McWatt and ‘Reds’: Bravo for India? Roach, 33, before Seales, 20? WI selectors are taking big gambles

“[…] Kemar Roach’s ODI stats are not in any way indicative of his abilities as a consistent and reliable wicket-taker. 124 wickets captured in 92 matches played equates to less than two per match.

“There is absolutely no questioning the value that Kemar Roach has provided as the West Indies leading Test seamer for the better part of the last decade… Yet, those highly impressive Test returns have never quite been repeated during Roach’s ODI appearances to date…”

The following guest column on the composition of the West Indies white ball team for next month’s tour of India was submitted to Wired868 by Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira:

West Indies Kemar Roach
Photo: West Indies bowler Kemar Roach looks ruefully at India batsman Hanuma Vihari during Day Four of the First Test match at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Gground in North Sound, Antigua on 25 August 2019.
(Copyright AP Photo/ Ricardo Mazalan/ Wired868)

As the first exercise of their associated duties since having been appointed, the Desmond Haynes-led Selection Panel recently announced their 15-member squad for the West Indies limited-overs tour to India. The West Indies will play three ODIs and an equal number of T20I matches against their Indian hosts during the two-week tour which runs from 6-20 February.

Except for just two of the players named by Haynes and his panel members, Ramnaresh Sarwan and head coach Phil Simmons, the selection of the remaining 13 can now be said to have been wholly expected. The two whose selections have caused a fair bit of consternation as well as quite a few raised eyebrows are Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach.

KFC Munch Pack

The somewhat surprising inclusion of both Bravo and Roach is indicative of the Haynes-led panel’s inclination to gamble heavily on the abilities of both players to deliver on what will now be expected of them. It is a gamble which has not necessarily been supported by the performances of either player of late.

Almost three years have now passed since Bravo returned to active participation as a West Indies player, following his extended hiatus for a variety of reasons. During that relatively lengthy period, the left-hander has struggled to get back to any semblance of the very reliable player he used to be prior to his extended absence.

Photo: West Indies middle-order batsman Darren Bravo gets a boundary through the off-side in his  decisive knock of 102 against Sri Lanka in the third ODI in Antigua on 14 March 2021.
(via CWI Media)

His scores in his last 20 ODI innings in West Indies colours, stretching from his most recent against Australia to as far back as the first of the five matches played against England in February 2019, are as follows: 18, 0, 2, 102, 10, 37*, 8, 16, 39, 19, 0, 3, 6, 17, 1, 9*, 7, 61, 25 and 40.

His overall average for those 20 innings is a paltry 23.33. As is evident, there were also only two scores of over 50 and just a single century in those 20 innings.

Those are hardly the type of numbers that would urge any selector to want to rush to pencil in Bravo’s name among those to be chosen for a forthcoming ODI tour. That is even more so when the timing of the tour is less than two years before the next World Cup and the venue is the very same country that will be hosting that prestigious tournament’s next edition.

Yet those very same factors may have actually worked in Bravo’s favour with regards to his selection. Despite his highly unflattering returns, he still remains as one of the best players of spin within the Caribbean.

Photo: West Indies batsman Darren Bravo works another delivery to leg  during his team’s first ODI against Sri Lanka in Colombo on 22 February 2020.
(Copyright AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

With India and its spin-favoured pitches as the host country for the October 2023 ODI World Cup, Bravo’s expertise in that area could well be a key factor in determining the West Indies’ success at the tournament.

Haynes and company have obviously also now placed their faith in Bravo’s abilities to regain his long-lost form sooner rather than later. They can, therefore, be excused and given some degree of slack for having done so.

Much the same cannot, however, now be said in relation to their inclusion of the soon-to-be-34-year-old Kemar Roach in the 15-member ODI squad for the India tour.

Haynes’ stated justification for the inclusion of Roach, who has so far captured only 124 wickets from the 92 ODI matches he’s played for the West Indies, is as follows:

“Kemar Roach is one of our leading fast bowlers and we believe we need bowlers upfront to get early wickets. Kemar, with an economy rate of five, is certainly good enough to play.

Photo: West Indies pacer Kemar Roach appeals for a wicket.

The immediately obvious discrepancy in Haynes’ statement is that he’s given the need for the West Indies to capture early wickets as the reason for Roach’s inclusion but the justification cited for his inclusion is his economy rate!

Roach’s ODI stats are not in any way indicative of his abilities as a consistent and reliable wicket-taker. 124 wickets captured in 92 matches played equates to less than two per match.

There is absolutely no questioning the value that Kemar Roach has provided as the West Indies leading Test seamer for the better part of the last decade. With 231 Test wickets from just 68 matches played, and with nine five-wicket hauls to his name, he has undoubtedly been the indisputable leader of the West Indies seam attack in the game’s longest and most prestigious format.

Yet, those highly impressive Test returns have never quite been repeated during Roach’s ODI appearances to date. In 92 matches played, he has had only three five-wicket hauls and an equal number of four-fers!

Photo: West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach sends down another thunderbolt during practice..

Roach is also now 33 years old and will be celebrating his 34th birthday this coming 30 June. He has also not represented the West Indies in an ODI since 14 August 2019.

His returns in that match played on the Queen’s Park Oval pitch—that is not unlike those most likely to be encountered and against the very same India that he will be up against in a few weeks—were 1/53 in seven overs.

Roach’s inclusion has also seemingly come at the expense of Jayden Seales, the exciting, much younger 20-year-old, genuinely quick, Trinidad-born fast bowler, who made such an impressive international debut during last year’s Test Series against South Africa. Although he is still to make his ODI debut for the West Indies, Seales just recently concluded a highly successful maiden Sri Lanka Premier League season.

Seales had returns of 3/23, 2/23, 2/40, 4/13, 3/24 and 1/36 in the six matches that he actually bowled in while representing the Jaffna Kings in the Sri Lanka 2021 Premier League. Those returns are more indicative of consistent wicket-taking abilities than anything Roach has produced of late in either form of white ball cricket.

Photo: West Indies pacer Jayden Seales, then 19, celebrates his Test breakthrough on 12 June 2021.
(via CWI Media)

Time is also now not on Roach’s side. By the time next year’s World Cup rolls around, he will be 35. The West Indies selectors should, therefore, have been far more forward-thinking, taking a long-term view of next year’s World Cup and choosing Seales instead of Roach for the forthcoming tour.

One of Haynes’ former teammates from the halcyon days of West Indies world cricket domination, who knows a thing or two about quality fast bowling, having himself been one of the greatest ever exponents of the art, has pointedly said this in reaction to Roach’s inclusion:

“If you are rebuilding a team, you should be looking forward by selecting players who represent your future, not backward to those who have played for you in the past!”

For all the foregoing reasons, the Haynes-led panel’s choice of Roach among the 15 chosen for the forthcoming India tour has left a very unsavoury feeling among West Indies cricket fans. The optics that have been created by the shared Barbadian nationality between Haynes and the ageing Roach are not at all good either.

Photo: Newly appointed West Indies lead selector Sir Desmond Haynes has a moment of reflection.
(Copyright SW Londoner)

We will now hope that, for Haynes and his panel’s sake, the gambles they have taken with Bravo and Roach do indeed pay off.

Time will surely tell.

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One comment

  1. That’s the reason why WI cricket will not improve. Different selectors same shit.
    Was Kemar picked because he is Bajan?

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