Courtney Walsh, the former West Indies captain, thinks Kemar Roach is a "genuine great" as the Barbados quick eyes his 200th Test wicket going into the Test series in England. According to Walsh, Roach could leap to 300 wickets "quickly" if he manages his workload well in sync with Cricket West Indies.
Roach is seven short of becoming the ninth West Indies fast bowler to reach 200 Test wickets. No bowler has achieved this since Walsh's new-ball partner Curtly Ambrose got to the mark in 1994 when he castled Michael Atherton in Guyana. Walsh, who served as the interim coach with West Indies women's team recently, hopes Roach can get to the landmark in the first Test that starts on July 8 in Southampton.
"Tremendous milestone, to have another West Indian up in that bracket (200 Test wickets) is awesome," Walsh told ESPNcricinfo. "Kemar has been a friend of mine forever and I'm just happy for him. I can't wait for this to happen. I hope that he doesn't take long to get there. Hopefully, if he can get it [the milestone] out of the way in the first Test match, it'll be perfect as he could then relax and enjoy the rest of the series."
Roach has been a thorn for England since 2017, where he picked up a five-for at Lord's. He was instrumental in West Indies winning the Wisden Trophy 2-1 at home last year. Walsh said as much Roach needed to focus on the job and not the record, it was also the responsibility of the other West Indies fast bowler to take that pressure off him.
"He has to have someone like I had Curtly [Ambrose]," Walsh said. "He needs to have someone in this team who can probably give him a smile or something different to take your mind away from it. And that in itself will help him to relax. It's an achievement that not many West Indians have got there and he will be in an elite group of people who've done it. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
Walsh also felt Roach is more focused now than when he arrived as raw, young Barbadian who wanted to bowl with extreme pace. This Walsh put down to Roach's improved understanding of his own body, his game, his art, his skills, the conditions and how to adapt.
"He's got to a stage where he knows his game, knows what he wants to do, and how to go about doing it," Walsh said. "On days that it works for him, that's beneficial. He has got a stage where he knew his own personal game, knew what he wanted, knew how to go about it setting batsmen up and trying to get wickets and his patience level is very, very good.
"Sometimes as a fast bowler you're not patient and trying to get a wicket every delivery and it just doesn't work at all like that. Those days do come, but his patience shows he will stick around, and he knows what to do and how to go about achieving that. To me that is what has got him to be as consistent as he is now. His work ethic has gone up as well and he's doing all he can do to be one of the greats. He' s a genuine great. His achievement shows that. What I like about him is his mannerism: he's always cool and collected and he's prepared to work."
Walsh said for Roach to become even better and reach the next milestone of 300 Test wickets "workload management" would be the key factor. "Workload management is something that they can look at it," he said. "I don't think he has played a lot of shorter versions of the game. He has played a couple of ODIs and he's still good enough to do that. But it's up to him as an individual as well to set the standards, set the goals he wants to achieve. He will get 300 quite easily once the workload management is good and he is playing consistent cricket What you don't want to happen to him is that every time he comes back he starts all over again.
"So he has got to find a way and the groove of keeping that momentum going. Maintaining his body fitness and his skill-set. He'll get better with age and then just knowing his body and be consistent with that. Because one of the things, I remember saying to Glenn McGrath, when you get to a certain age, if you start to feel the muscles don't want to move the next morning and stuff like that, that's [a] problem. Once he knows how to manage his body and maintain that level of fitness and performance level match-wise and get match fitness going, then he's in a good place."