Early Bird: Do Haynes and Sammy really think Charles is a better batsman than Hope?

Bobby did not know that Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka would fall at the first hurdle. But he knew that WI would not go beyond the Super Eight—“if they get that far”. He’s been saying it for weeks.

And he knew Nicholas Pooran would not deliver when it mattered; “unless they move him from #3”. That I have heard ad nauseam.

Star West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran on the loose during the 2024 ICC T20 World Cup.

So when I saw his smirk—and then his face!—fo’daymorning Monday, I expected to hear about Pooran’s dismissal in the second over. Trying to hit a six. Off his third ball!

Know the old joke about the masochist and the sadist having a romp in bed? Through nearly two hours, he never brought it up. And I was never going to give him the satisfaction of raising it.

“I think the West Indies selectors have a serious problem,” he began. “Given a choice between Johnson Charles and Shai Hope, they consistently chose Johnson, the technique-less one?”

“And when they finally make the right choice and drop Johnson ass,” I responded, “Hope shit on he tail. This selection thing hard, oui.”

West Indies opener Shai Hope failed to get going as West Indies produced a subpar total with the bat against South Africa.
Photo: Associated Press

“But is not the West Indies selectors who have the problem,” I continued, “is you.”

“And me,” I added quickly, interpreting the cut-eye that immediately came my way. “And Michael Holding. ‘Technique-less’ is a dead giveaway.”

“Meaning?” Bobby asked.

“Who top-scored for WI against England?”

“Pooran?”

West Indies opener Johnson Charles.
Photo: CWI Media

“No. Johnson Charles. And he also top-scored against Uganda in the opening match.”

“Nah!”

“Yeah. Check it. I did not remember that either. Know why?”

“Because is not true?” he said with a chuckle.

“It is true. But you wouldn’t remember it because, like me, like Holding, you are a purist. That’s what your ‘technique-less’ tells me. You’re still bringing 1980s analysis to cricket in the 2020s.

West Indies batsman Johnson Charles.
Photo: ICC/ Getty

“Johnson Charles is not your silky touch player who relies on wrist work and timing and gets most of his runs in the vee. He is no Brian Lara. He doesn’t caress off-drives and on-drives through gaps in the field that nobody saw until he found them.

“He not a Virat Kohli or a Joe Root or a Babar Azam or a Kane Williamson. Dammit! He not even a Shamarh Brooks or a Roston Chase, not superpowerful but doing enough to beat the field and reach the boundary often enough.”

“I get your point,” said Bobby. “He is more a Kieron Pollard or a Andre Russell type. He is a power player, what we used to call a vooper, who is going to beat the leather off the ball like if the bat is ah anvil.”

India batsman Virat Kohli in action against New Zealand in a 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai, India on 15 November 2023. Photo: Reuters/ Adnan Abidi)

“Well, I like the blacksmith reference, Samuel Badree, but nobody wields ah anvil,” I replied. “Charles is all brawn. That works for him. You say he does not have technique. But he’s in his fifth T20 World Cup. Hasn’t missed one since 2012. And he regularly makes the playing XI. And makes runs to boot!”

“And that, I suppose, is the bottom line?” Bobby replied.

“You darm right it is! You imagine Desmond Haynes and Daren Sammy have lengthy discussions about whose foot gets closer to the pitch of the ball? Or who is better able to get behind the line? Not even when they’re picking the red ball side, I think! Jermaine Blackwood regularly makes the Test XI!

West Indies head coach Daren Sammy (centre, foreground) speaks to his team during the Cricket World Cup Qualifying tournament in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Photo: ICC/ Getty

“Nowadays, what matters is not sterile considerations about technical correctness; it’s about technical efficiency! If it brings you runs, you’ll get approval; if it doesn’t, brace yourself for boos. Ask Pooran.”

“Or a benching,” he concurred. “Ask [Shimron] Hetmyer!”

“I remember Joe Root, classical batsman Joe Root, arguably England’s technically best batsman Joe Root,” I continued, “trying to reverse-ramp the first ball of the day’s play over third man. Last year in an Ashes Test! He didn’t succeed.

“But he contrived to hit two fours and a six in the next over, including another reverse ramp. The media talked about his ‘fearless approach’.

England star Joe Root makes a point after his crucial century away to India.

“Against India in Rajkot, I think, he foolishly try a reverse-paddle against [Jasprit] Bumrah and give second slip ah easy ketch. The same media pan his ass!”

“Your point?” Bobby snorted.

“Technique. So called ‘proper technique’ only matters nowadays—not just in the white ball game—where and when it fails.”

“But Charles have no technique!”

West Indies opener Johnson Charles was bowled by New Zealand pacer Trent Boult for a duck during T20 World Cup action at Tarouba, Trinidad on 12 June 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

“There you go again with your purist orthodoxy,” I replied. “A week ago, I used to think the same way. But I had a long talk with Valentino [Singh] and another ex-QRC friend and my tune change. I see the light at last.

“Charles may not play any of the new-fangled ramp and lap and scoop and paddle shots. But he is master of the French cut and the leading edge over the covers. And the outside edge over the slips.

“His backlift often comes from third or fourth slip so his real specialty is the voop over cow corner. It could go anywhere between deep midwicket and long-off or in the arc from the point boundary to long-leg.

West Indies batsman Johnson Charles heaves to the boundary.

“But,” I continued, holding up a cautionary forefinger, “he makes runs. And quickly! I used to think his white ball strike rate was better than Shai Hope’s until, in a recent Wired story, the Editor mentioned Hope having  a bad patch after Covid. I checked. Hope’s better at the moment.”

“Really? I didn’t think so.”

“Perception! A lot of the fans go with what they perceive to be true. And a lot, like you and Michael Holding and the old me, want pretty runs. But the purist prejudice is a luxury Desmond Haynes and the other West Indies selectors simply cannot afford. They have to go with the stats—and a hundred other things!

“They have to go with everything that is in front of them. And not all of it is cricket!”

West Indies batsman Johnson Charles returns to sender…

Editor’s Note: The relevant Johnson Charles and Shai Hope white ball figures currently read as follows:

T20Is         Inns:         Agg:     Ave:      S/Rate             HS     100s     50s

Charles       56            1302      23.2       131.2             118        1        5

Hope           28            616        23.69     133.33             82*      0        3

ODIs:        Inns:       Agg:         Ave:      S/Rate            HS     100s     50s

Charles        58          1637         26.5        85.2              130       2          7

Hope           119         5177         50.26      77.58            170      16       25

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