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T2021 W/C: ‘Reds’ and McWatt slam ‘stupefying and bewildering’ WI picks, offer their alternatives

“[…] We are also in full agreement with Sir Andy Roberts’ expressed disgust at the appalling treatment the selectors have meted out to Jason Holder. Not only has he been omitted from the final 15 but, adding insult to injury, he was named by as one of the four reserves. 

“[…] As damning as the selectors’ treatment of Holder has been, it pales in comparison to the most stupefying and bewildering of all their choices, the inclusion of Darren Bravo among the four reserves…”

Veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira and Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt share ‘serious concerns’ on West Indies’ T20 World Cup squad, as Wired868 continues its look ahead to the T20 Cricket World Cup:

Photo: West Indies pacer Jason Holder appeals during the Second T20I against Pakistan on 31 July 2021.
(via CWI Media)

The West Indies squad for the 17 October – 13 November 2021 ICC T20 World Cup has finally been announced. The squad is as follows:

Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.

Reserves: Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein.

Our reaction to the announced squad has been to add our voices to the prevailing clamour of consternation that has been ringing throughout the entire Caribbean region and the diaspora since the aforementioned names were revealed by Cricket West Indies’ lead selector Roger Harper. 

Not unlike the apparent majority of ardent West Indies cricket followers, we have some serious concerns. Not only over some of the very dubious choices that have been made, but also, even more importantly, in terms of the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding some of the more questionable selections. 

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)

In our humble view, the selected squad falls at least three players short of that which could and should have been chosen. WI, after all, will be heading to the UAE not only as participants but also as the reigning champions seeking to defend their title. 

Our very first concern would be over the inclusion of the almost 42 year-old Chris Gayle, whose recent form has been abysmal. Averaging 17 from 16 T20 Internationals this year, and recording a single half-century in the last five years, Gayle has also struggled badly in the ongoing CPL, scraping together 83 runs from five innings at an average of 16 for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots.

Moreover, ever since his recall to the squad for this year’s South Africa series there has been no real evidence to support lead selector Roger Harper’s contention, in defence of Gayle’s inclusion, that his presence actually ‘brings value to the team’.

The recall of the 36-year-old fast bowler Ravi Rampaul for his first international match in six years, in preference to the much younger 26-year-old Romario Shepherd, is another choice that can be questioned.

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors Romario Shepherd rises to the occasion.
(Copyright INews Guyana)

Rampaul, whose previous 23 T20I appearances have yielded 29 wickets, grabbed the attention of selectors by taking 17 wickets for the Trinbago Knight Riders in the ongoing CPL. Shepherd has, however, been just as effective, capturing 14 wickets to date. He is also by miles much more capable than Rampaul as a lower-order batsman, and a far more agile fielder.

With regards to agility, Harper has indicated that Sherfane Rutherford’s impressive 2021 CPL performances were not considered owing to his failure to meet the required fitness standards. There is thus a question to be asked as to whether that standard was identical to the one used for Rampaul.

Having taken this year’s CPL form into consideration for their inclusion of Rampaul and Roston Chase, the selectors appear to have ignored the relatively inferior performances of Oshane Thomas in their choice for the squad’s genuinely quick fast bowler.

Chase’s inclusion, earned as it has been on the basis of his superb CPL 2021 form among the leading run-scorers with over 300 runs—including three back-to-back half-centuries—at an average of 70 and a strike rate of 151, is fully warranted. The same cannot be said about Thomas who, to date in CPL 2021, has captured only four wickets at a 34.21 average and a 7.21 economy rate. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots fielder Sherfane Rutherford takes the catch to dismiss Barbados Royals batsman Nyeem Young during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 2 September 2021. (Photo by Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Harper’s explanation for Thomas’ inclusion was that his pace will provide WI with a much-desired shock attack X factor. Thomas’ pace has, however, been a few clicks below that of Odean Smith, who has been by far CPL 2021’s fastest bowler. At routine speeds in excess of 145 kph, Smith has to date captured ten wickets at an ultra-impressive, miserly 17.90 average and a commendable 7.35 strike rate.

