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Stabilising the West Indies cricket team

The West Indies cricket team’s 3-0 One-Day International (ODI) triumph against Zimbabwe marks the 16th time that the regional team has swept an opposing nation since a 1976 whitewash away to England under legendary captain Clive Lloyd.

There is little similarity between those two emphatic series. Zimbabwe is clearly a minnow in the global game and the “Windies” have not whitewashed a major nation since New Zealand in 1995.

But that does not mean there are not positives to be had from our recent triumph.

Photo: The West Indies cricket team. (Courtesy WICB)
Photo: The West Indies cricket team.
(Courtesy WICB)

After the humbling 5-0 drubbing in Australia, it was vital that the West Indies avoided further disappointing its fans and media.

The West Indies will not play another ODI series until the Champions Trophy tournament, which be staged in England this June. So, the Zimbabwe matches also offered players the chance to improve statistics and solidify their positions within the team before that prestigious competition.

Coach Ottis Gibson and the selectors, in the absence of several regular players, could also use the recent series to gauge available players. The balance of the West Indies team remains a topic of much debate and hopefully some new players might have made cases for themselves.

Dwayne Bravo’s captaincy, along with centuries from Johnson Charles, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Darren Bravo, should have presented immediate food for thought.

Darren Sammy was a controversial pick for captain in 2010 when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) led his St Lucian compatriots Julian Hunte (president) and Ernest Hilaire (CEO) selected him to replace Jamaican star batsman Chris Gayle.

And, although Sammy’s fan base grew since he led the West Indies to the Twenty20 World Cup title, there are many who feel that his default presence in the team as skipper robs a better player of an opportunity.

It would be safe to say the West Indies did not rue Sammy’s absence against Zimbabwe as Bravo competently captained the team. But does that again put pressure on the St Lucian to keep his place?

Photo: Dwayne Bravo (second from left) takes the toss for the West Indies. (Courtesy WICB)
Photo: Dwayne Bravo (second from left) takes the toss for the West Indies.
(Courtesy WICB)

There are legitimate arguments that Sammy does not merit a place in the Test side but that is an argument for another day. In the shortened version of the game, his all-round package as captain, destructive lower-order hitter and clever variation bowler is certainly useful.

And, alongside Keiron Pollard and Andre Russell, the West Indies has three of the most dangerous hitters in the game.

Russell is another enigma. He came into international cricket, in 2010, as a fast bowler who was a handy batsman. But now Russell’s batting has developed admirably while his bowling has become noticeably unstable.

To my mind, Russell should be viewed as a batting all-rounder, like Dwayne Bravo, and his bowling responsibilities should vary according to the game situation. But he should never be allowed near the new-ball unless there is drastic improvement in his accuracy and consistency.

There is no doubt that Gayle slots right back into the opening post. But who will partner him?

Photo: Chris Gayle is the undisputed leader of the West Indies batting line-up. (Courtesy WICB)
Photo: Chris Gayle is the undisputed leader of the West Indies batting line-up.
(Courtesy WICB)

Both Kieran Powell and Charles made compelling cases for an opening spot. And, perhaps, so did veteran Sarwan.

On form, Sarwan is arguably the most technically sound batsman in the West Indies and the new ODI cricket rule, which allows two white balls, gives fast bowlers greater ammunition to test the technique of opposing batsmen.

Top cricket nations like South Africa and England responded to this ODI rule change by promoting their most technically proficient batsmen like Hasim Amla and Ian Bell to the opening role.

The West Indies would be wise to consider a similar trick with Sarwan.

The best ODI and T20 squads, in my opinion, are as follows:

(ODI)

Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy (captain), Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Tino Best.

Substitutes: Darren Bravo, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Kevon Cooper.

(T20)

Chris Gayle, Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Darren Sammy, Denesh Ramdin, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Tino Best.

Substitutes: Darren Bravo, Kevon Cooper, Samuel Badree, Kemar Roach.

About Colin Benjamin

Colin Benjamin is a former freelance writer for the Trinidad Newsday newspaper and Guyana Stabroek News.

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