God alone knows what Roger Harper’s proclivities are as far as religion and politics go. There are, however, enough clues around, I submit, for West Indies fans to reach tentative conclusions about how the CWI lead selector’s cricketing mind works.
Faith, says the Good Book, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
And not having seen Nicholas Pooran in red ball cricket, Harper has stated that the hard-hitting 25-year-old left-hander must show his colours in that arena. Only then will he be considered for selection on the regional Test team.
Pooran’s splendid 118 against Sri Lanka in England in the 2019 World Cup was made off white balls. As, indeed, were several of his attention-grabbing knocks, including his win-and-series-clinching 35 in the Second ODI on Friday.
But not having even begun to gress, already I digress.
Well before Kraigg Brathwaite’s second string’s 2-0 win in Bangladesh, I think, Harper knew Jason Holder had to go. If the twice-promoted, twice-relegated top all-rounder stayed on at the helm, it was simply because it was not politic to remove him earlier.
Not when the only candidate with the credentials to replace him was a Trinidadian. And one, at that, with no recent red ball track record
So Harper has been wrestling with a version of Brutus’ dilemma. Not so much how do I remove Holder and not dismember him. How, instead, do I remove Holder and not get myself dismembered?
The Bajans will doubtless eat his [Guyanese] tail raw, I predicted in mid-January, should [he] put God out of his thoughts and recommend that T&T’s Pollard be appointed to replace Barbados’ (…) Holder as West Indies Test captain.
So after yesterday’s announcement that Holder has finally been replaced, two Guyanese gentlemen involved in regional cricket are patting themselves and each other on the back. A third is steupsing loudly enough to be heard above the roar of Kaiteur Falls.
What displeases #3 is not that Holder has been removed but that he was not replaced by Pollard.
Former WI captain Sir Clive Lloyd has been generously credited with making a major contribution to the convincing 2-0 January sweep. Without the letter the region’s most successful skipper wrote to Brathwaite’s second-stringers, the Bangladesh outcome, many contend, is likely to have been very different.
Harper played his first dozen or so Tests under Lloyd. And his gratitude knew no bounds when his former skipper publicly suggested towards the end of February that if he were a selector, ‘obviously Kraigg would be slightly ahead of Jason because of what he has done with the team they have there’.
For that reason, he added, the selection panel members ‘have to sit down with the players and find out how they feel’.
Once Lloyd, selection committee chairman in 2015 when Holder was appointed captain, had cracked open that door, Harper saw his chance. And seized it.
“Holder, who has already conceded captaincy of the West Indies’ limited overs teams to Kieron Pollard,” Wired868 reported, “remains a squad member in all three formats.”
In other words, neither he nor Harper has been dismembered.
Which arguably provoked the seething ire of Mr Kaiteur.
With CWI elections around the corner, the stewardship of incumbents Ricky Skerritt and Kishore Shallow has provided precious little fodder for those desirous of acceding—or returning—to power. The teams have generally been giving a good account of themselves, WIPA has been very low-key, things have gone relatively well.
With a Barbadian as his running mate, Mr Kaiteur might have been hoping for something flammable in the form of an unpopular Test captaincy appointment. But neither he nor Dave ‘I’ll-be-back’Cameron has been able to find any flames to fan.
Harper did fire Holder. But Holder, as Lloyd predicted, is not a guy who will say ‘I’ve got a bad deal or a raw deal’.
So it failed to set Barbados on fire.
In fact, before Friday’s Second ODI, when he failed to fire (9-0-66-1), Holder has been looking like a man unburdened. While he was at the far end from Pollard during the savagery of the record-breaking over in the First T20I, his face was wreathed in smiles.
Dwayne Bravo publicly lectured him. Thereafter, pulling in his wings, he saw the team home.
Similarly, towards the end of Game 3, he acceded to Fabian Allen’s request for protection against danger man Wanindu Hasaranga. And content to take a single off the fifth ball of what turned out to be the final over, he allowed the junior partner, unwontedly in the zone, to deliver the coup de grâce.
In the field, he largely left the mentoring to DJB, alternating for the most part between slip and the boundary, where he hardly seemed out of place.
His 12-0-84-3 T20I series returns and First ODI figures of 10-1-39-2, including four overs with the new ball and three at the death, don’t quite convey how well he bowled and how he has improved his repertoire.
Unchained, will the all-rounder make capital of the new time and space he is now afforded? We all so hope.
Frankly, I see the Brathwaite appointment as mere tinkering where major works are called for. If the squad announced for the two Sri Lanka Tests is any guide, Messrs Harper, Miles Bascombe and Phil Simmons concur.
Speaking before Wednesday’s announcement of the composition of the squad, the new skipper gave the game away. He was, he commented, ‘excited about what I believe this team can achieve in the future’.
Not ‘the team’ but ‘this team’. Reading between the lines, my team.
But is the new 28-year-old captain able to, in Harper’s words, ‘create the culture […] where the team show[s] a collective determination to fight and a real hunger for success’?
Is he better qualified to undertake that herculean task than the 33-year-old white ball leader prepared to warn the watching world that ‘winning is the only thing’?
A successful white ball leader prepared to appeal for an obstructing the field dismissal…
…and later to threaten to Mankad another batsman for backing up too far?
Will Brathwaite ever be hungry enough for success to follow suit?
Would Lloyd, Harper and West Indian fandom want him to?
Let there be light.