January 29, 2003

In support of Devon Smith

Last week, when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced that young Jamaican middle-order batsman Marlon Samuels would be returning to his native Jamaica for an MRI as a precaution, speculation was rife among West Indian fans as to his possible replacement if he was not cleared in time for the team's departure to the ICC World Cup.

One can imagine the furore and lively discussions that followed when the selectors announced on Sunday that Samuels' replacement would be Barbadian left-arm all-rounder Ryan Hinds. Prior to the selectors' announcement, there was much speculation - especially in the media - that this would be young Devon Smith's turn to wear the West Indies colours.

Last year, in the Busta Cup, Smith was the second highest run-getter; only Stuart Williams scored more runs than the Grenadian opener. The year before (2001), Smith was the chief batsman on the West Indies' Under-19 tour of England. He scored a mammoth 169 versus England Under-19 in the second Test and followed up his good performances with an incredible 2002 Busta Cup Series for Windward Islands. Smith's 750 runs with an average of 62.50 per innings was second only to Stuart Williams' 974 runs.

Clearly the WICB's stated criteria of rewarding performance in the domestic season as the route by which players would make it on to the West Indies team did not apply to Smith. In fact he was repeatedly asked to "prove" that he was ready for playing at the next level.

Selected to play for the Busta XI aganst the visiting Indians, Smith proved his brilliance and worth but was once more overlooked for selection to the senior West Indies team. His fine innings of 91 was "overshadowed: by Wavell Hinds' innings of 175 and so Smith had to wait for his turn - again.

On the West Indies 'A' team's tour of England and Ireland last year, Smith scored 465 runs - the most by any West Indies 'A' batsman - at an average of 46.50. His highest total of 181 came against Lancashire. On that same tour, Smith again encountered the Indians and scored heavily against them with an innings of 69 at Arundel Castle, but he is yet to be rewarded for his consistency.

His scores of 84 v Jamaica; 143 & 31 v Barbados; 99 & 36 v Guyana; 5 & 22 v West Indies 'B'; 38 & 50 v Leeward Islands; 57 & 55 v Bangladesh 'A'; and 79 & 51* v Trinidad & Tobago clearly speak for themselves. He is a complete cricketer with a wide array of strokes, comfortable against both fast bowling as well as spin.

His wide array of strokes and good temperament makes him an ideal candidate for the West Indies team. It is time the selectors end the 'delay in allowing deserving cricketers the chance to wear West Indian colours. There are many such instances of unexplained (at least to the general public) non-selection of players in the past. Smith's time to don Caribbean colours has arrived, and that time is now.