James Anderson's Test bowling average is 26.94. Kemar Roach's is 26.95.

Among Roach's other contemporary fast bowlers, Trent Boult, Morne Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Broad all have poorer averages than Roach.

Is Roach one of the world's best fast bowlers at the moment then?


Back in the Australian summer of 2015-16, no one would have dared ask that question. In a collective nightmare of a tour for West Indies' bowlers, Roach had it worse than his colleagues. In three Test matches, he sent down 246 balls, conceded 247 runs, and failed to pick up a single wicket.

It was the culmination of Roach's worst phase as an international cricketer. He had suffered two major injuries - shoulder and ankle - which had sent him home from tours of India in 2013-14 and South Africa in 2014-15. In between, in April 2014, he had escaped mostly unhurt from a car crash.

When he came back from the ankle injury, his pace - which had once consistently hovered around 90mph - had dropped significantly, and so too had his wicket-taking threat. He averaged more than 50 in three successive Test series - in England, against Australia at home, and in Sri Lanka - and the Australia tour brought him the ignominy of no average, and an economy rate of 6.02.

West Indies dropped Roach after that series, and he would spend 19 months out of the side before returning for the tour of England in August 2017.


Speaking to the Indian Express recently, coaches Peter Vaughn and Richard Straker revealed how they had helped Roach turn his bowling and mental state around after his axing from the West Indies team. Among the changes they made were adjustments to his run-up and pre-delivery leap, which enabled him to attain greater stability at the crease.

The work that went into Roach's action is evident when you view before-and-after footage of his bowling. In videos from the MCG Test in December 2015, he appears to be out of balance at the point of delivery, his left foot pulling away towards the off side as it lands on the crease.

In videos from the home series against England earlier this year, Roach is a bowler transformed. At release, his front leg is more or less perpendicular to the ground, and forms a lovely vertical line with his bowling arm.

With the mechanics of his bowling back in place, Roach has enjoyed the purplest of patches since his return, picking up 67 wickets in 17 Tests at an average of 20.98 and a strike rate of 43.7. Of the 31 bowlers with 50 or more wickets since the start of 2017, Roach has the sixth-best average and the third-best strike rate.


"Make the batsman play" - to understand that old adage, watch Roach's bowling from last week's Antigua Test against India. Four of his five wickets were from balls delivered from wide of the crease - from around the wicket in the case of the left-handed Rishabh Pant - angling into a tight line close to off stump, and straightening late to catch the outside edge. Each time, given the line and the initial angle, the batsman simply had to play. And the length was such that they had to defend.

The other wicket, of Cheteshwar Pujara in the second innings, came off a similar delivery, except it kept coming back in with the angle to bowl the batsman through the gate. That gate had been created by all the balls that Roach had moved away from the batsman, from roughly the same spot on the pitch.

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In Antigua, Roach made the batsmen play - that is, made them play defensive shots - more than any other fast bowler on either side. Of the 270 balls he bowled, batsmen defended 144 (roughly 53%) and were able to leave only 52 (19%).

The batsmen left a comparable percentage of deliveries from Miguel Cummins and Mohammed Shami too, but they also played more shots off those two than they did off Roach, who instead forced them to defend ball after ball. His line was relentlessly probing, his length seldom gave away the drive, cut or pull, and there was movement both ways to complicate life further.

This has been Roach's method since his comeback in 2017. The pace isn't of the furious kind that made Ricky Ponting retire hurt following a blow to his elbow at the WACA in 2009, but there's enough of it to keep punishing defensive errors. The thing that makes his bowling threatening, though, is the accuracy and the movement - mostly off the seam, and occasionally in the air too. Have a look at the 19 wickets he took against England this year. There's the odd bouncer, and the odd one up in the block hole, but by and large it's always on a good length, in that fourth-stump channel, doing a little bit this way or that, causing indecision to ferment into a potent brew inside the batsman's head.

This is a fast bowler in full control of his craft, ten years into his Test career.


No West Indies bowler has reached 200 Test wickets since March 20, 1994, when Mike Atherton played on to Curtly Ambrose for a second-innings duck in Georgetown, Guyana. Roach is currently on 189, and just ahead of him are two of the most celebrated names of West Indies fast bowling: Wes Hall (192) and Andy Roberts (202).

Have a look at their records.

Not bad, eh?

We began by asking if Roach is one of the best quicks of his time. Here's another question: is Roach on his way to becoming one of West Indies' fast-bowling greats?