January 25, 2009

Stuck on Powell

Daren Powell, now 30, is unlikely to get any better and it is time for the selectors to move on

Has Daren Powell been given too much leeway? © Getty Images

Twice in the past few weeks, West Indian selectors have opened a fast-bowling cupboard once packed to overflowing with quality items, left on the shelf the few fresh goods now available, and chosen instead to recycle some old ones long past their use-by dates.

In Barbados, once the most prolific assembly lines for high-class fast bowlers anywhere, Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore, both the wrong side of 30 and committed to English counties under Kolpak contracts, were picked for the regional first-class season. So was Tino Best, whose 12 Tests for the West Indies brought 26 wickets at 45 runs apiece.

On Friday, the West Indies panel ignored the statistics on the label (32 Tests, 79 wickets, average 46.22; last 12 Tests - 32 wickets, average 51.43) and retained Daren Powell on their list for the first Test against England, starting February 4.

Collins, Collymore and Best have all served Barbados well over the years. Powell is an enthusiastic, indeed over-enthusiastic, cricketer not flattered by his record. But with Collins tied to Surrey and Collymore to Sussex by their Kolpak signatures, Best's spasmodic Test career almost certainly at an end and Powell now 30 and unlikely to get any better, it was time for the respective selectors to move on.

Repeatedly and justifiably accused of favouring pace over spin, their reluctance to change is now sending the wrong signals to emerging fast bowlers. Powell's case is compounded by a problem of indiscipline that has been one of the main reasons for the decline of West Indies cricket over the past decade.

If the potential successors to Wes Hall, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall and other exemplars of the past cannot be trusted to take the places of those with such unfavourable numbers against their names, when will they ever be? In addition, they see, in Powell's case, the retention of a player whose performance is clearly affected by his inability to control his emotions.

It was evident during the recent series in New Zealand, especially in the second Test in Napier when, riled by an advancing Brendon McCullum, he ran through the crease and deliberately threw the ball past the batsman. In the last ODI, the adrenalin rush of a short-pitched attack against McCullum and Jesse Ryder cost him 43 runs from his opening four overs. He is a better batsman than his Test average of seven indicates but time and again he has been out to inappropriate slogs and hooks.

New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori's gesture of shaking his head and pointing to his temple after one such dismissal in the Wellington ODI was disrespectful to a fellow sportsman but it told a story.

Clyde Butts, the chief West Indies selector, described the Napier incident as "bad for the team, for West Indies cricket, for the player and for the people of the Caribbean", adding that he was "surprised that no action was taken in the matter". Although Powell did go to the New Zealand dressing room next day to apologise, it surely merited sterner measures, if not from the ICC match referee, certainly from the team manager who is entrusted with the maintenance of discipline and the upholding of the reputation of West Indies cricket.

According to Butts, Powell "needs to be spoken to and spoken to strongly about his attitude". Perhaps he needs to be spoken to about his bowling record as well. If no one else has done so, Butts might point out the relationship between the two - to Powell and everyone else.

There is little doubt that captain Chris Gayle and coach John Dyson swayed Powell's selection. Dyson actually previewed it on the WICB website; Gayle's trust is a legacy of years together in the Jamaica team. Powell's five wickets against New Zealand in Dunedin last month, out of the 12 that fell, would still be clear in their memories. More than that would have been his rousing opening burst in the second innings of the second Test last May, when he and Fidel Edwards left Australia reeling at 12 for 4 at the end of the third day.

The venue then, as now, was Sabina Park, his home ground. At Friday's media conference announcing the team, Robert Haynes, the former Jamaica allrounder who is one of the three selectors, confirmed the Sabina advantage but indicated that it would be Powell's last chance. Noting that the team had been named only for the first Test, he said: "There will have to come a time when we decide that this bowler has had enough and we need to look at someone new."

It is an overdue option.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Pavan on January 28, 2009, 21:14 GMT

    As a New Zealander who watched the recent test and ODI series I was impressed how Sulieman Benn and Nikita Miller performed here. WI must definitely drop Powell but maybe they could try playing dual spinners in tests and ODIs? I feel for certain that we would have found the ODIs a lot tougher had Benn been playing.

  • Patrick on January 27, 2009, 21:45 GMT

    Mr. Cozier, I'm a past Jamaican and West Indian youth player and could not agree with you more on your assessment of Darren Powell. He has definitely been given or afforded a lot of chances by the WICB selection panels over the years. From my perspective he is an under achiever that does not have any respect for the game. I'm surprised that the ICC or even the WICB did not hand down any disciplinary action on him for his reckless abandon in the second test. I believe he does not deserve a place on the team just by virtue of his one or two good performances in the past. Why is it that the WICB cannot do away with this "baggage" they have carried for so long and look towards the future by giving some youngster that is hungry to represent the West Indies and perform at the highest level? This leaves me to believe that the current selection process is not functioning as it should.

