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T2021 W/C: ‘Reds’ & McWatt request overhaul of WI selection policies, starting with fitness requirements

“[…] Foremost among the policies now obviously in need of desperate reform would be that of the fitness standards. 

“As numerous former players have suggested, the duplicity of allowing some players to be granted fitness exemptions while others are deemed to have failed to meet the required standards has to be placed where it rightfully belongs: at the very top of the pile of discarded practices…”

Veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira and Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt recommend an overhaul of the Cricket West Indies selection criteria and specialist camps for players:

Photo: West Indies batsman Chris Gayle tries to steal a single against Australia.
(via CWI)

Well-known West Indies wicket-keeper/batsman Deryck Murray recently added his voice to the seemingly unending list of those who have publicly expressed their disagreement with the 2021 T20 squad choices made by the WI selectors. 

While doing so, however, Murray also wisely suggested  that the time has come for us all to move on from agonising over the spilt milk of the selectors’ highly questionable choices and towards the far more positively inclined focus of providing the chosen squad with our collective, unhesitating support.

We are in full agreement with Murray’s suggestion that the chosen 2021 T20 World Cup squad should now receive our unqualified support as well as our very best wishes for its every success during the forthcoming tournament.

Having now voiced our agreement, we must, however, also suggest that it now behooves Cricket West Indies to immediately engage  in implementing the blatantly obviously required reforms to the practices, procedures and policies of its selection panel. That much is now an urgent necessity as a means of ensuring that a spill of such colossal proportions as was recently experienced is not ever repeated!    

Photo: Cricket West Indies (CWI) lead selector Roger Harper.

Foremost among the policies now obviously in need of desperate reform would be the fitness standards. As numerous former players have suggested, the duplicity of allowing some players to be granted fitness exemptions while others are deemed to have failed to meet the required standards has to be placed where it rightfully belongs: at the very top of the pile of discarded practices! 

Henceforth, the established fitness standard should be one and the same for all without compromise. All players must meet the established standard in order to become eligible for selection. 

Conversely, the failure by any player to meet the established standard should automatically result in his or her immediate disqualification from selection eligibility. No exemptions are to be allowed to anyone, whatsoever!

As a means of ensuring that the required fitness standards are being met and maintained by all players, Cricket West Indies should also establish a testing frequency timetable that clearly specifies how often tests will be conducted each year. 

Photo: Guyana Amazon Warriors batsman Shimron Hetmyer (right) is run out by Jamaica Tallawahs wicket-keeper Kennar Lewis during CPL action at Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 11 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Whether the agreed schedule is for tests to be conducted once, twice, thrice or even four times each year, it must be crystal clear to every player desirous of being selected on West Indies teams how often they will have to be tested to confirm their eligibility. 

The ultra-importance of player fitness has been advocated by no less than legendary former West Indies fast-bowling great, Michael Holding. In a Guides To Greatness interview that was featured in WI Wickets cricket magazine’s inaugural August 2021 issue, Holding suggested that it was no mere coincidence that the Dennis Waight fitness-trained West Indies team of which he was a key member—and which played virtually unbeaten for 15 years under Clive Lloyd’s and subsequently Viv Richards’ leadership—was also arguably fitter than many of its opponents. 

As regards those now sadly distant past halcyon days of WI world cricket dominance, it is also worth remembering that the WI selection panel back then actually comprised five voting selectors, not just three as currently obtains. 

The selection panel’s numerical composition should, therefore, be another area worthy of Cricket West Indies’ reconsideration, if not immediate reform.

Photo: The great West Indies team of the 1980s, captained by Clive Lloyd, train before a Test match in England.
(via ESPN)

As a means of ensuring that the most talented, adequately prepared players are readily available for selection, CWI should also engage in the establishment of talent pool camps in as many of the associated disciplines as possible. Separate camps should be held for our opening and middle-order batsmen, wicket-keepers, spinners and fast bowlers. 

The services of such former greats as Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Sir Vivian Richard, and Brian Lara should be secured for the batting camps. Deryck Murray and Jeffrey Dujon could similarly conduct the wicket-keeping camp. 

And although he is now well into his late eighties, Lance Gibbs remains one of the very few world-class spinners WI have ever produced. Fortunately, he is still among us and sufficiently active as to be of immense consultative value to our existing, much younger practitioners of the art.

Fortunately, there is now no such problem with the availability of those worthy of managing any such camp for fast bowlers.

Photo: Former West Indies fast bowler and current cricket analyst Ian Bishop.

Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Joel Garner, even Ian Bishop—in between his seemingly unending assignments as a much-sought-after television cricket commentator—could be available to manage a skills and fitness refinement camp for our most promising fast bowlers.

The foregoing are only some of the top-line reforms that are most urgently in need of CWI’s almost immediate implementation. Given the unprecedented extent of the most recent ICC T20 World Cup selections criticisms as well as the widespread indignation it caused throughout the Caribbean and beyond to the diaspora, there will most likely be others.     

Not unlike everyone else, we will now wait as patiently as possible to see exactly what CWI’s  public reaction to its now blatantly obvious selection-related inadequacies will be. 

While doing so, we should again, as Murray suggested, also direct our energies, prayers, and very best wishes towards our West Indies team and their success at the forthcoming World Cup. 

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (centre) celebrates with his team-mates after the dismissal of India’s Rishabh Pant during the third T20I in Mumbai on 11 December 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

Here’s to their retention of the trophy and to all of us being able, when they return home in mid-November, to grant them a most deserving heroes’ welcome as still reigning champions! 

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