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Best sees WI World Cup squad as not looking world-class but asks: Who we go put?

Twok! Twok! Twok! Twok!

Four remarkable, meaty blows that sent Ben Stokes’ balls sailing over the boundary and unexpectedly won the 2016 T20 World Cup for West Indies.

So, heeding Ian Bishop’s order, I have remembered the name Carlos Brathwaite. Likewise, clearly, the selectors. Three years after that unforgettable April day, the big question for me now is why.

Photo: West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite (right) and teammate Marlon Samuels celebrate after victory in the World T20 cricket tournament final match between England and West Indies at The Eden Gardens Cricket Stadium in Kolkata on 3 April 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2016/Dibyangshu Sarkar)

In a second case, it’s not the name that has stuck with me; it’s a body flying through the air virtually parallel to the ground but at some height above it to pull off an impossible catch. With bat and/or ball in the CPL, Fabian Allen may have made an impression on the selectors; however, between crease and crease, he has not impressed me, I’m afraid, at all.

West Indies scorecards do not offer much hope either. In either case.

Brathwaite has played 33 matches in the maroon kit and his 29 innings have yielded 389 runs at an average of 14.4, with 11 single-digit scores and a highest score—made in his 29th innings!—of 50. With the ball, his figures are even more measly: 31 wickets costing 1352 runs at an average of over 40 per scalp.

Allen is just starting out but his performances remind me of the definition of an all-rounder as ‘a cricketer who can bowl a little bit and bat a little bit.’ His ODI aggregate in four matches is 25 at a strike rate of 48.07 and his highest score in seven T20Is is 27, made in his first innings, with only 23 more added in the remaining six. He has claimed no wickets for 131 runs in four ODIs and eight wickets for 196 runs in nine T20Is.

To be brutally honest, none of that is world-class. Not nearly. It’s really not good enough. But, brutal honesty being again germane, it is in West Indies cricket as it is in T&T politics, where the critical question is this: Buh who we go put?

John Campbell? Jonathan Carter? Keemo Paul? Denesh Ramdin? Sherfane Rutherford? Marlon Samuels?

Four different names dominate the ongoing conversation, three Trinidadian and one other. Two of them, T&T off-spinner Sunil Narine and Antiguan pacer Alzarri Joseph, are carrying injuries and were, therefore, not in the running. To hear some Trinis tell it, the other two, T&T all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, despite not carrying injuries, were never in the running.

Town saying that dis is the same 15 Courtney Browne and he selectors woulda pick; old selection committee or new selection committee, it still have Cameronning.

Photo: Trinbago Knight Riders spinner Sunil Narine (right) bowls during CPL action against Guyana Amazon Warriors on 11 August 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

It’s rubbish, of course. I genuinely don’t know what the new Ricky Skerritt Administration must do to convince us all that the slate has in fact been swiped clean.

On the eve of the official announcement, TV6 reported with a sort of bemusement that, despite making himself available for selection, DJ Bravo would not be among those selected for the World Cup.

And the following evening, with a curious mixture of I-told-you-so glee and what-the-hell-is-going-on bemusement, they confirmed that Bravo had indeed been omitted. Then, good taste be damned, they used what might generously be called an original format featuring disembodied heads to have four ‘gurus’ critique the selected squad.

As the ‘good news’ on Thursday morning, sister station i95.5fm’s Tony Lee erroneously told listeners that there were six Trinis in the 15-man squad.

To the paper’s credit, the headline of the Express’ back page lead story contained nothing about Bravo’s omission although the strap highlighted the inclusion of Jamaica’s Andre Russell.

“Debate had raged (…) about the inclusion of previously marginalised players,” the story read in part, “but there was ultimately no room for (…) all-rounders Kieron Pollard and the retired Dwayne Bravo.”

Photo: TKR captain Dwayne Bravo plays a shot during CPL action against the Barbados Tridents at the Queen’s Park Oval on 7 September 2018.
(Copyright Nicholas Bhajan/CA-Images/Wired868)

In my view, parochialism and insularity among the fans constitute an obstacle standing in the way of cricketing progress in the region. Insularity in the media, however, is an insurmountable barrier to the region’s cricketing success. In all their communications, Messrs Skerritt, Kishore Shallow, Robert Haynes, Jimmy Adams and Floyd Reifer need to remain constantly conscious of the real informational needs of those whose consistent support they desire.

But let’s get back to the on-field issues. WI fans need to pray that pace like fire will do the trick in World Cup 2019. Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Oshane Thomas and Kemar Roach form a formidable pace foursome by any standards. English conditions, however, require control as much as pace and, Roach apart, that is hardly an area of strength for the quartet.

