Root’s absence hands ‘a bit of an advantage’ to us, says Roach

Kolkata, July 5 (IANS) West Indies pace spearhead Kemar Roach feels they will have a little bit of an advantage going into the much-anticipated first Test at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday as their opponents and hosts England will be without their batting mainstay Joe Root.

All-rounder Ben Stokes will become England's 81st Test captain in the match, which will also see the resumption of international cricket which has been halted since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Stokes will cover for regular skipper Root as captain.

Root, who has returned to Sheffield to be at his wife's side for the birth of their second child, left the secure bubble in Southampton earlier this week. He will self-isolate for seven days before joining up with the squad ahead of the second Test at Old Trafford starting on July 16.

“The fantastic stats he has…it's going to be a bit of an advantage for us. He is one that keeps England batting together,” Roach said in a video conference leading to the first Test match which will be aired live on Sony Six channels from July 8, 3.30 pm onwards.

“He has done fantastic for the last couple of years. But also it is a bit of a disadvantage as there are some new guys coming in that we have to work out and see what their weaknesses are. So it goes 50-50 I can say but as I said once we hit our straps and put the ball in the right area, we stand a very good chance,” said Roach.

On Stokes leading the side, Roach said he is a huge fan of the star all-rounder and expects the England side to express themselves freely under him.

“I am a huge fan of Ben Stokes. I think he is a fantastic cricketer. We all know how he plays cricket, he is very energetic. He brings a lot of energy to the field and a lot of confidence the way he bats and bowls. So I am expecting a free and relaxed England team to come out there and express themselves as that's the way he plays. I am sure with him at the head, they will be in good hands as well.”

Roach also said the Windies are working on how to negate the disadvantage of bowlers not being able to use saliva to shine the ball.

“It's going to be tough for us without saliva. I was seeing some talks about chucking it to the sweatiest guy…that's probably a great idea. There are some other things that we are trying. We are still working out what's the best way to go about it. I am sure we can find a remedy to get the ball moving before the Test match.”

Asked about playing in front of empty stands, he said: “It is challenging for sure. But I am sure they will find some way to keep it a little bit noisy and interesting.”

Roach also said staying inside the bio-secure bubble can get mentally draining at times but they have no option given the COVID-19 pandemic situation.

“It is a little bit of mental grain. Not being out, turn off the switch for a bit, have a coffee or go to the mall and do some shopping. It is tough but it is something new and we have to get accustomed to it I guess. Corona seems to be around for a bit so…it can be a bit challenging but it also gives you an advantage to focus on cricket a little bit harder.”



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