Mental 'test'

Mental 'test'

Blackwood says he has toughened up mentally for Bangladesh Test series

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, January 28, 2021

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WITH a firm belief that his technical ability has improved over time, West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood says his focus is on strengthening his mental resolve for the tasks ahead in their two-match Test series against Bangladesh.

Blackwood, who has been in good form since returning to the West Indies set-up in July, playing two of the most entertaining Test innings of the year — a match-winning 95 in England and a counter-punching 104 in New Zealand — expressed confidence that he can continue the upward trend when the first Test bowls off on February 2.

Still, the Jamaican, who has been assigned as vice-captain for the series, is wary of the batting challenges that come with playing in the South Asian country's conditions.

“Here you have totally different surfaces than in England and New Zealand, where the ball comes onto the bat quicker. So, I am just preparing mentally for the challenge ahead because we know that these wickets here are going to probably play similar as in the Caribbean, where we are going to get a lot of spin and balls will keep low and all that.

“So I am not too much thinking about the bowlers Bangladesh have, I am just thinking about my process – and once I do that I am going to score runs regardless of who I play against or where in the world I play,” Blackwood told reporters during a press conference on Zoom yesterday.

He continued: “These types of surfaces are very slow so I have to be ready mentally because I can't do too much technical work right now. But I know it is going to be pretty slow and [the] ball is going to spin and all that so mentally I am getting ready, and that's the most important thing.

“Once I am ready mentally everything else will take care of itself; and I am batting very good in the nets so I am just looking to transfer that in the middle. I have been in Bangladesh for a while now, so I am just eager to go out and play some cricket.”

Blackwood, whose 427 runs scored across those two series at 42.70 earned him a spot in the ESPN Team of the Year last year, pointed out that his recall to the regional side — after an enterprising four-day season for Jamaica — and his successes since then were largely due in part to some serious introspection while sitting on the sidelines.

The 29-year-old revealed that during that soul-searching period, he also took sound advice from compatriot and limited-over superstar Andre Russell, which has resulted in him now being on top of his game.

“I have been out of the West Indies team for almost three years and I took that time to reflect on my game and how I was playing and how I was getting out, and I just did some work on my mental space and just went back and trained very hard.

“I trained twice a day, hit the gym every day and put in a lot of hard work trying to stay as fit as possible to come back as strong as possible – and you can now see the results,” Blackwood shared.

“I spoke to [Andre] Russell about me not scoring runs or me not pushing on to score more hundreds, because that is something I need to improve on, and as you can see I am slowly improving. My shot selection is better and I am starting to understand my game very well, so that's a positive for me; and going forward I want to do the same,” he added.

That said, the Westmoreland native, who first broke into the West Indies Test squad in June 2014, is now ready and willing to play the anchoring role in the batting department in the absence of Jason Holder and Roston Chase, among others, who opted out of the tour for COVID-19-related and personal reasons.

For some, the new role and responsibility would come with additional pressure but for Blackwood, it is another step in the right direction and further motivation to continue performing efficiently.

“For sure, once I continue doing what I am doing, there is no doubt. I am in a good frame of mind right now and I am just trying to stay positive as much as I can.

“I am very confident right now and I am just looking forward to going out there and just playing the same cricket that I have been playing for the last few months since I have been back. It's a little bit of pressure but I am used to it, so it is not going to be a big deal for me,” the right-hander noted.

However, the middle-order batsman continues to back his teammates to play their part in ensuring a successful series, especially after the Bangladeshis swept the ODI series 3-0.

“John Campbell, Kraigg Brathwaite, young [Shane] Moseley and myself, I think we have a pretty decent line-up, and once we can go out there and stick to our game plan I don't see how we won't post some good totals this series. We have been training very hard for the past couple weeks and things are looking pretty well and I have full confidence in this batting unit to get the job done,” Blackwood ended.

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