Unlike his departed predecessor, I’ll bet my hat that Desmond Leo Haynes won’t be announcing that he has to see Nicholas Pooran—or anyone else—play red ball cricket before he considers him for a place on the Test team. Already, he has announced he’ll be doing things his way; his panel won’t be pigeonholing any player as a specialist in any format.
Half of the formidable opening pair that often disheartened and occasionally devastated the world’s leading bowlers, Haynes has all the credentials to be a West Indies selector. That is not an issue.
Who dares dispute that his almost two decades of activity at the highest level equipped him admirably with much of the knowledge a competent selector needs?
No surprise, then, that in presenting Haynes to us last month, CWI president Ricky Skerritt said that ‘his cricket knowledge and experience are second to none’. He hailed the new lead selector as ‘the right man for the right job at the right time’.
What is, however, an issue is this: does the soon-to-be-66-year-old former opener not have the wherewithal to be not just the West Indies lead selector but the West Indies selector?
Haynes was a high-profile member of Clive Lloyd’s world-beating side. He played 116 Test matches and 238 One-day Internationals between 1978 and 1994, with an aggregate of 7,487 Test runs, including 18 centuries, and 8,648 ODI runs, including 17 centuries.
Only coming in to the West Indies senior team after the birth of World Series Cricket, Haynes stayed out of—some would say ‘escaped’—the crucible that was the earliest Kerry Packer years. But having become a member of Lloyd’s winning set-up as early as in 1978, he did not miss out on the benefits.
He was in the WI side that won its second World Cup in 1979 and lost the 1983 final to Kapil Dev’s India. He returned to the World Cup in 1987 and 1992, taking his tally of matches to 25. They yielded one century three half-centuries and an aggregate of 854 runs at 37.13.
From 1989 to 1994, Haynes played 95 first-class games for Middlesex in English county cricket, scoring 7071 runs at 49.1 with a best of 255* against Sussex. And he played a couple of seasons with Western Province in South Africa between 1994-95 and 1996-97.
So the right man? The answer seems to be an emphatic yes.
The right time?
Having been in the thick of things in the glory years of the second half of the 20th Century, Haynes knows just what it means to have the winning habit. Unlike today’s West Indies players. So far, the 21st Century has yielded few truly memorable moments.
In 2003, there was the singular achievement of scoring a world record 418 in the fourth innings to defeat Steve Waugh’s Australia. Then, in 2004, came the capture of the Champions Trophy. A decade later, Daren Sammy’s troops brought home two T20 World Cups in 2012 and 2016.
Those apart, barring the moment of shared though individual accomplishment that was Brian Lara’s 2004 recapture of his record from Australia’s Matthew Hayden, almost all the rest is drear,
The nadir came at the end of 2021 when, dismissed for 55 by England in the opening game, Kieron Pollard’s Maroon Men surrendered the hard-won 2016 title meekly, narrowly beating Bangladesh for our only win.
Despite all that, is it not business as usual? True, we have changed the selectors, dropped a handful of players and introduced a few new white ball faces. Still, what news from CWI about any analysis of the UAE debacle? Nary a word! Have we merely, to use skipper Pollard’s pithy verb, binned 2021, World cup and all, and moved on?
Don’t we need to understand exactly what happened in the UAE? And why?
Here, for instance, are former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene and former Australia allrounder and current international coach Tom Moody discussing the West Indian World Cup failure:
‘[…] MJ: With West Indies, it’s just trusting too many senior players, who were probably not in form and not in the kind of tempo that they were before, and trusting them to do the same job. (…)
I think (…) they went away from the trusted structure that was successful for them while holding on to something that wasn’t working.
TM: (…) [T]he boundary percentage is critical to the success of a template in T20 cricket. But equally as important is your ability to rotate strike. So your dot-ball percentage is also critical. The best teams do both very well. England (…) put as much emphasis on the pinching of a two or the pinching of a single as they do the hitting of a four or six.
(…) [T]he game has moved forward. Everyone has caught up to the West Indies brand of bang-bang-bang, and they’ve added to that the intensity and the professionalism around their management of dot balls.
(…) [W]ith West Indies, it became an emotional selection of their playing XI and not a professional clear-cut and ruthless selection that was going to give them their best chance to bring the cutting edge brand of cricket (…) required to play finals cricket in this World Cup…’
And here is espncricinfo’s Sambit Bal writing on the conditions of contemporary top-level cricket in a Covid-infested world where the schedule continues to be congested:
…working from home is not an option for sportspeople, who must, sunshine or rain, travel to faraway lands to ply their trade in open fields, and because the stakes are so high and contact among players is essential and inevitable, they must live their life from bubble to bubble, their fishbowl existence made even more suffocating.
And they must execute the rarest of skills, which require, apart from the skills themselves, peak physical and mental prowess. Doubt and anxiety, natural in these times, must be cast away or hidden, and there is no retreating to safe spaces.
Haynes certainly, has his own views but he has most likely missed none of that; you don’t acquire ‘cricket knowledge and experience second to none’ by not listening to what the rest of the world is saying.
But is the newly appointed lead selector capable of the ‘professional clear-cut and ruthless selection’ the absence of which Moody identifies as a problem?
At the Queen’s Park Oval in 1989, Haynes stood in for the indisposed Viv Richards in the Second Test against Graham Gooch’s England. In an hour, he contrived to have his team bowl—with impunity—just seven overs and so deny the tourists victory.
Ruthless? Maybe. Ask Gooch.
So the right man […] at the right time? Skerritt looks to be on the ball.
The right job? Not head coach; T&T’s Phil Simmons was right for that.
The right job? Not batting coach. India’s Monty Desai was right for that.
The right job? Heading a panel?