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T2021 W/C: F Warner muses over CPL stars who forced their way into WI plans—and those who should have

“[…] In a T20 match, four tight overs are worth their weight in gold. In [Sunil] Narine’s two IPL games thus far, after he bowled a tight over during which the batsmen played him cautiously, the bowler at the other end got a wicket. The batsmen were forced to take a chance in order to make up the lost ground.

“In the CPL, the off-spinner took 12 wickets in 10 matches at the amazing economy rate of 4.37. That’s stuff you can take to the bank, additional credit to his team’s account. Puzzling that greater issue has not been made of this.

“What would he do if he were not [according to West Indies chief selector Roger Harper] unfit?”

Photo: Trinbago Knight Riders star Sunil Narine (right) stalks a St Lucia Stars batsman during CPL action at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain on 7 August 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

As Wired868 looks forward to the T20 Cricket World Cup, contributor Francis Warner considers the 2021 CPL stand-outs who came to the fore:

Australia’s, England’s and South Africa’s cricketers are laughing all the way to the ICC T20 World Cup bank! When the West Indies squad was announced two weeks ago with Sunil Narine’s name omitted, they were delighted!

There are many great WI T20 players but only three strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams: Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard and Narine. Nobody seems to know where the heads of the selectors were but many think they may have shot us in the foot!

In a T20 match, four tight overs are worth their weight in gold. In Narine’s two IPL games thus far, after he bowled a tight over during which the batsmen played him cautiously, the bowler at the other end got a wicket. The batsmen were forced to take a chance in order to make up the lost ground.

Photo: Bowled him! TKR spinner Sunil Narine (background) celebrates the capture of another Barbados Royals wicket during CPL action at Warner Park, St Kitts and Nevis on 9 September 2021.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

In the CPL, the off-spinner took 12 wickets in 10 matches at the amazing economy rate of 4.37. That’s stuff you can take to the bank, additional credit to his team’s account. Puzzling that greater issue has not been made of this.

What would he do if he were not unfit?

The greatest T20 player of all time was excluded from my list of the most feared of WI cricketers. Three or four years ago, the omission of Chris Gayle would have been unthinkable! Sadly, a seemingly sound investment can become a liability when the market conditions change.

But time and tide wait for no man. Nowadays, once gale force winds barely provoke a rustle in the foliage.

Remember, I was one of those who strongly argued for his inclusion on the squad; the CPL, however, has made it clear that, like Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes, the great one is now floating like a bee and stinging like a butterfly.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Chris Gayle (left) is bowled by St Lucia Kings MVP Roston Chase as Andre Fletcher (centre) and Rahkeem Cornwall look on during the 2021 Hero CPL final in Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 15 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

His inclusion in the squad on the grounds of compassionate leave when the leaves are hardly wafting leaves a bitter taste in the collective Caribbean mouth! Have the selectors, we wonder, taken leave of their senses?

Eternal optimist that I am, I’d love to be proven wrong and see his dark and stormy batting greatness re-emerge at one more World Cup tournament.

But realistically, I’d only agree to taking him as a mentor; as a player, no.

I wish that Gayle’s spot could have gone to the young, talented Sherfane Rutherford for I am quite pleased with his improved approach to batting. He used to try to hit every ball out of the ground and his forte was getting out playing rash shots. His CPL performances show that he has obviously learnt to harness his undisputed talent.

He is definitely one for the future but reluctantly I have to omit him from my final 15; not, however, for the reason given. I remember Rutherford haring around the boundary line like Usain Bolt and diving like Dylan Carter to stop what looked like a certain four.

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

What would he do if he were not unfit?

I am not sure what Oshane Thomas has done to deserve selection ahead of Odean Smith. I certainly did not see it.

In the CPL, Smith was running in and bowling consistently in the mid 140k’s, even hitting 150 a few times. His 18 wickets in nine matches were the second-highest tally, testimony not just to his pace but also to his accuracy, movement and judicious use of pace.

