Paceman Shannon Gabriel has talent to rough up England’s shaky top order

Paceman Shannon Gabriel has talent to rough up England's shaky top order

One vestige remains of the West Indian era when they were world champions: Shannon Gabriel. He is an old-time speedster, like Wayne Daniel or Patrick Patterson, not too concerned about what the ball does on its way to the batsman. Gabriel is quick, and mean, or at any rate no angel – he was banned from West Indies’ last Test for barging a batsman in Bangladesh – and he will make England’s batsmen smell hot leather.

All over the West Indies, especially Barbados, tremendous physiques are still to be seen, though not tall: this is a misconception. A photograph of the first West Indian Test team, which toured England in 1928, predictably has most of the batsmen sitting in the front row and the Afro-Caribbean bowlers standing behind – and taller than any was the white opening batsman Teddy Hoad.

“There were many of my contemporaries who I considered every bit as good as me,” said the finest fast bowler of all time, the late Malcolm Marshall, about growing up in Barbados and playing beach cricket or softball. But very few of these young talents have the means, such as a mentor or patron, to make it on to the ladder. Gabriel made it. He was born in central Trinidad – one of only five non-Barbadians in the West Indies squad of 13 for the first Test.

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