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T2021 W/C: Grant-Perez revisits dream WI team, as Simmons and Gayle make way for CPL stars

“[…] Another ‘king’ whose crown has slipped is Chris Gayle. I made the case for the former heavy-scoring, left-handed opener. Now, I see the light. 

“It was pure sentimentality that made me want this World Cup to be his swansong; he simply has not earned a place. It was almost painful to see him at sea against the Royals’ new left-arm wrist spinner, Jake Lintott, on Thursday evening.

“The writing is on the wall. Goodnight…”

Photo: West Indies veteran batsman Chris Gayle celebrates achieving a T20I milestone against Australia.
(via CWI Media)

As Wired868 ends Phase One of its look ahead to the T20 Cricket World Cup, one of our two ladies gets the last word.  On the day the selectors reveal their choices, Anthea Grant-Perez, a recent graduate from the Ken Gordon School of Journalism and Communication Studies, revisits her dream West Indies Team with some CPL-inspired changes:

Cricket, they say, is a game of glorious uncertainties. How true! Especially where the West Indies are concerned.

When I submitted my dream squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup, I was certain that it was the best team for the task ahead, at least on paper. But that was before the CPL got under way.

Now, having watched people in the field and seen what they are actually—and not just potentially—capable of, I am left re-evaluating my selections. A team on paper is always better than a team on the field; and, after all, cricket matches are never played on paper.

Or on a chess board.

Photo: Barbados Royals’ Joshua Bishop sends down another spinning delivery during CPL action against the Jamaica Tallawahs at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 31 August 2021 .
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, I begin with two chess pieces, a Bishop and a King, forced on my attention since the start of CPL 2021.

Joshua Bishop, 21, is a decent batsman who scored 18 runs off eight balls to help propel the Barbados Royals to a competitive total against the Jamaica Tallawahs on 28 August. But it is his bowling (3/20) that really caught the eye. It told me that he may well be an exciting talent for the future. I’ll need to see more of him but I very much like what I have seen so far.

Brandon King’s batting so far in 2021 told me that he was once an exciting talent for the future; that looks to be in the past now. Thus far, in five innings for his Guyana Amazon Warriors, he has managed just 37 runs off 43 balls, a far cry from what his talent promised, even led us to expect, a year or two ago.

Another ‘king’ whose crown has slipped is Chris Gayle. I made the case for the former heavy-scoring, left-handed opener. Now, I see the light. It was pure sentimentality that made me want this World Cup to be his swansong; he simply has not earned a place.

Photo: St Lucia Kings wicket-keeper Andre Fletcher (left) celebrates the dismissal of SKNP batsman Chris Gayle during CPL action at Warner Park  in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 4 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

It was almost painful to see him at sea against the Royals’ new left-arm wrist spinner, Jake Lintott, on Thursday evening.

The writing is on the wall. Goodnight.

As an opener for WI, Evin Lewis has been a good knight and he thus maintains his place in my starting XI. With his destructive batting at the start, he can set the foundation for a formidable target or cut down large targets if WI are to chase.

It is true that he has not been at his brilliant best for the Patriots so far this season. But he has done enough to make him a real threat every time he marches out to the middle.

The urgent question is who should be at his side. Here is an interesting name: Kennar Lewis. Had the burly Jamaica Tallawahs opener been an all-rounder or, at least, more effective in the field, I would have said he is a real candidate. His sheer power is refreshing, and there is no doubt that, although he is not quite a Gayle clone, he has the ability to score so quickly as to change the dynamics of a game.

Photo: TKR batsman Lendl Simmons hits down the ground for 4 while Jamaica Tallawahs wicket-keeper Kennar Lewis looks on during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 7 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

We used to say that about Lendl Simmons. Up until very recently.

Unlike the good form we saw on display against South Africa and Australia, he now seems, in this CPL tournament, to be but a shadow of himself. Instead of the multiple elegant boundaries we have grown accustomed to, there is now a plethora of dot balls.