Smith’s 2021 CPL performances have earned him the admiration of no less a person than the West Indies legendary, all-time great fast bowler Sir Andy Roberts, who has suggested that his pace should have made him the selectors’ automatic choice for the ‘shock attack X factor’ role. To which we would also add that Smith is also a much more capable batsman and a far more agile fielder than the seemingly still somewhat overweight Thomas.

Harper’s indication that Smith, like Rutherford, also failed to meet the required fitness standard and hence was not considered again raises the question as to whether that standard was identical to that used for either Rampaul or Thomas.

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors pacer Odean Smith celebrates the dismissal of Tallawahs batsman Andre Russell during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 11 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Even further, given the obvious value that the inclusion of both Rutherford and Smith would have provided, shouldn’t they both have received the same medical exemption provided to Chris Gayle? 

We are also in full agreement with Sir Andy’s expressed disgust at the appalling treatment the selectors have meted out to Jason Holder. Not only has he been omitted from the final 15 but, adding insult to injury, he was named by as one of the four reserves. 

Holder’s all-round capabilities as a medium pacer, hard-hitting batsman, arguably now the world’s very best slip fielder, and, given his height, a fearful presence as a boundary catcher should have earned him a place in the final 15. If not, the selectors should have omitted him altogether instead of demeaning him by including him as merely a reserve.

As damning as the selectors’ treatment of Holder has been, it pales in comparison to the most stupefying and bewildering of all their choices, the inclusion of Darren Bravo among the four reserves.

Photo: TKR’s Darren Bravo safely completes a catch to dismiss Jamaica Tallawahs batsman Rovman Powell during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 7 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Incredibly, in defence of Bravo’s inclusion and despite his dismal returns in this year’s CPL of a mere 50 runs in four matches played at a paltry 16.66 average, lead selector Harper claimed that he was the very best of the available choices. 

Harper and his Selection panel would now appear to be in serious need of some heavy-duty spectacles, as blind as they have obviously been to the comparatively far superior statistics of Shamarh Brooks, whose 2021 CPL returns to date read 185 runs from six innings at an average of 37.

Our final concern over the selectors’ choices would be their preference of Sheldon Cottrell over Dominic Drakes among the reserves.

As a much younger, left-arm seamer and with an eye to next year’s T20 World Cup to be hosted in Australia, the 23-year-old Drakes, who has had a fairly impressive 2021 CPL with nine wickets at a 24.55 average and an 8.61 economy rate would have been a far wiser choice than the much older 32-year-old Cottrell, whose 2021 CPL returns read five wickets at a 26.20 average and 8.18 economy rate. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots bowler Dominic Drakes, whose name should have come up in the discussion about World Cup places.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

As Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford indicated following the announcement of the World Cup squad: ‘Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors aren’t yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!’

Editor’s Note: Veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira made his broadcast debut at the 1971 West Indies vs India Test series and describes himself as a world-recognised cricket analyst.

Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt, son of late former West Indies and Guyana wicketkeeper Clifford ‘Baby Boy’ McWatt, serves as Canadian Cricket’s Media Relations Manager and is Publisher of Wickets: Canada’s Monthly Online Cricket Magazine. 

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2 comments

  1. This the most stupefying and confusing selection of a West Indies team I have seen in my 60 plus years as a West Indies cricket fan. Wow! How does Harper retain his position after this?

    • Earl Best

      Actually, it is not, Len.

      It only appears that way because the explanations the selectors have provided to justify their choices confuse and bewilder.

      Difficult as they are to agree with, the choices themselves aren’t that hard to understand. It’s not as though they picked up some guy from in the middle of Basseterre or Barataria and plumped him down on the 15 or even the 19.

      Let’s not get carried away with our emotion. Or our language.

      And let us all remain thankful that we have an opportunity to interrogate the selectors; in the politics, we only get that chance once every five years.