Blank Bravo. Drop white ball Holder. Hand Hetmyer a promotion.
If the West Indies are serious about moving towards the top of international cricket anytime soon, now is certainly the time to make bold moves. And, thankfully, it looks to me as if that is the direction in which we are moving. Prudently, let me stress.
But, I hasten to add, although we have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, we should not be afraid to empty—and refill—if need be, the bathtub, confident that all that WIWASA delivers will come from the Water part and not the Sewerage.
Just in case you’re not certain, I am reacting to the announcement that former all-formats skipper Jason Holder is to be rested “for the first two ODIs of the three-match series against Ireland starting next week.”
“The decision was taken to rest Jason,” chief selector Roger Harper explains, “due to the heavy workload he has had over the last year.”
In 2019, Holder played five of West Indies’ six Tests, 27 of their 28 ODIs and nine of their 12 T20Is. But the heavy workload is not, I suspect the selectors suspect, the whole Holder story. If he’s tired, why not just leave him out of all three ODIs?
Here in order are Holder’s last six ODI, T20I and Test bowling returns, recorded in matches played after the World Cup: 0-39, 2-21,0-52,0-45, 0-45 and 1-63 for a total of three wickets for 265 runs; 1-29, 2-23, 0-26, 0-46, 1-42 and 0-54 for a total of 4 wickets for 220 runs and 1-36, 1-45, 5-77, 1-20, 2-22 and 3-20 for a total of 13 wickets for 220 in just over 105 overs.
And the story is really no better with the bat: 27 runs (9, 11 and 7 off 30 balls) in three ODI innings; 51 runs (13, 6, 24, 8 off 38 balls) in four T20I innings and 115 runs (39, 8, 18, 39 and 11) in five Test innings.
There has been a clear dip in the white ball form of Test cricket’s world-leading all-rounder since he was replaced by Kieron Pollard at the helm of those two teams late last year.
Cause and effect? Is he, as suggested by a caller to a relatively recent radio programme, ‘toting’?
Far from conclusive evidence based on a far from representative sample, I know. But it is worth keeping an eye on, methinks. And what I want to stress is that if the former skipper is not earning his white ball keep, Messrs Harper and co must keep open the option of giving him the pink slip.
I also want them to feel free to ignore calls—and subtle pressure—to recall the now-once-more-available-for-duty Dwayne Bravo, who sat out the entire CPL season through injury but recently announced his return from retirement.
According to a CMC report out of Chennai last month, the 36-year-old all-rounder ‘confirmed he had ended his retirement and would be available for West Indies selection’ and ‘has hinted at the return of seasoned Twenty20 campaigners Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine’.
He believes, says the report, that the presence of these seasoned campaigners ‘will have a significant impact on the young West Indies side’ and ‘would augur well for the unit once the highly rated trio also were back in Windies colours’.
Maybe. But no one, not even the highly successful former WI skipper with 450 T20s to his credit should earn an automatic recall. Harper and co must ensure they judge them all on recent performances and see how those stack up against the performances of those who have replaced them.
Which brings us to my final area of concern. The WI current focus is the defence of their T20 World Cup title in Australia in October. The elevation of the 32-year-old Kieron Pollard to the captaincy of both white ball teams was arguably triggered by that single emphasis. But there is life beyond the World Cup.
Bravo offers an interesting assessment. The younger players, he says, will ‘accelerate their development with the seasoned players alongside them’.
“We just have to talk to them,” he continues, “and allow them to make their mistakes and (…) figure out their game.”
I think we have to do rather more than that. I don’t think we can simply leave things to chance as we did in the post-Clive Lloyd/Viv Richards era. I think we have a responsibility to attempt to secure success by securing the succession.
It is possible that, buoyed by his title-winning CPL exploits, Holder will continue to grow as a white ball captain. He may well be ready to assume the all-formats leadership again by the time Pollard is ready to ride off into the sunset.
But what if he isn’t? Do we start looking for a new captaincy candidate then?
Truth be told, I don’t see how the WI leadership can fail to appoint Shimron Hetmyer, the 22-year-old former WI Under-19 skipper, as vice-captain in all three formats. Tomorrow.
We could, I submit, do a lot worse. With three teams that have an average age in the mid-20s, we could choose to do nothing now and simply wait …
…in the hope that Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran are still around and interested in playing cricket for the West Indies when the time comes to put Pollard out to pasture.