The fans will hope too that, whether the pacemen fire or not, skipper Jason Holder and his fellow all-rounders as well as off-spinner Ashley Nurse will regularly deliver—the goods, of course, not just the ball!

In batting, the now 39-year-old Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer, all capable of utter destruction of the opposition on their day, will shoulder the top-order responsibilities. Against the moving ball, aptitudinal problems are likely to be added to existing attitudinal ones.

Fortunately for us and for the team, Darren Bravo and Shai Hope are the other two top-order batsmen and are not nearly as prone to wanton self-destruction as are the aforementioned three.

Photo: West Indies batsman Shai Hope (right) hits a boundary during the second ODI match against India at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on 25 June 2017.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)

Similarly, World Cup rookie Nicholas Pooran and two of the four all-rounders available to flesh out the middle order, Andre Russell and Brathwaite, have the potential to devastate any opposing attack as DreRuss has repeatedly done in the IPL this season. But will that form be transferable to England and the World Cup?

WI fans need to pray that it will. And that Brathwaite has been saving himself and his best for just such an occasion as this.

If that is the case, we shall be able, in the words of new interim chairman of selectors Haynes, ‘to remain competitive and make a strong push to win the World Cup’.

But if not, as they take their exit with a whimper at the end of the preliminary round, the WI will more than likely be hearing not the bang of Brathwaite’s match-winning blitzkrieg but angry four-letter words that rhyme with Twok! Twok! Twok! Twok!

THE SQUAD: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder (captain), Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite, Fabian Allen, Ashley Nurse, Sheldon Cottrell, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Oshane Thomas.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder delivers a ball during a practice session at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad on 22 June 2107, ahead of a ODI match against India.
(Copyright AFP 201/Jewel Samad)

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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4 comments

  1. Big up all Sancho people in Layou, St. Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and the English speaking Caribbean Basin. Interests: Will Hetmyer and Hope morph into consistent match winning batsmen? Which teams scored 366-400 runs and more against the West Indies? How many games West Indies won? Will West Indies avoid nine losses in the preliminary matches? Which team will win ten or eleven matches? Losing West Indies cricket is not as painful as it were, 1957-1977. Those were crying times. teardrops fell like raindrops. Collie Smith and Roy Gilchrist are still regretted. Losses to Australia 1961, England 1968, and India in 1971 and 1983 are still painful.
    No Narine – No Spinners. Imran Khan, Veerasawmmy Permaul and Rahkeem Cornwall are the top spinners in West Indies cricket. Cornwall is the best off-spinner. His fielding is suspect. The defense of Gayle and Bravo are also below average. The Bravo, Cornwall, and Gayle on the field at the same time may be asking too much to overcome in ODI. Allen and Nurse aren’t the solutions as spinners. Samuel Badree and Royston Chase are perhaps better options. Perhaps, the selectors ought to choose three of the following Romario Shepherd, Clinton Pestano, Keemo Paul, Raymond Reifer, and Keiron Pollard over Allen, Brathwaite. and Nurse.
    The lineup needs to be lengthened for the purpose of blasting for runs. The choice of the playing eleven ought to have been; two fast bowlers; four allrounders and five batsmen. A team consisting of Gayle, Lewis, Hope, Bravo, Hetmyer, Russell, Pollard, Holder, Reifer, Roach and Gabriel, would give the West Indies a fighting chance of winning CWC 2019. West Indies batting is their strongest suit. The bowling needs to be very short spells. West Indies need seven or eight victories to advance to the semi-finals. West Indies can’t afford loose to non-contending teams. Realistically, Jimmy Adams, Robert Haynes, and Floyd Reifer gave Jason Holder another recipe for continued failure. Team selection, captaincy, bowling and fielding may be the culprits which torpedo West Indies in CWC 2019.

  2. Good read. Loved the ending lol.

    Due to Narine’s omission through injury, I could understand the selection of Ashley Nurse. Brathwaite is the only sore point for me in the squad really, as he seems to be lacking both form and confidence. He’s basically making the regional team for the heroics against Stokes three years ago. I think one of Keemo Paul, Pollard or Rovman Powell could have been selected in place of Brathwaite. The batting does seem a bit thin and hopefully the top order can really shoulder the responsibility and pave the way for somebody like Russell to cash in at the back end.

    Allen has certainly flattered to deceive in his brief stint in international cricket so far. But I’m hoping that he could add some value with his lower order batting and electric fielding.