West Indies cricket March 3, 2013

Headaches for West Indies selectors

The selectors are likely to be pilloried whoever they pick for the upcoming Tests and ODIs and with their best players regularly unavailable, their job remains complicated

By its very nature, there are few more thankless jobs than that of the West Indies cricket selectors. In times of decline, as over the past two decades, when their options are limited and defeat is habitual, their judgment, even their motives, are questioned by a disgruntled public driven by insularity, by the media, by the players and their association, by prominent politicians and, yes, by board members who appoint them.

They are often subjected to virulent, open abuse, as Sir Wes Hall once noted when accosted by a young boy and his father in an airport lounge during his stint on the panel.

So, without getting overly sympathetic, spare a thought for Clyde Butts, Courtney Browne and Robert Haynes who have to deal with the further complications caused by the addition of Twenty20 to the international schedule and of the regular unavailability of their best players, either on West Indies duty, lured by the five and six figure contracts of domestic Twenty20 leagues or, at their request, given time off to "rest".

The present situation typifies their confusion. In the space of a couple of months, they have had to pick squads for all three formats - the 50-overs-an-innings ODIs and one-off Twenty20 in Australia and the three ODIs, two Twenty20s and two Tests against Zimbabwe; their next assignment is to choose 15 for the ICC Champions Trophy in England in June.

The regional tournament preceding the Australian trip was the Twenty20, hardly the proper preparation for players or guide for selectors for an ODI series. The 15 were chosen even before that started.

Paradoxically, while the top players were in Australia, the regional equivalent, the so-called Super50, was in progress. Back in the Caribbean, the squad was required to prepare for the Zimbabwean series that eliminated them from the simultaneous regional four-day tournament. Others were engaged in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL).

Clearly, standards were compromised. Trinidad & Tobago were without the Bravo brothers, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine; Barbados had to reconstitute their fast attack in the absence of Kemar Roach, Tino Best and Jason Holder (in Australia) and Fidel Edwards (in Bangladesh); Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Marlon Samuels (injured in the preceding Big Bash tournament) were missing for Jamaica.

Given the first-class status accorded the matches, much of it was counterfeit cricket. It left the selectors to assess the true value of performances.

What credibility would they attach, for instance, to Devon Smith's prolific returns in another low-scoring season (139 and 106 not out for Windwards against CCC, 99 against Trinidad & Tobago in the four-day tournament, 110 not out against Guyana in the Super50). Aged 31 and with 33 Tests (average 24.71) and 42 ODIs (average 26.68) behind him, does such form press for his return to the West Indies team?

Or are Kirk Edwards' 120 against Guyana and 109 against CCC enough for his reinstatement to the team from which he was dropped in England last year, following two centuries, five half-centuries and an average of 39.11 in his nine Tests?

And what about Nikita Miller's 10 wickets for Jamaica against Barbados that, following his 42 wickets in 2012, reinforced his status as the leading left-arm spinner at regional level? Or the advance of Chris Jordan, 24, a bowler of lively pace and good control with 15 wickets in Barbados' first three matches, and an outstanding fielder? And so on and so forth.

The same questions could be asked of returns in the current series against Zimbabwe, an inexperienced team at the bottom of the ICC rankings further diminished by lack of competition (next week's Test is their first since one in New Zealand more than a year ago).

Ramnaresh Sarwan is the most obvious case in point. A classy batsman with the background of a dozen years in international cricket and an average over 40 in both Tests and ODIs, he had been out of the West Indies team for 18 months for a variety of complicated reasons, most involving his relationship with coach Ottis Gibson and former West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief executive Ernest Hilaire.

He was fast-tracked back for the ODIs in Australia when it was apparent from his travails in the regional Twenty20 that he was not yet ready. He predictably struggled (scores of zero, zero and 12 before he was dropped) but, given another opportunity on his return home, he opened the batting and stroked 120 unbeaten against Zimbabwe in the second ODI.

He might not have been in the 11 hadn't Chris Gayle been given time off and Johnson Charles tweaked a hamstring in compiling his 130 in the first match.

So the selectors find themselves in a quandary over whether this was enough to merit Sarwan's return to the 11 for the two Tests against Zimbabwe and then for the Champions Trophy.

Gayle will be back for both, Charles, the most improved batsman in West Indies cricket, at least for the latter. Room has to be made in the Tests and the Champions Trophy for Marlon Samuels, who has given the assurance that the eye injury he sustained in the Big Bash in Australia in January is fully healed, and in the Tests for Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

That would settle five of the first six in the order for the Tests (Gayle, Kieron Powell, Darren Bravo, Samuels and Chanderpaul) with one batting place to be filled. The choice seems to lie between Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine and Kieron Pollard. Given his ability to destroy bowling such as Zimbabwe have on offer and the maturity he has brought to his batting over the past year (with two hundreds against Australia and one against India), Pollard deserves the chance to show what he can achieve in unrestricted, red ball cricket. If he doesn't get it now, after 75 ODIs and 33 Twenty20 Internationals, he never will.

