Holding advises teams to value spin threat at World Cup

Legendary former fast bowler Michael Holding is cautioning against discounting the value of spin at the upcoming 50-over Cricket World Cup in England and Wales, even if conditions are likelier to suit quicker bowlers.

Last Wednesday, the West Indies named a 15-member squad for the May 30 to July 14 cricket showpiece, which is deep in pace bowling potential but not as rich in the spin department.

In the absence — through a reported finger injury — of superstar spinner Sunil Narine, the off-break bowler Ashley Nurse is the lone, universally recognised specialist spinner included.

“Talking in theory, one spinner, these days, in a squad of 15 is a little bit low in count. I think most teams would be taking two spinners,” the Jamaican Holding told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, while noting he is not equipped to speak about specific West Indies selections since he has had little to no interaction with regional cricket in recent years.

It is believed the middle order batsman Fabian Allen, a handy left-arm orthodox spinner, is included in the West Indies squad mainly for his bowling, while veteran opener Christopher Gayle, who bowls off spin, is the other notable slow-bowling option available to Captain Jason Holder.

“The part-time thing doesn’t work that well in One-Day cricket anymore. Part-timers [tend to] go for a lot of runs these days,” argued the 65-year-old Holding, who claimed 249 wickets in 60 Test matches in addition to 142 victims in 102 One-Day Internationals for the West Indies.

The West Indies squad for the World Cup features specialist pacers Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell and promising youngster Oshane Thomas.

Gayle, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Andre Russell and Holder are expected to carry the batting load.

Seam bowling all-rounders Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, and Russell — if he is fit enough to bowl — are also expected to provide vital overs. It is likely that Russell will not be asked to consistently bowl 10 overs in an innings because of long-running knee problems. Nicholas Pooran, the exciting middle order batsman, and the established Hope are the wicketkeeping options.

Holding, whose first class career ran between 1972 and 1989, agreed with the general perception that pitches will heavily favour batting.

“What I suspect is that the pitches will be quite flat because it’s the World Cup — it’s not going to be a situation [in which] England are looking for an advantage. I don’t expect the ball to be seaming all over the place.

“How much movement the ball does through the air will depend on overhead conditions, but then again the white doesn’t move as much as the red ball. I don’t suspect bowler-friendly [pitches]; I expect there’ll be quite a few runs scored,” he explained.

Armed with years of experience playing and watching cricket in the United Kingdom, Holding pointed out that the weather there can be fickle, though it is traditionally dry during those months.

“I expect [it] to be dry that time of the year, but England is unpredictable — you can get some serious rain in the middle of summer,” he said.

Holding, regarded as one of the finest fast bowlers to have played the game, is a highly respected cricket broadcaster, providing commentary in various corners of the world.

He will be on duty for several of the West Indies games at the World Cup, plus their two official warm-up games ahead of the tournament.

Over those games he is likely get a first-hand look at the West Indies pace attack.

“I’ve seen Cottrell, Gabriel and Roach; I’ve seen all three of them because they’ve been around a while. Last time I saw Cottrell was back when West Indies toured South Africa, and I understand he has got better since that tour; I don’t think he was very effective [then]. Oshane Thomas, I know who he is, but I can’t tell you I’ve seen him or know much about him,” Holding told the Observer.

West Indies squad – Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Christopher Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas.

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