CRICKET: Serious concerns over West Indies’ 2021 T20 World Cup squad selections – Commentary

By Joseph `Reds’ Perreira & Tony McWatt – 

Joseph `Reds’ Perreira

The West Indies squad for the October 17-November 13, 2021 ICC T20 World Cup has finally been announced. The squad is as follows:

Kieron Pollard (Captain), Nicholas Pooran (Vice-Captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh.    RESERVES – Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein.

Our reaction to the announced squad has been to add our voices to the prevailing clamour of consternation that has been ringing throughout the entire Caribbean Region and the Diaspora since the aforementioned names were revealed by Cricket West Indies Selection Chairman Roger Harper.     

Tony McWatt

Not unlike the apparent majority of ardent West Indies’ cricket followers, we have some serious concerns. Not only over some of the very dubious choices that have been made, but also even more importantly in terms of the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding some of the more questionable selections.

In our humble view, the selected squad fails at least three players short of that which could and should have been chosen. The West Indies, after all, will be heading to the UAE not only as participants but also as the reigning champions seeking to defend their title.

Our very first concern would be over the inclusion of the almost 42-years-old Chris Gayle, whose recent form has been abysmal. Averaging 17 from 16 T20 Internationals this year, and recording a single half-century in the last five years, Gayle has also struggled badly in the ongoing CPL, scraping 83 runs from five innings at an average of 16 for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. Moreover, ever since his recall to the squad for this year’s South Africa series there has been no real evidence to support Chief Selector Harper’s contention, in defence of Gayle’s inclusion, that his presence actually “brings value to the team.”

The recall of the 36-year-old fast bowler Ravi Rampaul for his first international match in six years, in preference to the much younger 26-year-old Romario Shepherd, is another choice that can be questioned.

Rampaul, whose previous 23 T20 Internationals have yielded 29 wickets, grabbed the attention of the selectors by taking 17 wickets for the Trinbago Knight Riders in the ongoing CPL.

Shepherd has, however, been just as effective capturing 14 wickets to date. He is also by miles, much more capable than Rampaul as a lower-order batsman, and a far more agile fielder.

With regards to agility, Harper has indicated that Sherfayne Rutherford’s impressive 2021 CPL performances were not considered due to his failure to meet the required fitness standards.

The question to be asked would be as to whether that standard was identical to that required of Rampaul?

Having taken this year’s CPL form into consideration for their inclusion of Ravi Rampaul and Royston Chase into consideration, the selectors appear to have ignored the relatively inferior performances of Oshane Thomas in their choice for the squad’s genuinely quick fast bowler. Chase’s inclusion, earned as it has been on the basis of his superb CPL 2021 form as the leading run-scorer with 281 runs, including three back-to-back half-centuries at an average of 70 and a strike rate of 151, is fully warranted. The same cannot be said about Thomas who in CPL 2021 has to date captured only four wickets at a 34.21 average and 7.21 economy rate.

Chairman Harper’s explanation of Thomas’ inclusion has been that his pace would provide the West Indies with a much-desired shock attack X factor. Thomas’ pace has, however, been a few clicks below that of Odean Smith who has been by far CPL 2021’s fastest bowler. At routine speeds in excess of 145 kph, Smith has to date captured 10 wickets at an ultra-impressive, miserly, 17.90 average and a commendable 7.35 strike rate.

Smith’s 2021 CPL performances have earned him the admiration of no less a person than the West Indies legendary, all-time great fast bowler Sir Andy Roberts, who has suggested that his pace should have made him the Selectors’ automatic choice for the “shock attack X factor” role. To which we would also add that Smith is also a much more capable batsman and a far more agile fielder than the seemingly still somewhat overweight Thomas.

Harper’s indication that Smith, like Rutherford, also failed to meet the required fitness standard and hence was not considered, again begs the question as whether that standard was identical to that requested of either Rampaul or Thomas. Even further, given the obvious value that the inclusion of both Rutherford and Smith would have provided, shouldn’t they both have received the same medical exemption provided to Chris Gayle?

