Were the Barbados cricket selectors correct in exposing so many young players at the start of the 2002 Busta Series?

The evidence of the first three matches might suggest not.

Results could sometimes be misleading and one might want to read too much into the fact that Barbados have lost two of their first three games.

What one needs to do is to examine the approach of the players.

A careful analysis will show a mix of varying levels of success.

Kurt Wilkinson, Ryan Austin and Sulieman Benn, three 20-year-olds into their second season of first-class cricket, have demonstrated that they are learning.

The first-timers have been disappointing for the most part, although Tino Best's pace, aggression and emotion have left tongues wagging at Kensington Oval and Sabina Park.

Others like 16-year-old opening batsman Martin Nurse seem to be plagued by problems with footwork and he is also a weak link in the field.

Dwayne Smith, 18, is an exciting batsman who possesses all the strokes in and out of the coaching manuals, but he appears to have forgotten which strokes are to be played to which balls.

Shirley Clarke, 25, is not as young as the others, but had played in only one Busta Cup match prior to the start of the season. He is usually solid as a batsman, but has failed to compile a significant score in four innings.

The two 19-year-old fast bowlers, Fidel Edwards and Antonio Thomas, have not had ample opportunities to be properly assessed. The fact that both have been given only one match may suggest a lack of confidence in them.

Captain Philo Wallace has, on more than one occasion, knocked the youngsters for not performing up to scratch and has attracted public criticism for his comments.

There is, however, some merit to what Wallace is saying. The youngsters must be told when they are going wrong and must be told that mediocrity will not be accepted at this level.

At the same time, we must appreciate that it is a learning experience for some of them and some will take longer than others to develop. The question is how quickly will they learn?

The game of cricket is such these days that the period of apprenticeship is not as long as it used to be.

At international level, there are young players who have slotted easily into their teams. Abdur Razzaq, still only 22, has already scored three Test centuries and is a vital all-rounder for Pakistan in both versions of the game.

Another question that has to be asked is, has the Barbados selectors opted for the adequate balance of experience and youth? It stems from the fact that as many as eight of the 13 that travelled to Jamaica last weekend were below the age of 21.

In all fairness to the selectors, they might not have expected that four Barbadians, including captain Sherwin Campbell would have been selected for the West Indies team which is currently playing Pakistan in Sharjah.

The situation was also compounded by Dale Richards' withdrawal because of injury on the eve of the tournament.

With four other experienced players having been discarded, it translated into Barbados taking to the field for the first match without eight regulars of recent times Campbell, Ryan Hinds, Corey Collymore, Pedro Collins, Roland Holder, Adrian Griffith, Hendy Bryan and Dave Marshall.

It left stand-in skipper Wallace often depending on the few seasoned players to pull the brunt of the weight. The fact, too, that they have been somewhat inconsistent has had something to do with the disappointing results of the last two matches.

The youngsters might not have lived up to expectations, but we must be prepared to persist with them. Some may appear to be out of their depths, but they can only get better if they are given a chance.

There is no doubt that the likes of Wilkinson, Benn, Austin, Smith and Best have the ability to progress to another level.

We therefore should not be too hasty in wanting to write them off. They are as talented as any of the young players in the region and they must be encouraged as much as possible.

But they must remember that potential must be translated into performance. It will no doubt take time, but we will not be prepared to wait forever.