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Tony Cozier

Give a chance to emerging players

The WICB must impress on all its members the need to identify and prepare players for West Indies, and not continue to stick with those who have no future prospects

Tony Cozier
Tony Cozier

Players who stand no chance of making it back to the West Indies team shouldn't be favoured over promising youngsters such as Kemar Roach in domestic teams © AFP
There was a bittersweet awareness in two separate cricketing lists released over the past week. One revealed the 55 names nominated as the first inductees for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Hall Of Fame, to be established as part of the organisation's 100th anniversary this year.
Among other greats of the game from its various points on the planet, it contained six Barbadians - Gordon Greenidge, Malcolm Marshall and four knights: Sir Garry Sobers and Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Frank Worrell, the famed Three Ws. It represented just over 10% of the 55. There could have been, some will say should have been, even more.
It was a reminder of the number of remarkable cricketers who established a reputation for excellence for this tiny speck on the map, unmatched by any other endeavour. Sobers remains, indisputably, the "greatest cricketer on Earth or Mars", to quote the Mighty Sparrow. The Ws, with the incredible coincidence not only of the initial letter of their surnames but also their birth within a year and a few square-miles of each other in the environs of Bridgetown, combined as the most formidable middle-order the West Indies have ever had - and there were quite a few.
Marshall stands alongside the finest fast bowlers of all time, not simply for his pace and his swing but as much for his cricketing intelligence. Greenidge was an opening batsman of impeccable technique and temperament, once described by Ted Dexter as the most complete right-hander he had seen. They will, eventually, be followed in the Hall Of Fame by others who first played and learned their cricket on these 166 square miles.
The other list issued during the week was of the Barbados team for the forthcoming regional first-class season. It jolted us back to present reality. It was not so much that it pales in comparison with those of the past, for the gradual deterioration in standards of Barbados, and West Indies, cricket has long since been widely acknowledged.
What shocked was its composition, specifically the inclusion of players who, through contracts with English counties, are not longer eligible for the West Indies. Under the so-called Kolpak arrangement, Pedro Collins signed last season for Surrey, Corey Collymore and Dwayne Smith for Sussex. Registered as non-overseas players, they were barred from international cricket as a result, allowing the counties to sidestep the official limitation on the number of professionals they can contract from other countries.
There is some doubt as well over the status of Tino Best, who is also in the Barbados squad. He participated in the first season of the Indian Cricket League, whose players, have been debarred from matches under the ICC's control. The seam bowlers Collins and Collymore and the allrounder Smith have all been essential members of the Barbados team for some time. The fiery Best's regional record is outstanding. Collymore and Smith have been captains. All have represented West Indies.
Now that they can no longer do so, their continued selection for Barbados indicates a dearth of worthwhile young cricketers to take their place - or a deep sense of loyalty among selectors who were recently their team-mates. There is an argument that, Kolpak or not, the days of international cricket for Collins, Collymore and Best were already over and that it was time to move on, to blood younger bowlers. Heaven knows West Indies cricket needs them at present.
After only four matches for Barbados, Kemar Roach, 20, was fast-tracked into the West Indies team last season. His potential first got him into the Under-19 team for the World Cup in Malaysia and his quick promotion to senior level demonstrates just how keen the selectors are to examine new fast bowlers at the highest level.
Back from New Zealand, he is in the Barbados squad. It is a big season for him and, even with Collins, Collymore and Best also there and after the return of Fidel Edwards, it would be unthinkable for him not to be a certainty throughout the extended season. Others are keen to show their worth but they cannot do so while those who have no future prospects are retained.
Surely, the principal reason for the annual inter-territorial tournaments is to identify and prepare players for West Indies. Given the present situation, it is a point the WICB might impress on all its members.