“[…] The Sir Desmond Haynes-led panel should, as its very first order of business, announce the implementation of a new selection-related fitness policy.
“Our suggested policy would require all CWI contracted players as well as those others who are in contention for immediate selection on West Indies teams to be tested by their respective regional boards four times each year with all of the tests being conducted on the same day…”
Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira consider the pros and cons of the current West Indies set-up in the following column:
For West Indies cricket, it has been a most interesting start to New Year 2022. The first days of the year have produced some exciting appointments to the West Indies Selection Panel and ongoing fitness concerns surrounding at least one key player as well as a few very enlightening comments from head coach Phil Simmons.
Most West Indies cricket fans would have been excited by Cricket West Indies’ successive announcements of the appointments of Sir Desmond Haynes and Ramnaresh Sarwan as lead selector and panel member replacements for the recently deposed Roger Harper and Miles Bascombe.
Within both the region and the wider cricketing world, the reputations of both Haynes and Sarwan as very well respected, knowledgeable, high-calibre former West Indies players are undeniably solid.
The announcements of their respective appointments would have created a sense of optimism that some of the bizarre selection choices that were far too often characteristic of the previous panel would now not be repeated. With the West Indies about to begin their all-important quest for qualification at two forthcoming World Cups, this year’s T20 as well as the 2023 50-overs, wisdom-guided selection of the best possible teams will be of immeasurable value.
The Haynes and Sarwan appointments also seem to be indicative of a Cricket West Indies decision to continue with the panel’s three-person composition, with Simmons as the additional selector. This despite the suggestion made by several individuals, including ourselves, that the process of selecting the very best West Indies teams would be much better served by a reversion to the former, far more successful utilisation of a five-member panel.
It will indeed be very interesting to see what the panel’s decided size will actually be. Regardless of its final membership size, one of the issues the new panel will have to address almost immediately is that of the fitness of West Indies cricketers.
Both Haynes and Sarwan would have been alarmed by the reported failure of two players in contention for West Indies selection, Chanderpaul Hemraj and Shimron Hetmyer, to pass the Guyana Cricket Board’s (GCB) most recent fitness tests.
The tests were administered during the first week of January as part of the Guyana National Team’s preparation for its participation in the forthcoming regional four-day competition. Kudos to Guyana’s Head Coach Esuan Crandon for having made those results public.
Given his encouraging performances at the recent 2021 ICC T20 World Cup as well as his unquestionable potential to be one of the very brightest future stars of West Indies cricket, Hetmyer’s ongoing fitness challenges have long since become a matter of grave concern.
Now still only a 25-year-old, Hetmyer was West Indies’ leading run-scorer in their disappointing 2021 T20 World Cup campaign. He has, however, now been left out of the West Indies ODI and T20 squads to play Ireland and England after failing the GCB fitness test.
Coach Simmons’ reaction to Hetmyer’s most recent fitness test failure was to describe it as a ‘heart-wrenching indication of his continuing inclination to be letting himself and his international team-mates down by paying insufficient attention to his physical fitness!’
Hetmyer has now been omitted from several West Indies squads on fitness grounds, having also missed the recent tour of Pakistan for personal reasons.
Prior to the Hetmyer exclusion, former West Indies batting coach Toby Radford described the West Indies selection-related fitness testing protocols as being inconsistent. According to Radford, the existing policies are a convenient excuse for either omitting or including specific players.
“I do not think there is consistency with the fitness testing and the way it has been used,” he said. “It seems to me [that] if they want to pick a player, they give him a waiver! If, on the other hand, they do not want to pick a certain player, they give the excuse that the guy is not fit.
“We have seen, with the T20 World Cup, [that] there were players who were selected that obviously did not pass any fitness test!”
Radford also advocated CWI’s adoption of an above board, robust selection process with consistent fitness testing.
“Everyone has to be treated the same way and tested in an identical manner on the same day,” Radford said. “At the moment, it is being used to select whoever CWI want to have included in the respective teams.”
We certainly agree wholeheartedly with Radford’s comments. To those, we would now add the suggestion that the Sir Desmond Haynes-led panel should, as its very first order of business, announce the implementation of a new selection-related fitness policy.
Our suggested policy would require all CWI contracted players as well as those others who are in contention for immediate selection on West Indies teams to be tested by their respective regional boards four times each year with all of the tests being conducted on the same day.
Failure by any player to meet the established, required, uniform standard would not only result in his/her exclusion from selection consideration but would also result in the immediate suspension of his/her contractual benefits. Such penalties would, however, only remain in effect until the affected player has improved his/her results to the required standard.
With the squads of the just begun Ireland white-ball series and the England series to follow having already been selected, West Indies cricket followers’ attention to the new selection panel should now be as to whether it does indeed issue any sort of definitive statement in terms of what its approach towards fitness will actually be.
Attention should, however, also be focused on the actual performances of the selected players during the forthcoming series, and certainly in terms of their execution of the ‘still lacking basic skills’, according to coach Simmons.
Now more than halfway through his four-year contract, Simmons’ biggest current concern, as expressed during a recent media conference, is the need for the players in his charge to do the small things better!
“Running between the wickets is one aspect of the batting that has let us down, and it is an area that the team will be placing a lot of emphasis on going forward.
“Fielding is another key area in which we want to see improvement!”
More than two years into the job and our head coach and batting coaches are still seeking improvements in the most fundamental requirements of strike rotation and pressure fielding. Meanwhile, their associate in charge of the bowlers, Roddy Estwick, likewise speaks publicly of the need for those under his guidance to be more disciplined.
Isn’t this now the most glaringly damning evidence of their respective incompetence? If it is not, then surely the Pope is not Catholic!
A new year, fresh selection panel members but the same old coaching cadre! Should we now expect the results to be any better than those that were produced in 2021?