West Indies cricket September 29, 2013

Fidel Edwards' selection lacks logic

Dogged by back injuries, he's past his prime. His selection to the A squad in India could mean that the selectors are giving him a lifeline for the New Zealand tour

West Indies' back-to-back tours of India (by the A team presently underway to be immediately followed by the seniors' attendance at the hurriedly arranged celebration of Sachin Tendulkar's 200th Test) offer a welcome return to the longer game for the top players and a chance for the reserves to stake their claims for promotion.

If it is all but irrelevant as preparation for players and guidance for selectors for the altogether different environment encountered in New Zealand for three Tests and five ODIs in December and January, the focus can only be on the present.

Given that, for one reason or another (player commitments to their domestic teams and to those in the Champions League), India A are not as strong as they were on their successful preceding A series in South Africa and at home against New Zealand, Kirk Edwards and Kraigg Brathwaite, each dropped from the West Indies Test team more than a year ago, have wasted no time pressing for a return.

Nikita Miller, Veerasammy Permaul and Ashley Nurse have established that their spin is not only effective on substandard pitches back home. At last, Jonathan Carter, with bat and ball, has started to justify his repeated selections. Miguel Cummins, 23, a new fast bowling kid on the block with just six months' first-class experience, has made an immediate impression.

Above all, the team has again demonstrated character to overcome initial defeat to take the one-day contests 2-1. Yesterday they completed a resounding victory in the first of the three unofficial Tests. It was similar in their victorious series at home against Pakistan in 2011, India in 2012 and Sri Lanka last June.

The one major disappointment is Sheldon Cotterrell's knee injury that ended his tour even before it began. Aged 24, strong, athletic, fast and left-arm all in one, the Jamaican soldier is an exciting long-term prospect; there was no hyperbole in manager Lockhart Sebastien's comment that it was "a devastating blow".

If there is an apt comment on the choice of Cotterell's replacement, it is "mystifying". There is little logic in Fidel Edwards' call-up. Of those still active, he is West Indies' top wicket-taker in Tests, with 165 wickets in 55 matches. At 31 and dogged by back injuries, his prime has passed.

All his cricket this year has been of the Twenty20 variety in which he is still capable of a telling, but brief burst. Now he has been summoned to India with only two four-day matches remaining. Others with more promising futures were available (the 24-year-old Trinidadian Marlon Richards, for instance).

The teams for the two Tests and three ODIs to follow presumably won't be named until the selectors give themselves more time to assess the A performances. Even then, it is safe to assume that all the usual suspects will be retained.

West Indies have had just two Tests so far in 2013, both at home against Zimbabwe, hardly a stern examination. With the A team's four-dayers in India the only guide to current form, the same XI that defeated Zimbabwe at Kensington Oval and Windsor Park could well take the field against India in November.

The abbreviated versions - 20 ODIs and five Twenty20s against Australia, Zimbabwe, in the Champions Trophy, in the tri-series with India and Sri Lanka and against Pakistan - present a different picture.

The count in those matches was seven ODI wins (three over Zimbabwe), 12 losses, two ties. They are statistics that hint at the need for a shake-up, but cautious selectors are not disposed to shake-ups.

Once the Indian adventures are over, it is straight on to New Zealand from December 3 to January 15. The competition is certain to be keen between two evenly matched teams, West Indies intent on maintaining their rise to fifth place on the ICC's Test rankings, New Zealand eager to rise from their embarrassing position at No.8.

New Zealand have the added incentive, before their own fans, of compensating for their trouncing in the Caribbean last year (defeats in both Tests, in four of the five ODIs and in both Twenty20s). The swift change of location takes some getting used to. Disparities between India and New Zealand, cricketing, climatic and cultural, are more pronounced than between any other Test countries. Players and selectors need to recognise them.

In India, it is hot, the pitches are dry, slow and dusty and, as it is almost certain for the revered Tendulkar's farewell, the stands will be packed with tens of thousands of his devotees.

It is the land of spin. When West Indies were last there in late 2011, 44 of their wickets in three Tests were gathered by the Indian spinners. England's surprise 2-1 triumph last year was based on the 37 wickets Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar pocketed between them; India's slow men had 43 to no avail.

In New Zealand, West Indies will find temperatures rarely above 25 degrees Celsius; in Dunedin, Test cricket's closest venue to the South pole, they are likely to be no more than the mid-teens. The grounds, like the country itself, are lush green, the pitches grassy as they once were in the similar climate in England. And the sounds from the leisurely grass banks beyond the boundary will be muted hand clapping, a far cry from the cacophony in India that accompany every home appeal and boundary hit (Tendulkar's merit near pandemonium).

When England battled to a hard-fought draw in three Tests earlier in the year, they used one spinner, Panesar. He took a solitary wicket. The fast men, Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Steven Finn, did most of the work. New Zealand's fast-slow wicket balance was 29-15.

The statistical evidence is clear and not misleading. What works in India won't work in New Zealand. So, as many wickets as Miller, Permaul and Nurse snare for the A team and Shane Shillingford and Sunil Narine in the Tests, the emphasis should be on the fast men, the pacy spearhead Kemar Roach, the towering Jason Holder, the skidding Ravi Rampaul once his fitness doesn't let him down and perhaps Cummins.