Also a hard-hitting lower-order batsman, who was good enough to open a few times, he is also a very good fieldsman as well.

What would he do if he were not unfit?

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)

Jason Holder’s CPL captaincy left a lot to be desired but a more loyal servant of WI cricket is hard to find. I feel so sorry for him. He should be a shoo-in for our T20 15-man squad.

It is true that his CPL performances were below par but no one will deny his fine all-round skill. He is a genuine all-rounder who can turn a game with bat, ball or in the field.

As I write, he has snaffled two wickets in the Powerplay for Sunrisers against Kings XI Punjab to earn 3 for 19 from his four overs. He followed that up with 47 off 29 balls, adding an exclamation mark to my assertion.

I applaud the inclusion of Roston Chase. Prior to the 2011 CPL, any investment in him for T20’s would have been viewed as reckless if not senseless.

I was about to say that he transformed his game. But what he has actually done is build a more attacking game on to a foundation of a sound Test technique.

Photo: St Lucia Kings batsman Roston Chase (right) hits to leg for six  while GAW wicket-keeper Nicholas Pooran looks on during CPL action at Warner Park on 2 September 2021 in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 2 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

He scored the most runs in the tournament, 446 off 309 balls at a strike rate of 144.33. His bowling—10 wickets at an economy rate of 6.92 in the CPL—gives him valuable and well-deserved all-rounder status.

I am a great admirer of Rampaul’s but for me, his inclusion is a mixed bag. His 19 wickets were the most in the CPL and included nine in the Powerplay. His experience and skill are invaluable assets so I approve of his selection. But not without some reservations.

He is another ageing cricketer and I just wonder if he might break down under the World Cup strain.

The big picture shows that the phenomenal 37-year-old Dwayne Bravo and the promising Obed McCoy are both nursing niggling injuries. Might a younger, stronger almost 27-year-old Romario Shepherd, who got 18 wickets in the CPL, have been a safer investment?

Should Shepherd’s batting and fielding not have tipped the scales in his favour?

Photo: Romario Shepherd on the rampage for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in CPL 2021 action.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

I am not satisfied with the selection of Fletcher as batsman/reserve wicket-keeper but my preference, Shai Hope, has batted atrociously in the CPL. Between the CPL and the start of the World Cup, I would have done extensive wicket-keeping work with Lendl Simmons who has, in the past, shown himself to be quite competent behind the stumps.

Simmons, though, while seemingly in form, has begun to creatively invent ways to get out, a source of some concern for me.

I am also concerned about the indisputably talented Fabian Allen’s current form with both bat and ball. He has earned his place on the squad as a genuine all-rounder and has unfortunately kept Akeal Hosein, who is currently bowling much better than he is, from making the 15-man cut.

But I am banking on Allen to come good when the occasion demands it.

On their day too, Evin Lewis, Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer are all match-winners.

Photo: St Kits and Nevis Patriots batsman Evin Lewis on the go against TKR in CPL action on 11 September 2021.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

As can be Hayden Walsh Jr who, with his confidence back, has the potential to excel at the World Cup. In Pollard’s hand, he will be used much more astutely than he was by Holder in the CPL.

I had included Darren Bravo in my original squad. However, his abysmal form in the CPL makes his inclusion even as a reserve more than puzzling.

But, the selectors’ shenanigans and questionable withdrawals and deposits notwithstanding, I feel the WI World Cup account remains in the black.

My money remains on Pollard’s men to be a major credit to the region.

Like the millions of other enthusiastic supporters across the Caribbean, come November, I am banking on them to declare a hefty dividend on championship investment.

Photo: West Indies players celebrate their 4-1 CG Insurance T20I win over Australia on 16 July 2021.
(via CWI Media)

My post-CPL squad: Kieron. Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain & wicket-keeper), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Odean Smith, Hayden Walsh Jr.

Reserves: Akeal Hosein, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd.

 

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