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So whappen, WI is not Stokes too? Can Holder’s men find a hero to hol’ up de side?

CWI’s Interim Chairman of Selectors Robert Haynes and his merry men have named a minimally changed West Indies 13 for the Second Test against India, which starts in Jamaica tomorrow. I would say that the selected squad is nothing to write home about but is that really news?

The squad includes Keemo Paul, who was replaced by Miguel Cummins at the eleventh hour in the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. Paul was not concussed but, whether or not the rules require it, one could be forgiven for expecting it to be a like-for-like replacement.

Photo: West Indies captain Jason Holder (third from left) and his teammates await a fresh England batsman during their Test win in Barbados.

Well, in hindsight, it had better not be. Cummins managed a record 45-ball duck in the first innings and, in the second, contributed a 22-ball 19 to the last wicket partnership with Kemar Roach which doubled the score from 50 for 9 to exactly 100. However, with match figures of 0 for 69 in 20 overs, he might accurately be said to have done much more with the bat as a number 11 than with the ball. Is that really acceptable?

Also included again is 28-year-old Jahmar Hamilton, who replaced the still indisposed Shane Dowrich in the original squad. In my circle, there are quite a few people who were confident that, in the absence of Dowrich, Nicholas Pooran would finally get a Test call-up. Clearly my circle does not include the arc of the Caribbean archipelago.

The 23-year-old left-handed T&T wicketkeeper/batsman, who was among the top WI scorers at the recent World Cup and was named ICC Rising Star of the tournament, was not deemed good enough to get the nod over Anguilla’s Hamilton. Statsguru does not list the latter’s name and, according to Wikipedia, his claim to international cricketing fame so far is that he was called up for three consecutive series against Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh last year but did not play.

KFC Munch Pack

Unsurprisingly, there are those who insist that it’s an anti-Trini thing. That, however, does not withstand scrutiny. If the gentlemen calling the shots have it in for us T&Tians, how does one explain their selecting Darren Bravo for the First Test? And his putative retention for the Second?

Here are the left-handed T&T middle-order batsman’s last seven Test scores since he returned from two years of Dave Cameron-enforced “exile:” 2, 1, 50, 6, 0, 18, 2 for a grand total of 79 runs. That he needed 303 balls to get to that aggregate merely emphasises the extent of the form problem. I submit that his continuing presence on the team is proof positive that the selectors are not anti-Trini.

Photo: West Indies batsman Darren Bravo (centre) prepares to sweep during Test action against Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on 22 October 2016.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Aamir Qureshi)

So the parochialism-pushing Pooranistas are off the mark. I am not, however, sure one can say the same when the claim is that the selectors really don’t know what they’re doing. Is there an international team that’s better at running between the wickets than India? Which selector worth his salt would pick a 300-pound, barely mobile off-spinner in a squad to play against Virat Kohli’s side?

Or has Rakheem Cornwall merely been promoted to a wait on the fringes of the team as an incentive to work harder on reducing his weight? Strange…

But to get back, one assumes that Hamilton will play as wicketkeeper. No can we expect any selector worth his salt to again require the team’s most reliable batsman to keep wicket against the unpredictable Shannon Gabriel, capable of delivering a very wide leg-side wide and a very wide off-side wide in consecutive balls in consecutive overs?

Unless, of course, an off-the-field gentlemen’s agreement has been reached with Kohli that, irrespective of who wins the toss, India will not bat first…

So, Cornwall apart, who will not make the cut today? I’m guessing either Bravo or Shamarh Brooks but should it really be that cut-and-dry? In my view, there are questions over Kraigg Brathwaite’s place. Or there should be. He scored 110 against Bangladesh in Jamaica in July last year but his 17 innings since then have yielded a total of 209 runs, with not even one half-century.

Photo: West Indies batsman Shimron Hetmyer plays a shot against England during a Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua on 1 February 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan/Wired868)

One T&T commentator has suggested that Hope can be promoted to open in the vice-captain’s stead. But I don’t expect Brathwaite to be left out, no more than I expect him to consistently leave the ball outside his off-stump; after all, it’s not only in the alphabetical team list that he is a top dog. And it seems clear to me that a part of the team problem is that some animals are more equal than others.

I don’t get the impression that the players in and around the team think their treatment is commensurate with their talent. Ask Rovman Powell, say. Or Jonathan Carter, John Campbell or Sunil Ambris. Ask Sheldon Cottrell or Oshane Thomas. Ask Fabian Allen, Devendra Bishoo and Khary Pierre. Ask them whether they think they got their just deserts.

Or ask Pooran, Denesh Ramdin, Kieron Pollard or Bravo the Elder.

But I don’t suppose Shimron Hetmyer would concede that he is lucky to still be in the starting XI. Kohli, the top-ranked ICC batsman, hit just two boundaries in his second innings half-century. Ask the West Indies top-order batsmen if and when they realised that.

Ben Stokes made a match-winning 135 for England at Headingley last week. He made just two off his first 70 balls with no apparent concern. He eventually went past 50; no celebration. He subsequently went past 100; no celebration. Ask anybody in the West Indies set-up, player, selector, support staff member, administrator or mere spectator, if (s)he thinks any member of the current team has what it takes to do that? Why not?

Photo: West Indies batsman Roston Chase.
(Copyright UK Daily Mail)

When Chase and Hope and Hetmyer et al have the self-confidence to answer those two questions honestly to themselves, ponder on the implications and make the necessary adjustments to their game, WI may have a chance of making a contest out of a Test match against Kohli’s India.

For this weekend, forget it!

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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