full, wide one that had plenty of noise as it went through to the keeper, but was ultimately called not out. Stokes may have hit it, but the West Indies didn’t review, and even if they had, the evidence to overturn was probably not there.

Then Roach angled one in from around the wicket – he’s looked extraordinary coming round the wicket in this series – it moved slightly and bounced, all Stokes could do was edge it straight to second slip, who dropped it.

Then Stokes hit a couple of boundaries, so Jason Holder started one over by moving third slip into covers to slow him down. This time Stokes was driving, edging and the ball went straight through the newly vacant third slip area. Holder brought the slip back in, and Stokes smashed one through the newly vacant cover gap.

It was a great spell that made Stokes struggle, and it read in the scorebook 5-0-33-0.
It wasn’t even the Stokes moment that bothered him the most.

Roach was out at cover point; bowlers only ever go that far to pick up a ball when they have a spread field or to celebrate a wicket, Roach was doing neither, he could not believe another chance had gone down, he’s staring at nothing, fuming at everything.

This one was when he was bowling to Stokes again late in the day, he’d already taken Moeen Ali just as that partnership was getting dangerous. The wicket of Stokes late in the day was never going to be as pivotal as it would have been earlier, but it could end England’s innings.

Stokes had moved onto 98. But Roach keeps the pressure on him and Stokes hits the ball straight to mid-on. Shannon Gabriel couldn’t ask for a much simpler chance, and he couldn’t make a much bigger mess than this.

The next over Gabriel takes the wicket of Stokes, and then another, the whole team come in excitedly as England are going to be bowled out relatively cheaply. Roach is at fine leg. He slowly jogs in, he’s in no hurry to celebrate, when he finally arrives he gives Gabriel a somewhat emotionless high five.

A few balls later Woakes edges a Roach ball, it flies straight into the gloves of Shane Dowrich, and Roach stands mid-pitch pumping his fist. The release is intense and long; he now looks like a person who has received great news on a bad day.

He is no longer the teen dream; he’s now the elder statesman of the side. When West Indies start to leave the field, it is Roach who goes over to each player to shake their hands, give a high five, and slap them on the back.

Roach is not the exceptional talent he once was, he’s been wearied by time and life, but England are out for 258. The young man with effortless speed that sent legends to hospital no longer exists. The man who has replaced him looks exhausted, almost seems to be limping and is a bit hunched over, but he leaves the field with four wickets, and probably a few more thoughts of what could have been.

Source: (Cricinfo)

3 Responses to The Roach resurrection

  1. Alex Alleyne August 25, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    It’s time for WI batsmen to go out there and put in the hard work. Play the ball late and in the “V”.

    Reply
  2. VoR August 25, 2017 at 10:42 pm

    This article is a load of rubbish. Let Roach enjoy his day in the “sun” so to speak. Why dredge up the past and talk about how he’s not as fast as he once was.

    Just saw that the source was cricinfo. Psychological warfare no doubt.

    Reply
  3. Milli Watt August 26, 2017 at 9:54 am

    stupse

    Reply

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