“[…] Thus far, the West Indies selectors’ most controversial picks, Messrs Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul in particular, have done absolutely nothing to justify the faith expressed in their respective abilities to perform with merit during the tournament.
“[…] Some of the West Indies final XI choices were equally bizarre. Roston Chase, the West Indies’ most in-form batsman with the only recorded half-century in their pre-tournament warm-up matches, was somehow not included for their opening encounter…”
Veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira and Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt give their view on the West Indies’ performances at the T2021 ICC T20 World Cup:
Prior to the start of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup, Cricket West Indies (CWI) described the West Indies’ campaign to defend its title as ‘Mission Maroon’. With two defeats and one highly squeaky last-over win over Bangladesh, Mission Maroon has to all intents and purposes become ‘Mission Improbable’, if not altogether ‘Impossible’.
The West Indies still have a mathematical chance of emerging as one of the two Group A teams to progress to the tournament’s semi-finals. However, the West Indies must win both of their remaining matches against Sri Lanka and Australia by sizeable margins—so as to ensure superior run rates—to do so.
Sri Lanka’s narrow loss to South Africa indicated that they will not be pushovers while England, Australia, and South Africa have far healthier run rates than the West Indies.
Far more likely than a semi-final place is further embarrassment for the team and their selection panel, led by chairman Roger Harper.
Thus far, the West Indies selectors’ most controversial picks, Messrs Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul in particular, have done absolutely nothing to justify the faith expressed in their respective abilities to perform with merit during the tournament.
Gayle celebrated his 42nd birthday on 21 September, just weeks before the World Cup’s commencement. With his legendary skills as T20 cricket’s greatest ever batsman clearly in decline, Gayle’s inclusion in the West Indies’ 15-member squad was discussed and debated throughout the Caribbean.
The West Indies selectors, coach, captain and vice-captain all publicly voiced their support for Gayle’s selection and must have hoped that he would effectively silence his critics with some superlative batting performances at the World Cup. Instead, his scores to date—13, 12 and 4—can only be regarded as a source of colossal embarrassment to all concerned.
Much the same can also be said of the 36-year-old Rampaul, who was selected on the squad based on his bowling in the 2021 edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). His 2021 World Cup performances only confirm the substantial gap between elite batting and what he encountered in the regional T20 tournament.
Rampaul has, to date, taken two wickets at an average of 30.50 from nine overs bowled, with a relatively unimpressive run rate of 6.77.
As controversial as the picks of Gayle and Rampaul may have been, they were far less so than the selectors’ non-inclusion of the ICC’s number one ranked Test all-rounder Jason Holder, who was only included among the squad’s four travelling reserves.
As fate would have it, fast bowler Obed McCoy’s failure to recover fully from shin splints he had suffered prior to the tournament—yet another source of embarrassment for the selectors—eventually resulted in his replacement by Holder, just prior to the third match against Bangladesh. Holder grasped the opportunity with both of his very large hands.
On Friday, he struck two vital boundaries in a breezy cameo of 15 runs off five balls while his economical bowling, which yielded 1/22 from four overs, helped restrict Bangladesh to 138 for 5 to secure the three-run win.
And his height was crucial as he plucked Bangladesh’s top-scorer Liton Das’ shot out of the air on the boundary in the 19th over of the match.
Holder’s outstanding performance with bat, ball and in the field must have added to the embarrassment of the Harper-led selection panel, which recently received two-month extensions to their tenure that now runs until the end of the year.
Some of the West Indies final XI choices were equally bizarre. Roston Chase, the West Indies’ most in-form batsman with the only recorded half-century in their pre-tournament warm-up matches, was somehow not included for their opening encounter.
And despite the side being bowled out for 55 by England, the selectors still left Chase out of their XI for the second match against South Africa. Instead, they replaced the injured McCoy with leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr.
There are two matches left for Gayle and Rampaul to justify their selections and help WI into the semi-finals.
If and when that fails to become a reality, Mission Maroon will be effectively marooned.