Time will tell if he’ll regain his form by the end of the tournament. But, in what has now become a virtual audition, there are simply too many other talented players waiting in the wings, vying for the selectors’ nod.

So Simmons goes. As his replacement, I would select Roston Chase who, in my opinion, is a top-class, versatile player. His Test cricket pedigree has long been obvious but he is now a rising T20  star.

Not capricious or vie-ki-vie, he assesses the game situation well and has played the sheet anchor role many times. It will be important for WI to have him in the top order to provide stability. In him, WI will also have a skilful right-arm off-spinner to add variety to the bowling attack.

Photo: St Lucia Kings bowler Roston Chase (left) celebrates the dismissal of SKNP batsman Ravi Bopara (right) during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 4 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Sunil Narine, who has been playing the pinch-hitter’s role for TKR, will be Chase’s shadow, so to speak, among the reserves. The left-handed batsman/right-arm mystery spinner can sometimes give away his wicket cheaply, seemingly never unprepared to take risks. But he can, with his quicksilver shots, create the kind of momentum that the WI middle order has the potential to convert into massive final totals.

If the top order performs well and does not expose the destructive power-hitters WI boast in the middle too early, all things are possible. To 24-year-old Shimron Hetmyer and 25-year-old Nicholas Pooran, the tried and tested castles standing on each flank, add the highly ranked Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell.

And toss into the mix, Fabian Allen, fast emerging as a finisher of class, and Sherfane Rutherford, who has considerably enhanced his reputation with his performances in this year’s tournament so far.

In my original 18-member squad, I included the St Kitts and Nevis stand-out as a reserve although few seemed to have noticed him up till then. The left-hander has been superb, scoring half-centuries and earning himself Man-of-the-Match awards already. His fielding has also been excellent because, as he says, he always gives it his all.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Sherfane Rutherford raises his bat after scoring a half-century against Barbados Royals in CPL T20 action at Warner Park on 26 August 2021.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

What more can we ask of any player?

I consider our bowling to be most destructive, the powerful attacking line-up capable of incapacitating any team.

Dwayne Bravo continues to assert himself as one of the greatest T20 all-rounders of all time. His place in the starting line-up is not now nor ever has been questioned.

As back-up, there are Bravo’s charges, Obed McCoy, somewhat overshadowed so far in CPL 2021, and a Jamaican whose pretty consistent lightning speed may very well cause many of the mighty to fall in the Middle East. His name is Oshane Thomas.

But, after long, hard reflection, I have opted for neither in the starting XI.

In the movie The Revenant, actor Leonardo DiCaprio survives against all odds, having virtually escaped from the sure jaws of death. Ravi Rampaul reminds me of him. The 34-year-old has been around for a long time and his talent has never been in doubt.

Photo: TKR pacer Ravi Rampaul (centre) celebrates capturing another wicket during CPL 2021 action against the St Lucia Kings.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

Plagued with injury throughout his career, he has re-emerged on the CPL 2021 scene, where he currently stands as the leading wicket-taker, looking very dangerous and threatening repeatedly to claim hat-tricks. His immense experience plus playing county cricket in England and shedding the extra pounds—avoirdupois, not sterling—has really given him a new lease on cricketing life. WI should be the beneficiary.

Spin claims the last place. The choice is between Hayden Walsh Jr, who has not produced his best in the CPL, and Akeal Hosein, whose wonderful one-handed catch and sensational final over bowling in TKR’s second game against GAW confirmed him as a worthy candidate to make his debut on one of cricket’s biggest stages.

Making room for him is his compatriot Khary Pierre.

Starting XI: Evin Lewis, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper & vice-captain), Kieron Pollard (captain), Sherfane Rutherford, Andre Russell, Fabian Allen, DJ Bravo, Akeal Hosein, Ravi Rampaul.

Squad #12-15: Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Obed Mc Coy, Joshua Bishop.

Reserves: Kennar Lewis (wkpr), Hayden Walsh Jr, Andre Fletcher (wkpr).

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