Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D’Artagnan. Remember them? One for all and all for one? French figments of Alexandre Dumas’ fertile 19th Century imagination.
How many of us have seen ourselves in these swashbuckling heroes? Sixty thousand Frenchmen cannot be wrong, right?
Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell. A feisty foursome forged out of Dave Cameron’s 21st Century cock-ups? One for all and all for one, right?
But let us quickly consign Cameron to the dung heap of West Indies cricket where he belongs. Let us look rather at what lies before, not behind, us.
In under three months’ time, defending champions WI join Australia, England, South Africa and two cricketing (non-)entities in Group One of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE and Oman. With only two teams progressing to the knockout round, the margin for error is really slim-to-none.
No room, therefore, for 19th Century sentimentality. Or softness.
Primarily for that reason, my 15-member squad does NOT include Chris Gayle nor my starting XI Darren Bravo. In my view, we need players who will contribute to the team effort consistently, not just on their day. We shall certainly need all hands on deck every day.
In my view, that precludes the ‘Universe Boss’. For all his talent and his deservedly much vaunted achievements in T20 cricket, he is, as far as consistent utility is concerned, last year’s newspaper—a 2016 magazine, well past his sell-by date.
Similarly, Andre Fletcher. He has amply demonstrated that he is a cut below the top-drawer quality needed at this level. I cite his complete cluelessness against Adam Zampa and Mohammad Hafeez as well as his dropping of Aaron Finch in the third over of the second T20 game versus Australia.
Fletcher’s shoulders are emphatically NOT the ones I want to be carrying my hopes in an international tournament involving the world’s best. A player capable of grassing a chance of that sort at that juncture of such a crucial game lacks the cojones I think success in international cricket demands.
Without ‘Spiceman’, we have little choice but to include Shai Hope in the squad. Should Nicholas Pooran be unable to keep wicket, Hope fits easily into the vacated slot.
And with the Grenadian out, I’m going for the hugely disappointing Darren Bravo in the reserves, more hopeful than convinced that he has not yet lost it completely.
That, however, is a view I am increasingly disposed to espousing.
I want to agree with those who say that the starting XI really picks itself. Fitness permitting.
So my major thrust here is to show why my four reserves enjoy—if that is the word—their relatively low-level status.
And to react to Roneil Walcott’s salvation theory anchored in faith in the ‘Fab Four’.
Impressed though I am by Akeal Hosein’s growth and development over a single season, the only place he can claim now belongs to Fabian Allen. Slow in coming to the view that ‘Bucket Hands’ deserved a place on this starting XI. I now have no doubt whatever that he has earned it.
Hosein still has some distance to travel. And slotting him in for Hayden Walsh is not an option as the right-handed wrist-spinner’s growing bag of wickets makes clear.
Alzarri Joseph gets into my squad ahead of Jayden Seales. Even if Jason Holder has not really been delivering regularly with the bat in recent times, the young pacer does not yet have the batting skills to displace the former captain in the starting XI. And Joseph gets my nod ahead of him for the same reason.
But Sheldon Cottrell only gets in ahead of Seales because of the variety offered by his left-handedness.
Among my starters are no fewer than seven bowling options, including skipper Pollard, who I hope will use option number 7A, medium-pacer Pollard, sparingly.
And option number 7B, off-spinner Pollard, judiciously—if at all!
Kevin Sinclair is among my reserves so that, whenever we make the judgement that the objective conditions justify it, he can be called up. If we misjudge the conditions and discover a spin-friendly surface after the toss, well, use 7B. Maybe.
And that is my beef with Walcott’s confident assertion, the issue of the judgement of the objective conditions.
I never tire of recalling the ‘Behind closed doors’ chapter of Malcolm Marshall’s 1987 Marshall Arts biography. There, he informs us that Clive Lloyd’s army of pacemen were wont to take the field with Plan A, B, C, D and E, usually developed in the bowlers’ meeting that followed the pre-match team meeting.
My respect for the cricketing acumen of both Pollard and DJ Bravo is a matter of record; I feel both have the ability, at very short notice, to find workable tactical solutions, indispensable to success in the shortest format.
But helpful as that is in the field, how does it really help when we are at bat?
Curtly Ambrose recently explicitly expressed my concern:
“[…] Our batsmen have this foolish notion that T20 cricket is all about sixes and fours. So we neglect ones and twos and, when we can’t get the boundaries, we soak up a lot of dot balls…”
The apposite strategy might have been worked out in great detail in the team meeting and discussed in the dressing room. But it is the batsmen at the wicket who have to translate it into action.
Which is an area where, on occasion, all continues to fall down.
We know that WI are a six-hitting team, capable of the most morale-destroying assaults on opposition bowling.
On their day.
But haven’t we amply demonstrated that the West Indian batsmen rarely know when it is NOT their day? When the situation calls for consolidation, for occupation, for slow drop-by-drop accumulation, for scrambling, taking what you can eke out?
My answer is emphatically yes. And little on offer in the last three series serves to allay my justifiable fears.
So me sing the praises of Walcott’s fearsome ‘Fab Four’? Nah!
All for one and one for all? Or 101 for 1 and 111 for all?
It really depends on which WI show up, the ones prepared to use the cricketingly correct heads above their shoulders…
…or the cocksure ones whose cricketing heads are hanging between their thighs.
Starting XI: Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper/vice captain), Kieron Pollard (captain), Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Hayden Walsh Jr, Obed McCoy.
#12-15: Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph.
Reserves: Akeal Hosein, Jayden Seales, Kevin Sinclair.
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