As far-fetched as it may seem, is there a hint in his recall to India that Edwards could go back to the scene where his pacy outswing accounted for his seven wickets in New Zealand's first innings of the second Test five years ago? Stranger choices have been made by West Indies panels before and, in New Zealand of all places, it should be horses for courses.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 1, 2013, 13:55 GMT

    I agree with Tony Cozier, the problem with WI cricket over the past 5 years has been the selectors and not the players themselves. Butts is good at recycling failures . Mr Butts does not understand the meaning of an A Team. It means grooming of new players for the test team . Maybe soon we will see Devon Smith being called up to the A Team as well. Please Mr Butts the logical choice was Ronsfrod Beaton . We need a pool of fast bowlers that we can call upon for the various version of the game . T20, 50 Overs and Test cricket. and Please we need a new Test Captain it should not be Sammy he is affecting the balance of the team

  • Basil on October 1, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    Fidel averages 38 in Tests and 33 at first-class level. He is not up to standard, end of story.

  • veetal on September 30, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    Disagree with Cozier.. So because of Edwards past we should ignore him? How are u so sure that Edwards is way past his prime? Let me remind u mr Cozier that its around 29-31 which most cricketers experience a slump in their form and fitness.. Then they rebuild. Just look at Sehwag and Gambhir.. With all due respect sometimes I have to wonder Mr cozier thinks when he write.. He's even calling for Pollard to play test cricket.. Just after he did, Pollard made 5 ducks in 2 ODI series..

  • Jack on September 30, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    I agree with Cozier. India and NZ are completely different conditions. I too cannot see the logic of Fidel. Both Fidel and Rampaul need about 10 days rest between test matches. This does not occur anymore. In addition Fidel is hopelessly inaccurate. One may choose Rampaul and be cognizant of his rest requirements. But Fidel - No way! I also strongly believe that picking Sammy in tests will hurt WI. In India, for example, you will have to pick Narine and Miller which leaves two places for fast bowlers. Does Sammy merit a place ahead of Best, Roach, Rampaul, Cottereal, Cumins, and Holder etc.? The WI selectors should think carefully - Sammy is an ODI and T20 man.

  • Aman on September 30, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    Why is there no mention of Tino Best, i think he is the fastest bowler right now in world cricket goin,g just by speed, he desimated Bangladesh on those slow tracks last year, if it wasnt him it would have been a different story there,

    Plus i feel he should not play any T20 cricket at all, sumtimes onedayers and ofcourse all the tests. He can still give 2 good years to windies cricket.

    Plus i feel Sarwan should be given one last go in tests, I would play Simmons as keeper in tests, if not him let Charles play but please no more Ramdin.

    Go windies.

  • Dummy4 on September 30, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Chris Gayle won't fancy the NZ tour with its cool temperatures etc.. Prepare for the mysterious back injury to return.

  • ANDREW on September 30, 2013, 3:15 GMT

    I don't understand how so many of you are making mention of some of these young fast bowlers who can't make their Island team unless the senior guy are away. Anyone who think that Marlon Richards, Pascal, Mclean, Beaton and Johnson are ready to play test has don't know cricket. Edwards is not making a come, He was injured and had to recover from his injury. Now he is fit he will have his place back in the team. Holder is not even ready for test. Yes some of these young guys have genuine pace but most of them are inconsistent. All fast bowlers have injuries during their career. The best fast bowlers in the world right Steyne was injured most of this year and he is back playing.

  • ANDREW on September 29, 2013, 22:47 GMT

    I disagree with Mr. Cozier about Fidel Edwards. Fidel should be in the WI starting eleven before the likes of Rampaul, Holder, Gabriel and Cottrell.He does not have to prove anything, his stats speak for him. None of these fast bowlers has proven themselves to be wicket takers like Fidel Edwards. Cummings is the one young fast bowler that has been consistent in his performances. He bowl with pace and he take wickets. I also prefer Cummings over Holder. Considering Rampaul before Fidel is ridiculous. Rampaul is always overweight and out of shape. Kirk Edwars should have never been dropped from the WI team. Kraigg Brathwaite and Johnathan carter should be added to the WI travelling squad for the tour.

  • Martin on September 29, 2013, 21:05 GMT

    WI have young pacemen talent in Cummings, Gabriel, Beaton & Richards. For all test matches going forward, 3 of these pacemen must be played. It's no use recycling Edwards, Rampaul & Roach since apart from their inconsistency, they always get injured. Edwards may be the leading wicket taker but his bowling average looks more like a batting average. It's better to lose with the young players who will gain experience and will become better bowlers given the chance.

  • Albert on September 29, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    How many years have we been throwing in players left right and centre and ruin them? Let the guys develop. Cummings, 6 months of international cricket and we want to play him against India? Which country you ever hear do that? In the WI we always want to throw away our senior players while in other countries players debut at 27. Why you think we struggled for so long? Chopping and changing. Ravi Rampaul when fit is real good. Look at him in CL. Before he got injured him and Roach were a must. Always pick up early wickets. Tino getting a second chance come back fast and accurate. Maybe take one youngster. You have to ease these guys in. Let them learn from the older bowlers and have a few season in first class cricket. Maybe take a chance on one or so.

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