Canada's World Cup preparations have been dealt a significant blow with opener John Davison, one of their key players, withdrawing from the World Cup squad over the exclusion of fellow batsmen Geoff Barnett and Ian Billcliff. He has told Cricket Canada he would be withdrawing until the pair are given the reasons for their exclusion from Canada's 30-man preliminary line-up for the tournament.
In an e-mail to Cricket Canada, where he called into question the competence of Canada's chairman of selectors Chris James, Davison wrote, "I am embarrassed to be selected in the squad of 30 when players who have been long-time servants have been omitted, and given no valid reason for their non-selection. It is with great regret that I have to withdraw my availability until these players have been given answers to some very simple questions."
Billcliff and Barnett played a significant role in Canada's qualification for the World Cup. However, commitments outside of cricket, as well as distance - Davison lives in Australia, while Barnett and Billcliff live in New Zealand - have limited the trio's availability, something that has contributed to Canada's inconsistent performances over the years.
In November, Canada undertook a preparatory tour of India to play against club teams. It was initially envisaged that this tour was compulsory for players wishing to be considered for World Cup selection. Billcliff's work commitments prevented him from going on tour, but Barnett was available for the final leg. As the tour progressed Cricket Canada re-evaluated the weight it wished to give to the tour, considering that Canadian players of Pakistani origin could not make the trip to India due to visa issues. With key players missing all around, Canada advised Barnett and Davison that they were not required to be on the tour. Yet it appears that not going on the India tour is what is being held against Billcliff.
"In regards to Ian Billcliff, if Barnett and myself were not required to be in India for selection, then surely he doesn't need to be?" asked Davision in his e-mail. Barnett did not receive any official communication from Cricket Canada about his non-selection in the 30-man squad.
Cricket Canada's president Ranjit Saini, who maintains that he stays out of team selection, has asked the vice-president in charge of the senior men's team to submit a complete report on the matter. "Without having a complete briefing on all of this, I do feel that we owe Geoff Barnett an explanation (for his non-selection). He has performed really well for us over the years."
Regarding Davison's potential withdrawal from the team Saini said that it was something that would be discussed with the player. "This is an internal matter and it's normal for a player to ask for an explanation about selection. I think JD's (Davison) position is that he just wants the communication gap closed with the two players (Barnett and Billcliff)."
Saini went on to say that if Davison is available he has a lot to offer Canadian cricket at the World Cup and beyond. "At the World Cup we see him as having a leadership role with the younger players in the team. We've selected players like JD and Balaji Rao who are mature, experienced and knowledgeable about the game, to guide the young force we've assembled."
Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and Figures