“[…] Assuming everyone is fully fit and in sufficiently good form, if the 2022 World Cup 15-member squad were to be picked today, there would be at least eight players who would be considered by most to be automatic selections.
“Discounting Kieron Pollard’s participation in any possible manner, the referenced eight would then be Nicholas Pooran as captain, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Akeal Hosein and Obed McCoy…”
Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira celebrate exit of CWI lead selector Roger Harper and suggest a 15-man T20 squad to take West Indies forward:
Cricket West Indies (CWI) has presented all Caribbean cricket fans and followers, ourselves included, with a most welcome Christmas present. It has been announced that the Roger Harper-led selection panel’s contract will not now be renewed!
The decision was likely made in the wake of the widespread public uproar that followed the panel’s horrendous choices for the recent 2021 T20 World Cup and the resulting calls from numerous commentators, including us, for its immediate replacement.
The announcement effectively means that West Indies will have a new selection panel in charge of choosing its teams in the new year, the most important of which will be the final 15-member squad for the Australia-hosted 2022 World Cup.
In that regard, despite the 3-0 loss suffered by WI, the recently concluded Pakistan T20 series should now provide some very useful pointers towards the 2022 World Cup squad’s final composition.
In terms of the panel itself, several months ago, we had suggested a reversion to the previous five-member format with Jeffrey Dujon as chair and Tony Gray, Lockhart Sebastian and Philo Wallace as members along with the coach. Should Wallace be unavailable, our suggested substitute would be Kenny Benjamin.
Assuming everyone is fully fit and in sufficiently good form, if the 2022 World Cup 15-member squad were to be picked today, there would be at least eight players who would be considered by most to be automatic selections.
Discounting Kieron Pollard’s participation in any possible manner, the referenced eight would then be Nicholas Pooran as captain, Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Akeal Hosein and Obed McCoy. That would leave only an additional seven players to be identified.
Before any such identification can be made, however, the West Indies’ selectoral brain trust would first have to decide as to what the ideal composition of the squad should be in relation to both the playing conditions and the quality of opposition likely to be encountered. Initially as part of the qualification process and, hopefully, subsequently in Australia itself during the actual World Cup.
As Sir Andy Roberts has repeatedly suggested, it would be best for the selectors to decide on the squad’s final composition as quickly as possible to allow as much time as possible to be made available for it to gel completely as a team. The forthcoming five-match 22-29 January series against England should, therefore, provide the perfect opportunity for them to do so.
With Nicholas Pooran to continue as captain, the next biggest priority for the selectors would be to identify candidates—possibly two—from whom the best choice of the most suitable partner to open the innings with Lewis can be made. To that end, Brandon King’s return to form during the Pakistan Series was highly encouraging.
King’s series aggregate of 111 runs from three innings at a 37.00 average was the highest among all of the WI batsmen. Skipper Pooran, who scored 108 runs from his three innings, was the only other WI batsman to score over 100 runs in total during the series.
Although he only had scores of 1 and 31 in his two innings, Shai Hope’s batting was sufficiently encouraging to suggest that he should be given further opportunities to also stake his claims for inclusion as one of Lewis’ potential opening partners.
Hope’s abilities behind the stumps would also, of course, address the need for inclusion of a back-up wicketkeeper in the squad.
Unfortunately, Darren Bravo was ill enough to miss the first two T20’s of the Pakistan series. His 27-ball 34 not out in the third game would, however, have given everyone concerned reasons to hope that he might now be finally back on the road to regaining his long-lost status as one of the region’s finest batsmen.
He should, therefore, be given as many opportunities as possible to re-establish his credentials in the new year.
Given the seamer-friendly conditions likely to be encountered in Australia, the remaining positions on the squad will likely be geared towards bowlers of the faster variety. Of these, there will certainly be a fair number of contenders.
In Pakistan, Odean Smith and Romario Shepherd each captured four wickets in three matches at an average of 28.50 and 31.25 respectively. Their respective economy rates of 11.40 and 11.53 were, however, high enough to give cause for concern.
Nevertheless, both were sufficiently impressive with their power-hitting as to merit further consideration as potential T20 World Cup final squad members.
The other two seamers WI used were Dominic Drakes (2/114 off 11 overs, avg, 57.00, econ. 10.36) and Oshane Thomas (2/98 off 9 overs, avg. 49.00, econ 10.88.) While Drakes, being in his debut series, can perhaps be somewhat excused, there should be no such consideration for the far more experienced Thomas, who continued to have issues with his run-up while also appearing to be overweight and unfit.
Hayden Walsh Jr’s continuing loss of form is also a cause for concern. He bowled just six of the eight overs that were available during the two matches he played. His returns were an unimpressive 1/60 off 6 overs, avg 60.0, econ 10.00.
England’s now well-established reputation as having batsmen who are rarely entirely comfortable against quality leg-spin should, however, allow Walsh to be given further opportunities to recapture his lost form during that upcoming series.
Whoever they may be, the new WI selection panel will certainly have much to consider and a fairly large pool of viable candidates to choose from. As a means of providing the best possible level of support for the selectors’ eventual choices, for its part CWI must also seriously consider the now obvious need for changes to be made to the Phil Simmons-led coaching cadre.
Simmons himself may be protected from immediate dismissal by CWI’s somewhat hasty provision of a four-year contract, the expiry date for which is October 2023. There should, hopefully, be no such safety net for Monty Desai and Roddy Estwick as the team’s current batting and bowling coaches. Their glaring inadequacies have been sufficiently obvious to warrant their immediate replacements.
In a previous article, we had suggested Desmond Haynes as a potential replacement for Simmons as head coach. Given the apparent security of the Simmons’ tenure, Haynes should perhaps be drafted as Desai’s replacement as batting coach.
Franklyn Stephenson would still be our first choice as bowling coach, with Samuel Badree as his assistant to work specifically with the spinners.
The year 2021 has undeniably been an annus horribilis for West Indies cricket, certainly in terms of the continuing overly disappointing performances in each of international cricket’s current formats.
CWI’s announcement that there will now be a new selection panel in the new year is, however, a very positive first step towards a much-improved 2022!