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January 1, 2009
West Indies batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan has said the youngsters in the squad need to improve their performances if they are to be a permanent feature.
"We're the most experienced and it's important we try to give the young players as much support as we can but it's important for them to learn as well," the former captain said. "It's a great chance for them to cement a place in the team and that should be the biggest goal for them, striving to be better players. We've already spoken to them, but it's a matter of them seizing the opportunity."
Sarwan mentioned no names but at least nine of the 15-man squad, currently touring New Zealand, are playing for their immediate, some for their long-term, futures.
Sewnarine Chattergoon has yet to put together a significant innings since introduced as the latest in the long line of opening batsman last season in the home series against Sri Lanka and Australia this year.
Xavier Marshall is more likely to be retained for the forthcoming series against England in the Caribbean, either as Gayle's opening partner or separating Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the middle order. But runs in the ongoing ODI series against New Zealand will boost his confidence.
Shawn Findlay who, given his modest record for Jamaica, was a surprise choice when included in the ODI series against Australia, is an electric outfielder but seems out of his depth at this level in his primary role as left-hand batsman.
Carlton Baugh has almost had the last of his many chances as wicketkeeper-batsman. It is a position that Denesh Ramdin appeared to have claimed as his own until his batting declined so markedly that it allowed Baugh to return. Runs over the coming five matches are important for his status.
Kieron Pollard's star has pitched since his sensational entry into first-class cricket two seasons ago when his six-hitting put spectators in danger and embarrassed bowlers. His boundary-filled hundreds against Barbados and the Leeward Islands earned him a place in the World Cup squad but he has found runs, far less sixes, hard to come by since then. Still, he is only 20, massively built and powerful and clearly talented. As much as anyone, he can heed Sarwan's words about learning, striving to be better players and seizing the opportunity.
Darren Sammy, perhaps not as dynamic but an honest and intelligent all-rounder already with a taste of Test and ODI success, is an alternative not far away from a recall.
After six years, 32 Tests and 50 ODIs, Daren Powell is surely on his way out. He is an enthusiastic competitor but it is an extravagance to pay 46 runs a wicket in Tests as he does. Only a cupboard bare of fast bowlers and the strange selectorial reservations about spinners have kept him going.
New fast bowlers should be lining up to fill his spot and potential spinners continuing to wait patiently to be given their due.
Lionel Baker, the young Montserratian, is the first new fast bowler since Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul five years ago. The first two now lead the attack, Rampaul has been so unlucky with injuries his prospects are doubtful.
The door is open for the new crop, as it always is with West Indies selectors. Baker has been ushered through it but it will take time to establish whether his stay will be permanent. Sulieman Benn and Nikita Miller, two left-armers of different heights and methods, are the latest spinners on the roller coaster.
The selectors have surely got them wrong way round, using the beanpole Benn for the Tests and the diminutive Miller in the ODIS.
The former is flat through the air, steady in control and gains bounce, attributes more effective in the shorter (Twenty20 even) than the longer form. He has suffered the habitual fate of those of his ilk, given one Test here, one Test there along with three Twenty20s. No wonder he is still not sure of his role.
Miller, who depends more on flight and turn, has so far been confined to the ODIs where he can hardly express himself properly.
The decision to choose Benn for the Tests and the Twenty20s in New Zealand, but replace him for the one-dayers would be confusing were it not a West Indies selection.
While the five ODIs are in progress, the first-class season would have started back home. Results from both will shape the composition of the team for the series against England in February and March and even beyond.
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