There has been much healthy discussion and speculation on the West Indies (WI) team selected for the ICC Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2019 that starts in England on May 30.
Of course, this is expected as there is a brand new president in Ricky Skerritt who has instituted changes, one being the introduction of new selectors for the WI team. The new chairman is Robert Haynes of Jamaica; others are Floyd Reifer of Barbados and Jimmy Adams, the Director of Cricket at Cricket West Indies (CWI). Jason Holder, the captain, is also a selector.
I give the selectors credit for not being tempted to make drastic changes that could upset the delicate balance of the team. Quite wisely, they have maintained the regulars with few changes so as not to upset the momentum and good feelings that would have been built up over the past few months among team members.
Yet, with an open mind, they ought to have been thinking of the strongest team in their view. Maybe, with all the restrictions, Haynes and his fellow selectors probably thought that this is the best team to win the CWC in the circumstances.
But it is not the best team.
Although, I hasten to add, that I understand the situation. It is not ideal for an administrative body to change so soon before an all-important contest like the CWC which only happens every four years. However, because of what has been going on in previous years, change was vital to the future of the game in the Caribbean.
Now, let’s address the chosen 15. First of all, it must be understood that the CWC is a 50-over competition hence it’s neither Test cricket nor a t20 run around, therefore certain ideals have to be taken into consideration.
Fielding, for instance, has to be given prominence as in ODIs the saving of runs is of equal significance as batting and bowling, if not more so. For example, what’s the use of a batsman making 40 runs then he gives away 30 in the field? Or drops a vital catch that allows a batsman a longer innings hence adding more runs than he ought to have?
Is it a risk to use Shai Hope behind the stumps and his batting suffers? How many acrobatic fieldsmen are there in the team that could take miraculous catches and save boundaries?
Thankfully there is Andre Russell in the team which is a big plus because his fielding is superb! He’s not a class batsman but he can win a game for his team out of the most difficult and impossible situations. His bowling is quite ordinary.
Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo would have the same effect as Russell and the three of them on the field for the team would have had a magical effect in stemming the flow of runs.
But then both Pollard and Bravo have not been consistent with the bat in the t20 cricket they have been playing in order to be judged for the necessary reliability required for a tournament as competitive as the CWC.
The t20 is such a different format, that while it would have been wonderful to witness all three players in action in that type of game, they would need to have played more recently in the longer version to be effective.
It’s a pity that only one is at the top of his game in the t20 at present because there’s no 50-over cricket by which they could be judged thus it could be risky to play all three. This is one of the situations that ability and skill could not be recognised before form. One of these alone is risk enough.
The wicket keeper is, to me, another troubling feature and I believe the selectors know that too, hence have backed up Hope with Nicholas Pooran who is no big improvement behind the stumps but has tremendous ability with the bat, and whose wicket keeping can improve given more opportunities.
Two other areas of weakness are having only two opening batsmen in Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis plus the fast bowling and spinning combinations. In case 39-year-old Gayle becomes unavailable through injury, a middle-order batsman would have to be pushed up the order. This could upset the balancing of the batting order which could have poor results. Lewis has also been plagued with injury and there’s no guarantee of his fitness. Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer will have a lot to do to support the openers.
I’m disappointed that the fast-medium pace all-rounder Keemo Paul is not on the team as he is the most promising prospect and one of the best utility players in the Caribbean.
Shannon Gabriel and Oshane Thomas are two huge fast bowlers. However, line and length bowling is crucial in a battle with the best batsmen in the world in a limited overs affair, hence they may not be up to it. Their value would be in the opening overs to remove at least three batsmen early and that is not a simple task!