Windies ‘B' Team For Under-23s

The West Indies 'B' team competing in next season's Busta Cup will be restricted to players under the age of 23.

The exception will be the captain, who is expected to be an experienced first-class player who will play a key role in the development of the youngsters.

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has made that move in a bid to counter a worrying trend in which promising cricketers tend to go by the wayside once graduating from youth level.

In releasing the fixtures for the 2001 expanded Busta Cup last week, the board listed a West Indies 'B' as newcomers along with the England 'A' side, although there were earlier reports that a West Indies Under-19 side might have been entered.

WICB chairman of selectors Mike Findlay said the participation of an Under-23 team would play a vital role in trying to solve a problem that has existed for some time.

'We tend to lose a lot of players between 19 and 23 and this is going to give those young players the incentive to go on playing,' Findlay told NATIONSPORT.

'They may not be able to make their national teams, but they will get a chance to play in a first-class competition against top players in the region.'

A case in point is Sulieman Benn, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner from Barbados who could only get into the national team for one match last season in spite of his impressive record at the local level.

Should he be unable to make the Barbados team this time around, the West Indies 'B' team will present him with a chance of playing firstclass cricket.

Findlay said the idea of a 'B' team seemed to be better option than an 'A' team since most West Indies 'A' players were likely to be involved with their national teams.

Preparations for the West Indies 'B' side, which is restricted to players under the age of 23 at September 1, 2000, will start as soon as possible.

The WICB secretariat has sent circulars to the regional associations requesting that they select a 16-man squad by some time in December.

Once the territories have selected their squads, they will forward the names of their Under-23 contenders to the senior West Indies selection committee who will then pick the West Indies 'B' team almost immediately.

'The other matter that needs to be taken into account is that once the Under-23 squad has been named, territories cannot draw from the Under-23 squad: the idea being that it is a developmental squad and you want to keep them together and try to develop them,' Findlay said.

'On the other hand, if a player under the age of 23 is selected by his territory and somewhere along the line he is dropped, the selectors can draft him into the West Indies `B' team.'

Findlay said it was advised that the captain should be a former Test player who has a great deal of experience at first-class level.

'He will be a cricketer of high enough profile and one who will be an inspirational leader of the group. The board will name that player on a recommendation from the selection committee.'