Liam Plunkett: ‘West Indies have some genuine quicks again

Updated: 25/05/2022

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One of my most abiding memories of watching cricket in the nineties is the West Indies fast bowlers, the likes of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose who could get even the best batsmen jumping around in the crease.

Ever since, it’s almost been a bit of a let-down for me if the West Indies haven’t had some good quicks, because that’s the way I’ve grown up watching their cricket. So it’s nice to see the current crop, who are real athletes. Guys like Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas are strong boys who can run up and bowl a ball fast.

With Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, who consistently top 90mph, we feel we can compete with them in that department too. A few years ago, I used to get really stressed out about my pace. When I bowl, the ball can come out anywhere from 81mph to 93mph with exactly the same action. I used to worry about it a lot, why couldn’t I consistently bowl at 93mph? But now I’ve actually learnt to appreciate that natural variation. A lot of batsmen in this World Cup play pace really well, so being able to mix it up is perhaps why I’ve been able to take wickets.

The media have been talking a lot about Jofra’s speed, but you can’t just rely on pace anymore in international cricket. Jofra has his heavier, quicker balls which can really ruffle batsmen, but he’s got his skills as well, which is why he’s dangerous.

The key batsman

Chris Gayle's sixes go further than anyone else's (Getty Images)
Chris Gayle’s sixes go further than anyone else’s (Getty Images)

Variations are key to trying to get Chris Gayle out early, because when he gets going, he’s hard to stop. It’s a big ground at Southampton, but guys like Gayle can clear any ropes in any part of the world. He’s such a good striker of the ball, and you know that if you miss your spots, you’re going for six.

There’s other players in the world like Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow who can take apart an attack in exactly the same way, hitting you for four, six, every ball. But with Gayle, his sixes just go further than anyone else’s, so it feels worse than it actually is!

When you face him, it’s about thinking on your feet. You look at how can you get him out early on, and when he gets in, how can you get him off strike and stop him scoring? You have to have plans A, B, and C, and if those don’t work, you try and adapt.

Gayle was particularly outstanding when we took on the West Indies on their own turf earlier this year. He batted in all kinds of different ways. In one game, he took his time to get to 100, and another game he went hell for leather. He was also supported really well by the players around him like Shai Hope who doesn’t hit it as far, but manipulates the ball very well, and is great at keeping the score ticking over.

That series was really competitive, one game we scored 400, and they came really close to chasing it down. 2-2 was probably a fair score in the end, but we felt we could have won. There was one game in Barbabos where we should have chased down 280, but they bowled really well. But we’re back to English conditions now, and hopefully that favours us.

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