Recently, West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach went past the great Michael Holding’s tally of 249 Test wickets, as well as the 250-wickets mark. There was, however, a very mild response to Roach’s feat, except in the Caribbean.
Despite his achievements at the highest level over the last 13 years, there is little doubt that he remains under-rated, an unsung stalwart in the long line of top-class West Indies pacemen.
A bowler of genuine speed in the first phase of his career, he was set back by an ankle injury.
He returned to carry the mantle of the leader of the pace attack, and is now sixth in the list of leading wicket-takers for the Windies in Test cricket – fifth among fast bowlers with off-spinner Lance Gibbs having 309 scalps to his name. Roach is now just seven wickets behind Joel Garner’s tally of 259 wickets.
Roach’s 252 Test wickets so far have come at an average of 26.83, similar to the legendary Wesley Hall’s 26.38 for his 192 wickets. It is close to Andy Roberts’ 25.61, for 202 wickets.
It may come as a surprise that Roach’s strike-rate of 52.7 deliveries per wicket is better than Wesley Hall (54.2), Curtly Ambrose (54.5), Andy Roberts (55.1) and Courtney Walsh (57.8).
Roach’s strike-rate is close to Ian Bishop’s 52.2. The best strike-rates among West Indies speedsters stand to the name of Malcolm Marshall (46.7), Colin Croft (49.3), Joel Garner (50.8), and Michael Holding (50.9).
Kemar Roach has been partnered by Shannon Gabriel in the last few years
Fast bowlers hunt in pairs, and for the last few years, Kemar Roach has been partnered by Shannon Gabriel (161 wickets, 31.84 average), supported by Jason Holder (142 wickets, 28.03 average).
In the last two decades, the West Indies have been a pale shadow of their former selves - of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and part of 1990s. Yet Roach has shouldered - literally and figuratively - the burden manfully.
With 10 five-wicket hauls in an innings, a ten-wicket haul in a Test, a best of 6/48 in a Test innings, there is little doubt that Roach ranks among the 10 best West Indies fast bowlers. Considering their lineage and pedigree, this is no mean achievement for one who soldiers on in the face of adversity for much of the time.
Lauding Roach for his control, Holding himself felt that it is a great achievement to pick up so many wickets these days when the pitches in the West Indies hold no joys for the fast bowlers.
At 34 years of age, Kemar Roach shows no sign of slowing down, and would have set his sights on the next goal of 300 Test wickets. Hopefully, by then, he will get the credit due to him.
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