“[…] There would have been at least two major disappointments for West Indies selectors Desmond Haynes and Ramnaresh Sarwan. For starters, the prodigiously talented Shimron Hetmyer has now not played a Test match for the West Indies since November 2019.
“[…] Hetmyer endured a most miserable time [in the four-day West Indies Championship] with bingoesque scores of 24, 9, 0 and 5 in his four innings…”
In the following guest column, Tony McWatt and ‘Reds’ Perreira pick their stars and flops of the 2022 Regional Four-day Championship so far and select their preferred 13-man West Indies Test squad to face England in March:
The first two completed rounds of the 2022 Regional Four-day Championship would have presented the Desmond Haynes-led selection panel with much food for thought in terms of their choices for the West Indies 13-member squad to face England in the forthcoming series.
The three Tests will be played in Antigua (8-12 March), Barbados (16–20 March) and Grenada (24–29 March) respectively.
With head coach Phil Simmons still away in India, it was left to his fellow selectors, lead member Haynes and his sidekick Ramnaresh Sarwan to observe player performances during the first two rounds of the Championship as they pertained to eventual choices for the forthcoming Tests.
In some instances, they would have been very pleased by what they saw, in others, very disappointed. Dealing first with the latter, there would have been at least two major disappointments for Haynes and Sarwan.
For starters, the prodigiously talented Shimron Hetmyer has now not played a Test match for the West Indies since November 2019. Many a West Indies cricket fan would have been hoping for him to put his hand up to be counted among those contending for a Test place by producing some outstanding batting for Guyana in the first two rounds.
Far from doing so, Hetmyer endured a most miserable time with bingoesque scores of 24, 9, 0 and 5 in his four innings. He even suffered the indignity of being given out without scoring for having handled the ball during Guyana’s first innings of the second-round match against the Leeward Islands.
It would now seem fairly safe to say that Hetmyer’s name will not be among those being considered by Haynes et al for any of the upcoming three Tests.
Shannon Gabriel’s is another big name that now might not be considered. The Red Force pacer was listless and went wicketless for Trinidad and Tobago in their first-round match against Jamaica. He was a non-starter for the Red Force’s second-round match against the Windward Islands.
The argument for Gabriel’s continued inclusion as the ultra-pace spearhead of the West Indies seam attack would also have been significantly undermined by the performances in the Championship of three much younger seamers, all also capable of bowling at speeds over 140km.
The Leewards Islands’ Alzarri Joseph along with the T&T duo of Jayden Seales and Anderson Phillip all produced outstanding performances that would have raised serious questions about the necessity for Gabriel’s continued presence as a member of the West Indies Test squad.
In his one Championship appearance, Joseph bowled with impressive pace and hostility to return figures of 2/26 and 5/94 in the first and second innings of the game against Guyana. His second-innings figures could well have been even more impressive had all of the catches offered off his bowling been taken.
By the time the tournament’s first two rounds had been completed, Trinidad and Tobago’s Anderson Phillips had already announced himself as the stand-out bowler to date.
Phillip’s sustained pace and impressive seam movement produced aggregate rewards of 12 wickets for just 151 runs in two matches. That is the most wickets captured to date by any bowler.
Phillips was very well supported by the much younger Jayden Seales. Having made his West Indies Test debut last year, Seales has strengthened his claims for retaining his place in the WI squad with returns of 6/80 in the Championship so far.
Kemar Roach and Jason Holder are also both expected to be retained for the series. As such, the West Indies seam attack could well feature an exciting combination of their experience and the youthful zest of Joseph, Seales and Phillips—much to the delight of Haynes and co.
As a former opening batsman, Haynes would also have been very pleased with the performances of Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite as well as of several others vying for consideration as his partner for the three-match series.
Having registered identical scores of just 29 in his two first-round match innings against the Leewards, Brathwaite signalled the full restoration of his well-established appetite for huge scores with a mammoth 407-ball 276 during Barbados’ second-round encounter against Jamaica.
Brathwaite’s return to form would have delighted Haynes and Sarwan.
So too Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood and Joshua Da Silva, key West Indies Test middle-order contenders, who were all among the runs. Among his four innings, Blackwood had scores of 44 and 61, Bonner registered a 49 and a 37 and two of Da Silva’s three innings produced 37 and 73.
While Brathwaite was busily getting back to his very best, Haynes and Sarwan would also have been paying close attention to the contenders for the role of his opening partner. In that regard, no fewer than four individuals have now put their hands up for consideration.
At the top of the list is the incumbent Jeremy Solozano, whose Test debut during the first match of last year’s two-match series against Sri Lanka was cut short by the concussion he suffered while fielding. Solozano scored an impressive 66 in his only innings so far during the Red Force’s second-round match against the Leewards.
That should prove sufficient to secure his place. But the selectors would have been equally heartened by the performances of a trio of former West Indies Test openers, John Campbell, Chandrapaul Hemraj and Kieran Powell.
Jamaica captain Campbell notched a century (127) and also included a 45 in his four innings; in his four outings, Hemraj struck two half-centuries, 60 and 50, and Powell had scores of 74 and 43 in his three innings.
All three will very likely have further opportunities to make their claims for inclusion ahead of Solozano during the West Indies Best vs Rest trial match scheduled for Antigua from 23-26 February. So too will the leading spin bowling contenders, Veerasammy Permaul, Jomel Warrican and Rahkeem Cornwall.
However, we fully expect Roston Chase to retain his allrounder position in the squad and, given the proven wicket-taking capabilities of his off-spin bowling, there will most likely only be room for one additional spinner. Left-arm spinners Permaul with his wickets tally of 8/141 and Warrican with his 8/146 appear to leave little to choose between them.
By comparison, Cornwall’s 6/222 returns to date would appear to have effectively ruled him out of contention.
With the February 23-26 Best vs Rest trial match still to be played, there will be further opportunities for others in contention to stake their final claims.
At this stage, however, the 13-member squad we expect to see selected, in batting order for the first XI, is the following:
McWatt and ‘Reds’ 13-man West Indies team: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jeremy Solozano, Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva (wicketkeeper), Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Veerasammy Permaul and Anderson Phillip.
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McWatt and Reds’ 13-man squad for the England tour of WI seem a sound and sensible one. Gone are the Harper favorites variety show. Now Haynes and Ronnie will listen and watch and do the right thing for WI cricket.