May 18, 2014

Where are West Indies' allrounders?

Apart from Dwayne Bravo, there's only one suitable candidate for the No. 6 and third-seamer position, and he's not going to be playing New Zealand

There is one immediately evident deficiency in the West Indies training squads of 20 for their three forthcoming home Tests against New Zealand and the additional nine for the High Performance Centre's almost-simultaneous series against Bangladesh A.

It is the dearth of genuine allrounders, more specifically those capable of batting at No. 6 and bowling decent spells as third seamer in an attack liable to rely heavily on spin.

Of those called up to prepare for the New Zealand series only Dwayne Bravo, reinstated four years after his last, and 40th, Test, qualifies. His value is dependent on his full recovery from the shoulder injury sustained in the 2014 IPL and on how quickly he adjusts to the demands of five-day cricket following his extensive, almost exclusive, involvement in the abbreviated formats.

The reason for such a shortage is straightforward. With the exception of the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia and, occasionally, Kensington Oval in Barbados, slow home pitches no longer encourage fast bowling or uninhibited batting. The effect is that bowlers resort to spin, insecure batsmen struggle, and allrounders fade away.

Throughout Darren Sammy's tenure as captain, his modest medium-pace bowling and batting position as low as No. 8 was said to be unbalancing the XI. That he should make way for someone else. In Bravo senior's absence, whether through his preference for T20 franchises or the selectors' choice, there was realistically no one else to fill the role. On Bravo's return, there is.

With no room for both in the XI, Sammy's Test averages (21.68 batting, 35.79 bowling), more than his captaincy, led to his replacement by Denesh Ramdin and his decision to quit Tests altogether.

Apart from Bravo, those summoned to pre-series camps for New Zealand and Bangladesh A contain only one other allrounder with the potential to suit the immediate requirement - and he is in the HPC, rather than the Test, squad.

Carlos Brathwaite is a strapping, 6ft 5in Barbadian who impressed the selectors enough to be chosen for a couple of white-ball matches in Bangladesh in 2011.

They subsequently lost interest until the recent domestic first-class season, when his returns included his first hundred and timely spells of lively pace. His spirited strokeplay and his bowling match his physique. More batting consistency and a little more pace would boost his worth.

His overall record after 20 matches is respectable: 811 runs at 27.96 and 51 wickets at 20. Given the current standard of domestic cricket, such numbers might be overvalued. He requires more experience to determine whether he can make the transition to the higher level.

Otherwise, the cupboard is bare, with no hint of change.

There was no allrounder in the team to the Under-19 World Cup in February. Statistically, Ashley Nurse, who bats below his station at No. 8, entered the category with a batting average of 42.57, and his maiden hundred, plus 32 wickets at 18.43 for Barbados in the 2014 first-class season, but he is primarily an offspinner.

The player who would be an ideal back-up for Bravo will be on the other side next month.

West Indies have already encountered the powerful batting and nippy bowling of New Zealand's 23-year-old left-hander, Corey Anderson. He whacked an incredible 131 from 47 balls, with 14 sixes, off them in an ODI on New Year's Day. In the preceding three Tests, he contributed useful runs and wickets.

England's Ben Stokes, 22, is another of the kind of young cricketer West Indies could do with at the moment - a left-hander capable of a Test hundred against Australia and a right-arm seamer swift enough to keep batsmen honest.

They are at the start of their careers. There is no certainty their early promise will flourish but it is better to have them now than not.

Australia (Shane Watson), Bangladesh (Shakib Al Hasan) and India (R Ashwin) presently enjoy the benefit of a solid, established allrounder. South Africa's quest to replace Jacques Kallis, unquestionably the best of his time, is sure to be long, probably futile. Vernon Philander temporarily fills the breach with his incisive new-ball bowling (112 wickets in 23 Tests at 20 each) and forthright late-order batting (average 27.45).

West Indies' problem is compounded by their bowlers' inability to contribute even marginally to the total, as Philander does for South Africa, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan for England, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc for Australia, and Malcolm Marshall did during West Indies' glory days in the 1980s.

The current tail-end is little more than a hat-trick waiting to happen. There were four ducks for the last four batsmen in the first innings in Wellington last December.

The overall figures are damning. In their 19 completed Test innings over the past two years (against England, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and India) the last four wickets average 41.68. Discount the 185 for the last wicket between Ramdin and Tino Best in the third Test against England at Edgbaston in 2012 and it plummets to an underwhelming 33.72.

A Garry Sobers comes along once in a hundred years. It is fanciful to believe another is not far off. Such greatness cannot be ordered off the internet. After Sobers retired in 1974, West Indies were still well served by competent, if not great, allrounders such as Keith Boyce, Bernard Julien and Carl Hooper.

