Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Ricky Skerritt has blamed ‘well-known mischief makers’ for rumours of a rift within the West Indies cricket team, as the regional governing body attacked ‘unfounded and mischievous allegations’ in a press release tonight.
At the heart of the speculation appears to be 34-year-old team captain Kieron Pollard and 25-year-old allrounder Odean Smith.
Smith was overlooked for the ICC 2021 T20 World Cup but was selected for last month’s white ball tour to Pakistan and retained for the ongoing Betway T20I Series against England. However, he was scarcely used as a bowler in the opening two T20Is and dropped for the third, in favour of Rovman Powell.
The final XI is selected by three persons—Pollard, head coach Phil Simmons and lead selector Sir Desmond Haynes—while Powell justified his selection by becoming only the West Indies player to score a century in T20I cricket.
However, it did not stop rumours that Pollard treated Smith unfairly and for non-sporting reasons.
A CWI release retorted that ‘contrary to the unsubstantiated statements, containing unfounded and mischievous allegations, CWI is satisfied that there is no discord between the team captain and any member of the West Indies team’.
Skerritt went further.
“I view this as a malicious attack on the credibility of the West Indies captain, designed to sow division within our team that has just recorded three very impressive T20I performances against very strong opponents,” he told the CWI Media, “including two outstanding wins and one heroic comeback to get within one run of victory.
“This clear attempt by well-known mischief makers to discredit the captain and to derail the team’s momentum in the ongoing Betway T20I Series should not be tolerated or encouraged.”
Although Skerritt did not name the supposed ‘mischief makers’, both his immediate predecessor Dave Cameron and his would-be successor Ricky Sanasie had earlier commented on the issue..
At 1.12pm today, Sanasie, the former Guyana Cricket Board secretary who challenged Skerritt for the post of CWI president last year before withdrawing his nomination, claimed to have heard about ‘problems with the coach’. An urgent investigation, he suggested, was needed.
Cameron, a polarising figure whom Skerritt replaced at the helm of the CWI, followed up with his own suggestion that the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) look into the matter.
There is, however, no evidence that either man was responsible for starting the rumours.
West Indies lead England 2-1 in the five-match T20I series, with Games Four and Five scheduled for this weekend from 4pm (3pm Jamaica time) at Kensington Oval in Barbados.
Tomorrow, the newly appointed CWI selection panel is expected to name its T20I squad for three matches against India at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on 16, 18, and 20 February.
Earlier this week, the panel named its squad for the One-day International (ODI) leg of the tour.
India has already named both its squads for the upcoming series as follows:
India ODI team: Rohit Sharma (captain), Shreyas Iyer, Ravi Bishnoi, KL Rahul, Deepak Hooda, Mohammed Siraj, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Prasidh Krishna, Shikhar Dhawan, Deepak Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav, Virat Kohli, Shardul Thakur, Avesh Khan, Suryakumar Yadav, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal.
India T20I team: Rohit Sharma (captain), Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravi Bishnoi, KL Rahul, Venkatesh Iyer, Mohammed Siraj, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Chahar, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Virat Kohli, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Harshal Patel, Suryakumar Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Avesh Khan, Shreyas Iyer, Axar Patel.