“[…] On what basis does one exclude a player from meeting an absolutely necessary standard that is required for the rigours of an international tournament, particularly one that is fast-paced, intense and is likely to demand 40 overs of sustained pressure—the kind which this tournament is more than likely to provide?
“Age? Legacy? Pray, tell me, Mr Roger Harper!”
The following guest column on the composition of West Indies 2021 T20 World Cup squad was submitted to Wired868 by veteran sport writer and former Trinidad Guardian sport editor Valentino Singh:
The most significant message coming out of the selection of the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup in the UAE in a few weeks is the somewhat confusing statement from chief selector Roger Harper that Chris Gayle was exempted from the fitness standard that is required by the other players.
Who does that?
On what basis does one exclude a player from meeting an absolutely necessary standard that is required for the rigours of an international tournament, particularly one that is fast-paced, intense and is likely to demand 40 overs of sustained pressure—the kind which this tournament is more than likely to provide?
Age? Legacy? Pray, tell me, Mr Harper!
Let me make it clear that I am a great fan of the ‘Universe Boss’.
Indeed, he was among my first 11 players in the team which I selected on this very forum prior to the CPL tournament. I went with Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons and Gayle at three.
I felt that even if he was not the premium Gayle in the warm-up series against South Africa and Australia, Gayle’s performances with bat and ball and his desire to retire in style, added to what I believed he could contribute in the dressing room, was a solid enough package to include him.
I might have been tempted to still include him in my 18-member party despite all that I saw of him in the CPL, which, to be quite honest, was a poor imitation of the man who earned his reputation by intimidating opponents with his mere presence at the crease.
One last hurrah, you say? Perhaps!
But Harper’s unfortunate declaration about Gayle being exempted from medical and fitness tests may be an admission of his and his selection committee’s expectations of the charismatic Jamaican.
He is there for his off-, not on-field contribution. You don’t need to be fit to inspire!
So why not Jason Holder in the 15? And Gayle in the 18? Surely that makes more overall sense.
His performances in the CPL forced us to come to terms with the brutal reality that Gayle’s on-field presence is no longer a strength but a weakness in the West Indies chain.
Chris Gayle at three? Or Roston Chase?
Without the CPL, we would not have known.
The West Indies habit of giving up too many dot balls in the early part of their innings has time and again been condemned. While many felt that Hetmyer was the player to initiate a change in that approach, the Guyanese’s lack of consistency and pedestrian pace at maturity remain major concerns.
Can Chase fill the role? On the basis of his performances in the CPL, he probably is the best man for that job at the moment, without even taking account of his economical off-spin. That certainly seems more sober thinking than any notion of using Gayle in that critical slot.
None will dispute that Chase has been the outstanding find of the CPL. His inclusion probably closed the door on an unfortunate Holder, whose lacklustre performances in the CPL have not helped his cause.
Still Holder or Gayle? Which of the two adds more value in the 15-man squad? You be the judge!
I get the impression that Harper, Miles Bascombe and coach Phil Simmons were hoping that they did not have to deviate too far from the squad which played against Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia. Hence, except for the two outstanding performers in the CPL, Chase and Ravi Rampaul, no one else caught the eye of the selectors.
Rampaul demonstrated that his campaign in England has inspired a revival of sorts. He is clear in what he is doing and one can only hope he retains his accuracy during the World Cup tournament.
Akeal Hosein has been miserly in the CPL and provided much food for thought. But the presence of Fabian Allen effectively side-lined him.
Despite his poor showing in the CPL, the selectors opted to persevere with Hayden Walsh Jr, no doubt because of his outstanding performances in the warm-ups. He will be a more confident and better bowler under Kieron Pollard’s leadership.
The rest of the squad selected itself.
So despite his outstanding start in the CPL, there is no room for Sherfane Rutherford: one rule for him, another for Gayle.
Narine’s fitness was also given as a reason for his omission. Hmmmmmmm. He looked perfectly fit to me during the CPL.
One wonders if fitness will also keep the pair out of the upcoming IPL.
Can this team, my friends, defend its title?
It’s T20 cricket, folks. Unpredictable. On your best day, you can be unbeatable.
No doubt on their best day, this West Indies best XI will be difficult to beat. The batting is formidable, the bowling a little less so, but capable enough. As demonstrated in the recent warm-up series, the team’s challenge remains consistency.
Getting past the opening rounds may provide the key. In Dwayne Bravo and Pollard, we have two of the finest minds in the short format of the game; this may yet prove to be what matters most.
A small flutter on the West Indies at, say, 8/1?