It is an assignment for coaches in the Caribbean to promote the development of a new group. The emerging players clearly have the incentive.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Michael on May 23, 2014, 11:22 GMT

    Carlos Brathwaite was the most promising of the all rounders before he had a serious knee injury about 2 to 3 years ago,and is only now coming back into his own.This season in the just concluded 4 day competition,he was seriously under bowled,having only bowled 99 overs in 7 matches.,with Benn and Nurse bowling 261.5 and 215 overs respectively. Brathwaite used to open batting and bowling when playing for a local club side before the injury,while Nurse is considered more of a batsman in Bdos' Elite Division Cricket,and surprisingly has more First Class wickets than local wickets.He has never been in the top ten of local bowlers since he started playing cricket here.

  • Viran on May 23, 2014, 8:49 GMT

    Would Mr Cozier be asking this question if the WI administration had made any sort of effort to convince Chris Jordan to play for WI instead of England? Even when he was struggling to break into the first team at Surrey it was clear that he had huge potential yet we have let him slip through our fingers. Come on WI we need all the help we can get!

  • siddhartha on May 23, 2014, 7:18 GMT

    i think any test XI should have genuine players instead of tits and bits players. AN all rounder should be included in the XI only if he is good enough to bat within top 6 (or top 7 if you have a really good keeper batman). In my opinion an ideal test XI should have 7 batsmen who averages between 40 and 50. And four bowlers whose strike rate is between 50-60.Good all rounders are always a luxury but that does not mean that you include any player who can ball a bit and bat a bit.

    Ideal Test XI for Indies- 1.Gayle 2. Powell 3.Edwards 4.Bravo 5. Chanderpaul 6.Samuels 7.Ramnarine 8.Narine 9. Roach 10.Rampual/Miller 11.Taylor

  • kent on May 20, 2014, 11:23 GMT

    @crockit. I hope you are not missing the point here.WI need to target the young cricketers. Encourage and develop a mindset that allows them to multitask, that is go beyond your normal skillset.Designated batters who have bowled in their junior years should be encouraged to do so at higher levels, similarly bowlers should be urged to improve their batting.Out of the many tried, one or two will come through.Lets not wait for the bright prospective allrounder, which is clearly not happening right now.Even the term should be changed to utility player, the player who can turn up when needed without either bat or ball and perform solidly, does not have to be outstanding.There are many players out there that can do that for WI. Lets identify these players and work on their abilities as well as approach and outlook on the game.Also with the young players the coaches should recognise the ones who show allround potential and hone their skills.Crockit instead of moans and cries lets strategise!!

  • a on May 20, 2014, 8:30 GMT


    Dwayne Smith (31) came firing out of the blocks as a batter when he first played test cricket but was dropped because of poor performances. Simmons (29) has played tests and similarly performed poorly overall. Pollard (27) has good first class batting average but barely makes ODI team.

    They are all fine cricketers but none warrant opportunies above either better specialist batters or better established test allrounders like Bravo and Deonarine or potential ones like Braithwaite.

    As for Sobers - he does not support your case - sure he started low but he had already had a go as test opener in his teenage years and by 22 had made the then highest score in test cricket (365). Sure people go on improving in some cases well into their 30s but the 3 allrounders you and @delboy tout could at best make it to the status of test batters who bowl a bit given that they show no disposition to bowl anything above medium pace

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2014, 23:45 GMT

    Any test team with Gayle and Samuels as main batsmen are destined for defeat. And please remember that a test can be only won by taking 20 wickets, which in WI still need to take about 4 more wickets.

  • kent on May 19, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    @delboy @ crockit. Delboy I like your thinking.We must endeavour to add dimensions to our cricketers,if Simmons can bowl, we can discover how good by giving him the opportunity, along with others I mentioned in a previous post, Barnwell should be added to this list.Mr. Crockit, you are demonstrating the kind of myopic vision that is part of the problem Mr. Cozier has emphasized. If we cannot get allrounders, then lets make a few.Remember the greatest of all Sobers, started as a bowler and his batting was so inconsequential that he came in low down in the order.Imagine if he decided to remain a bowler, the world would have missed out on a genius.All may not fit the bill, but just perhaps we can find one or two to do the job, or maybe another Sobers!!! We in the WI must become more creative in our thinking.For instance we lament the fact that the tailenders cant bat, but what have we done at the coaching level to address this situation. have we encouraged our youngsters to multitask?

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2014, 14:19 GMT

    Christopher Barnwell......

  • Android on May 19, 2014, 12:47 GMT

    please no andree russel .he never performer.can we have reliable allrounder?

  • a on May 19, 2014, 8:35 GMT

    DelBoy - Mr Cozier is referring to tests - Smith, Simmons and Pollard would not be significant wicket takers in the longer format.

    Interesting article Mr Cozier where your description of a couple of up-coming players actually shows the cupboard is not so bare at all. What has to be considered is the need for a squad to cover the eventualities one faces.

    On a flat slow track in the Windies or a spinning one in the subcontinent two front-line spinners may be called for but in that context one only really needs a third seamer if one of the two seamers breaks down. By contrast on a more seaming track why would one play two spinners rather than one and three frontline seamers? Having guys who can hold a place with one suit but also perform at least ok in another is simply a bonus - Windies have both Deonarine and Bravo and a little bit of ok part-time from Gayle and Samuels. I appreciate your point that it would be useful if more runs came from the bowlers.

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