It is up to the selectors and they know they are likely to be pilloried whoever they pick.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • VISHNU on March 6, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    Mr Cozier is 100% correct! Let us give Pollard his opportunity to represent the West Indies at the highest level after all he has proved his value and commitment to West Indies cricket. I am an avid fan of cricket though living in the USA for over 30 years and Mr. Cozier himself is no "green pea" as to his insight and bearer of cricket commentary around the world ... we should value his opinion and see wisdom in his suggestions. This is not even about my opinion or commentators or even the selectors but this is about the West Indies cricketing public who support the game midst all the chaos and confusion in our cricket for the last twenty or more years. They the selectors must put aside personal agendas... independent selfish thinking and seek to "embalm"themselves into the mindset of the cricket loving people of the English speaking Caribbean public. The selectors represent us .. the West Indian public and must rise above favoritism and myopic thinking and see the bigger picture,

  • Hildreth on March 6, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    NICE ARTICLE TONY. However I'm not sure about Pollard making his Test debut just yet. He has improved significantly in the longer ODI format in recent times but does that justify leaving out a regular or promising test player in order to include him in the 13 selected. To get into the final 11 he would have to replace Sammy or a batsman which at this point is very unlikely. My take on the test selection is that the selectors would want to go with the strongest squad AVAILABLE for the 2 tests. Also following CONSTANT CRITICISM that Sammy takes up a bowler's spot the WINDIES adjusted their test squad in Bangladesh very successfully with Ramdin batting at # 6 and Sammy at #7 allowing 4 bowling slots. All top 6 batsmen except Gayle got centuries and all the bowlers did well especially in 2nd test. Why change a WINNING STRATEGY? Team for 1st test could read: GAYLE, POWELL, BRAVO, SAMUELS, CHANDERPAUL, RAMDIN, SAMMY, PERMAUL, NARINE, BEST, ROACH. Likely extras Sarwan & Gabriel.

  • Dummy4 on March 4, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    Devon Smith..haha He is the one who made M.Hafeez from a part timer to an Allrounder as every time he got himself OUT on 1st ball of 1st ovr of M.Hafiz.. D.Smith test avg of just 20+ as an Opening batsman is so worst to be even considered as a Test Batsman..WI should mark some Bench marks for the team sleection an Opeing batmsan must have atleast 35+ Avg (as in modern crkct 90% wickets are suitable for batsmen and most teams have very weak bowling attack). Pollard should have given a chance not even chance he should play atleast 5 tests to show his maturity in this format too..(If Devon Smith & I remember Daren Ganga who also played many test with just avg 20+ odd as an opeing batsmen than why cant Pollard can acheive atleast 20+ bating avg at No: 6)

  • Dave on March 4, 2013, 6:05 GMT

    A lot of though has been put into these squads but i think would be perfect moving forward. Tests: 1.Gayle, 2.Powell, 3.Sarwan, 4.D.M. Bravo, 5.Samuels, 6.Chanderpaul, 7.Ramdin(Wktpr) (Capt), 8.Holder, 9.Rampaul, 10.Shillingford, 11.Johnson. (12th man.Deonarine, 13.C. Brathwaite, 14.Roach, 15.Benn)

    ODI's: 1.Gayle, 2.Powell, 3.Samuels, 4.D.M.Bravo, 5.Ramdin(Wktpr), 6.D.J.Bravo, 7.Pollard, 8.Sammy(Capt), 9.Holder, 10.Narine, 11.Rampaul. (12th man.Johnson, 13.Barnwell, 14.Russell, 15.Carter)

    T20's: 1.Gayle, 2.Walton(Wktpr), 3.Samuels, 4.D.J. Bravo, 5.Pollard, 6.Russell, 7.Sammy(Capt), 8.Kooper, 9.Santokie, 10.Narine, 11.Edwards. (12th man.Charles, 13.Badree, 14.Smith, 15.Beaton.

  • Earl on March 3, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    Is Sammy a better player than either DJ Bravo or Pollard? Either of these players would make the team stronger against the top teams in the world. It is a shame that players like Edwards,Jordan,Charles and Smith who perform admirably for their countries will see their good form not tried.Russel has now played himself off the team,so that will open a spot for some player.We have lots of good looking talent like Barath,Dowrich,Beaton and Gabriel who are going to have to be tried. Lets hope that they can get it right.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2013, 21:37 GMT

    This is not a case of having a group of rocket scientists choosing the test team. This is a no brainer. Does anyone really believe that this ZM team is ready for top level international competition? They should be playing Hong Kong. Argentina, et al. You are what your record, say you are! What WI selectors should do is to cobble up a team likes Smith, Barath, Simmonds, Barnwel, Cooper, Et Al - who would not normally be included in a side that is playing a more formidable opponent. The idea of having Pollard in the side is good, but a whose expence - Sawan, who has class, record and experience. Sammy is the person who is standing tn the way of of incremental progress. Sammy should be vying for a place with Pollard.If Sammy was not the captain by default, would he be selected for this match?My team is Gayle, Powell, Sawan, Bravo, Chanderpaul, Samuels, Ramdin,D Bravo,(capt)Narine, Roach, Best

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2013, 20:59 GMT

    without shiv,this team is a bunch of dead ducks,oh well the are playing zim.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2013, 20:46 GMT

    The test team should be

    Gayle Powell Sarwan Darren Bravo Chanderpaul Dwayne Bravo Ramdin(wtk) Sammy(c) Best/Roach Narine Rampul

    Unfortunately in test cricket Darren Sammy upsets the balance in the team as his bowling looks unthreatening in most test matches. Hence,the reason why you have to play Dwayne Bravo. Sarwan comes in only for test matches as this form suits his game better as well as chanderpaul. The WI selectors need to give Pollard a chance in the test team and expect more from Darren Bravo as he is not fully repaying the trust given by the west indies selectors. He has the backlift of Brian Lara but not the temprament. Bravo needs to covert the 30,40,50's into daddy 100's(big match winning ones). For the time being if you need another batsmen for the squad they should give Brendan Nash another chance if he is still around.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2013, 20:26 GMT

    Aaaahhhh, swarzi......were you watching Collis King when he was playing for the Legends/Over 40s??? When you say Pollard is a better all-round player that Collis, you kidding, right? Or do you mean because Pollard is more "round" than the athletically built Collis? Come on, man!! Get serious.