McWatt and ‘Reds’: Shake up WI white ball team, and Campbell over Solozano is a gamble

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“[…] Taken altogether the overall series results as well as the unsatisfactory player performances [against India] must now surely raise further questions about the efficiency of the Phil Simmons-led West Indies coaching staff.

“[…] As to the actual squad chosen for the first Test, we have absolutely no issues with 98% of those selected. Our only concern would be in relation to the choice of John Campbell over Jeremy Solozano, as Kraigg Brathwaite’s opening partner…”

The following guest column on the West Indies ODI and T20I performances against India and the composition of the Test squad to face England was submitted to Wired868 by Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira:

Photo: West Indies opening batsman John Campbell, just recalled to the West Indies Test team, is as pleased as Punch.
(via CWI Media)

One thing that can certainly be said about West Indies cricket is that it now invariably provides much fodder for discussion and debate among its two million-plus estimated fans, wherever in the world they may be.

The latest example of this would be the individual and collective performances of the players and team during the T20 series against India, as well as the recently announced 14-member squad for the First Test against England from 8-12 March in Antigua.

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Dealing first with the former, the records show that the West Indies suffered yet another series loss. The 0-3 margin was identical to the defeat during the preceding ODI series against the same opponents.

The series statistics tell an even more damning story. Of the 15 batsmen used by WI, only Nicholas Pooran (184) and Rovman Powell (95) had series aggregates of over 50 runs! Furthermore, Pooran (61.33), Powell (47.50) and skipper Kieron Pollard (32) were the only three batsmen with averages of over 30, although Romario Shepherd’s (29) was only just short of that margin.

Photo: West Indies batsman Nicholas Pooran plays his trademark lofted shot over the leg-side boundary during T20I action against India.
(Copyright BCCI)

During the series, Kyle Mayers (15.33), Brandon King (13), Roston Chase (8) and Shai Hope (8) all failed miserably as top-order batsmen. That is sufficient as to suggest the now warranted return of Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmyer and Sherfane Rutherford.

The West Indies team’s totals in the three matches played also proved to be wholly inadequate as challenges to India’s very strong batting line-up. WI scored 176 in the first T20 and 193 and 169 in the following two.

Whereas WI failed to pass 200 on all three occasions, India posted scores of 178, 237 and 265 in the first, second and third matches respectively.

There was also no marked improvement in WI’s now well-established tendency to waste scoring opportunities by a high number of dot balls. In each of the first and third matches, the number of dot balls faced by the West Indies batsmen was well over 50.

Photo: West Indies opener Shai Hope (left) is run out after an athletic piece of fielding by England bowler Reece Topley during the second T20I at Kensington Oval on 23 January 2022.
(Copyright Getty Images)

There wasn’t that much to shout about either in terms of the WI bowling. Chase made up for his abject batting failures by capturing six wickets to emerge as the West Indies leading wicket-taker, while Hayden Walsh Jr’s single four-over spell produced encouraging returns of 1/30.

The other frontline bowlers used by the West Indies were Sheldon Cottrell (7 overs, 2/55, econ 7.85), Akeal Hosein (8 overs, 0/64, econ. 8), Jason Holder (8 overs, 1/74, econ 9.25), Fabian Allen (2.5 overs, 1/28, econ 9.88), Shepherd (10 overs, 2/10, econ 10.80), Dominic Drakes (3 overs, 1/37, econ 12.33) and Odean Smith (3 overs, 0/41, econ 13.66).

These statistics clearly show that, in terms of either wickets taken or acceptable economy rates, the results are highly unsatisfactory.

Taken altogether the overall series result as well as the unsatisfactory player performances must now surely raise further questions about the efficiency of the Phil Simmons-led West Indies coaching staff. Both batting coach Monty Desai and bowling coach Roddy Estwick have seemed for far too long to be equally as ineffective as Simmons.

Photo: Flanked by West Indies head coach Phil Simmons (right), West Indies bowling coach Roddy Estwick (left) tries to get pacer Romario Shepherd to focus during a West Indies training session.
(via CWI Media)

With the 2022 T20 World Cup looming on the horizon, Cricket West Indies (CWI) President Ricky Skerritt should, therefore, now be seriously reconsidering his publicly stated position that his board has no immediate plans to change the Simmons-led staff.

While President Skerritt is busy doing so, both lead selector Desmond Haynes and his co-selector Ramnaresh Sarwan should also be considering how much longer Kieron Pollard’s tenure as West Indies white ball captain should continue.

Not unlike head coach Simmons, there was very little in Pollard’s India series performance as captain, batsman or even part-time bowler that could have silenced all those who have been clamouring for his head.

WI’s next T20 series won’t be until mid-July at home against Bangladesh. Plenty of time, therefore, for Haynes and co to develop their World Cup 2022 plans and ponder their best strategies with a view to WI regaining their recently lost status as champions.

Photo: West Indies captain Kieron Pollard (right) and Roston Chase complete a single during the ICC 2021 T20 World Cup.

In the interim, Haynes and his panel have turned their attention to the Test team and its forthcoming home series against England. In that regard, they should be commended for having made a relatively early announcement of the squads for both the first Test and the President’s XI match against England.

We would also hope that both Haynes and Sarwan will actively be sharing their expertise and experience with the West Indies batsmen, as part of their preparation for the Tests.

With all the players assembled and available in Antigua, it would also be entirely useful for Haynes and co—in conjunction with CWI cricket director Jimmy Adams—to seek, prior to the Test, the direct involvement of such local legends as Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Curtly Ambrose with the selected West Indies players.

As to the actual squad chosen for the first Test, we have absolutely no issues with 98% of those selected. Our only concern would be in relation to the choice of John Campbell over Jeremy Solozano, as Kraigg Brathwaite’s opening partner.

Photo: Jamaica Scorpions batsman John Campbell smashes the ball to the boundary during WI Championship action against the T&T Red Force in Tarouba on 9 February 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

The 28-year-old Campbell’s 15 Tests played to date have produced a paltry 640 runs from 30 innings at an average of 23.70. In those 30 innings, he has scored two fifties but is yet to record a single century.

His first-class statistics aren’t impressive either—4,464 runs from 156 innings in 82 matches for a sub-standard average of 29.76 with only six centuries and 21 fifties recorded.

In the four innings he batted during the first two completed matches of this year’s Caribbean Regional Four-day Tournament, Campbell recorded scores of 15, 45, 127 and 16. The 127 was scored off 228 balls and was punctuated by a dropped chance when he was only on 27!

By comparison to Campbell, the 26-year-old Solozano, who is two years younger than Campbell, made his Test debut in the first match of last year’s Sri Lanka versus West Indies series. He, however, suffered a concussion injury while fielding during the Sri Lanka innings and was unable to take any further part in the series.

Photo: T&T Red Force opener Jeremy Solozano drives the ball powerfully through the off-side during WI Championship action against the Windward Island Volcanoes at Tarouba on 15 February 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

His only innings since then produced a 192-ball 66, which included eight fours!

Solozano’s first-class appearances to date have produced 1,752 runs from 74 innings batted at an average of 24.00. He has scored two hundreds and nine fifties so far in his first-class appearances.

All things considered, Haynes and co’s choice of Campbell over Solozano as skipper Brathwaite’s opening partner would now seem to be a bit of a gamble.

We hope it will pan out favourably this time around!

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  1. It is rather disappointing that Perreira and McWatt article contains wrong information about India’s T20 scores.A cursory check reveals that the scores were actually 162; 186 and 184

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