  • Ian on January 27, 2009, 3:05 GMT

    What happened to ravi rampaul? last I heard he was in the team getting wickets and stuff....?I will always remember that match against SA where the guy cried....we always talk about commitment...see it there!

    and runako morton?

    i found morton to be useful in the Test arena...what happened to him?

    big problem is West Indies team selection....some moron insists that we don't have a middle order.... in the one day team...i'm still baffled that sarwan was moved to #3 to bat... yes...the best bat is at 3...but look at... he was OUR finisher! UNDENIABLY! anyone remember the 2003 world cup?

    shifting down to 5 or 6...would CERTAINLY....add SOME level of depth to the batting!!!

  • Imran on January 26, 2009, 20:10 GMT

    Have always respected Tony Cozier.

    But have to disagree with him on Powell.

    Problem with the Windies is not that powder puff bowlers get selected voer and over again, PROBLEM is Dyson.

    In a world of failures Dyson probably ranks just above Siddons the poor Bangaldesh coach.

    How and why Windies persist with Dyson is beyond my understanding!

    You gave the world Gibbs, Hunte, Weekes, Worrell, Walcott, Sobers, Kallicharran, not to mention Richards, Marshall, and Garner..oh yes before I forget a fan favorite Jeff dujon..yet you need a third rate coach like Dyson, why?

  • Rajesh on January 26, 2009, 18:16 GMT

    I agree with Tony Cozier but it's not just Darren Powell, so many of the new bowlers the West Indies have tried over the past few years have just looked so ordinary that it leaves one wondering how these bowlers actually reached test level at all. Perhaps that says it all about the quality of resources available in the West Indies these days.....

    But this also brings to light the fact that not just the advantage of height and big muscles can make one a world class fast bowler. Even today West Indian fast bowlers look big & strong just like their predecessors but the similarity ends there ! These people are not even 1/4th of what the great pace quartet were...... Oh, how I long for a Michael "Poetry In Motion" Holding or the classically brutal Andy Roberts !!

  • Kelron on January 26, 2009, 15:16 GMT

    I, myself, have become very frustrated with the general performance of the West Indies. However, I believe that the players (particularly Powell) need another chance to prove themselves. I say this because I am currently in New Zealand and saw the matches here recently and do not believe that the tour can be used to properly evaluate the players because of the poor umpiring on display. This maybe dismissed by some as an excuse. But it is not just an excuse when our team consistently payed harshly for wrong decisions made by the Umpires. Our boys need another chance in a less unfortunate environment to prove themselves.

  • Audley on January 26, 2009, 7:13 GMT

    It is time to pull the plug on the "Powell Experiment", which has failed, miserably. He has not progressed over the past 5 years. In fact, most of his key performance indicators for his primary function - bowling, (Avg: 46.22/Econ: 3.42/SR: 81.00) in tests, continue to deteriorate instead of showing improvement, which would "legitimize" his selection. Although he is a reasonable ODI bowler, based on his recent performances in test matches, I am shocked at his inclusion in the squad for the 1st test. At age 30, Powell is unlikely to improve so I would prefer to see a younger bowler, eg. 20 year-old Kemar Roach, given a chance.

  • Prince on January 26, 2009, 5:51 GMT

    Well,Tony,I admire your articles & your commentary thoroughly.However,I doubt if there is enough talent in West Indies for replacement of Powell.To be fair,almost all the West Indian players in this current team,except for Gayle,Chanderpaul,Sarwan,& Bravo,are mediocre.You watch the likes of Chattergoons & Pollards & it's difficult not to mourn.Even Bangladesh seems to have more talent in hand than West Indies.West Indians talk about Jaggarnauth a lot,but when I saw him in a test,he looked innocuous.Sure,he deserved more chances,but I'm not sure whether it would have made any difference.I believe that there are lots of real gems hanging here & thereabout in West Indies but are not being spotted.Personally,I don't think replacement of Powell by another current player would make any difference.

  • Steven on January 26, 2009, 1:37 GMT

    Cozier the West Indies can have one of the best ODI side presently playing but the selectors must realise that some of the people they have rejected hhave improved and may actually prosper now as everybody seems to be rebuilding. we have been doing that for the past 10 years. Check out this ODI side;- Chris Gale, Andre Flecther (kpr), Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo, Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard, Ryan Hinds, Dwayne Smith, Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach,

    and the TEST side;- Chris Gale, Dale Richards, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, Renako Morton, Ryan Hinds, Dwayne Bravo, Dinesh Randin, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards


  • StJohn on January 25, 2009, 21:03 GMT

    An article that identifies a problem without really giving a solution: whom if not Powell? Best is still only 27 altough he seems to have been around forever; Collins is 32 & Collymore 31. All, including Powell, still have something to offer & Collymore in particular was rated in the Test bowlers' Top 10 only a couple of years ago & his average is better than all the other current WI quicks. Without a standout match winning quick - although Edwards is showing signs of marked improvement - WI's best option is to pick a competent pace bowling unit, with each bowler bringing something a little different to the party. Picking someone younger & new, like Kemar Roach, is also an option. But WI's optimal pace attack at the moment is Edwards, Taylor, Bravo & either Collymore or Powell. If Bravo is still injured, then Powell & one other, probably Collymore, will have to play. But it's right that WI should develop its spin options: the attack is looking very one-dimensional these days.

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