We are also in full agreement with Sir Andy’s expressed disgust at the appalling treatment the selectors have rendered to Jason Holder. Not only omitting him from the final 15 but also adding further insult to injury by naming him as one of the four Reserves!

Holder’s all-round capabilities as a medium pacer, hard hitting batsman, arguably now the world’s very best slip fielder and with his height a fearful presence as a bounder catcher should have merited his place on the final 15. If not, the selectors should have omitted him altogether instead of demeaning him by his inclusion as merely a reserve.

As damning as the selectors treatment of Holder has been, it pales in comparison to the most stupefying and bewildering of all their choices, that of the inclusion of Darren Bravo among the four reserves. Incredibly Chairman Harper in defence of Bravo’s inclusion, and despite his dismal returns in this year’s CPL of a mere 50 runs from four matches played at a paltry 16.66 average, claimed that he was the very best of the available choices. Harper and his selection panel would now appear to be in serious need of some heavy-duty spectacles, as blind as they have obviously been to the far superior comparative statistics of Shamarh Brooks, whose 2021 CPL returns to date have been 185 runs from six innings at an average of 37.

Our final concern over the selectors’ choices would be that of the preference of Sheldon Cottrell over Dominic Drakes among the reserves. As a much younger, left-arm seamer and with an eye towards next year’s Australia hosted T20 World Cup, the 23-year-old Drakes, who has had a fairly impressive 2021 CPL with nine wickets at a 24.55 average and 8.61 economy rate would have been a far wiser choice than the much-older 32-year-old Cottrell, whose 2021 CPL returns have been five wickets at a 26.20 average and 8.18 economy rate.

As the Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford has indicated following the announcement of the West Indies 2021 T20 World Cup Squad, and with which we fully agree “Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors, aren’t yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!”

About The Writers:

Guyana born ‘Reds’ Perreira has served as a world-recognized West Indies Cricket Commentator for well over fifty-years now, having made his debut broadcast during the 1971 West Indies-India Test Series.

Guyana born, Toronto based, Tony McWatt now serves as Canadian Cricket’s Media Relations Manager and as Publisher of Wickets: Canada’s Monthly Online Cricket Magazine. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.

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Comments

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/14/2021 at 1:36 pm

    The two gentlemen, Joseph `Reds’ Perreira and Tony McWatt, are repeating {almost verbatim} what I wrote about the recent, mind-numbing selection of the West Indies team, to the UAE and Oman on this blog, a few days ago. See the following:

    I must say that I am baffled by the head-scratching selection of a few of the 15 players selected to travel to the Middle East for next month’s ICC Men’s World T20 Tournament (October 17- November 14), as well as two in the traveling reserves.

    First, what’s the justification for including Ravi Rampaul and Chris Gayle in the squad? Rampaul hasn’t played international cricket for 6 years. For a pace bowler, at 36, his best days are behind him. Surely, there must be a younger, more dynamic, player in the Caribbean to choose from.

    Chris Gayle is a spent force. Even though he’s one of my favorite players, he has been in prodigious decline in recent years. He turns 42 on September 21 and has slowed down a lot with age, as do most of us. He struggles to run swiftly between the wickets and that’s a liability.

    Nonetheless, I wish him and the team much success. Maybe Chris still has a few more surprises up his sleeves.

    As for the reserves, I would have preferred to see Jason Holder in the playing 15 as opposed to Roston Chase. Chase has not done much in the past two years. Darren Bravo is 100% not a T20 player. Besides, he has been sputtering in all formats over recent years. The man should call it a day if the selectors aren’t gonna do it for him.

    RS

    P.S.: I wish the West Indies well and hope the competition is not truncated (cut short) by the pandemic.

  • wally n  On 09/14/2021 at 2:50 pm

    I remember when New Zealand and Ceylon were like practice for other teams. What I don’t remember is the countless reasons why Guyana should not have it’s own Test Cricket team. I am fed up with anything that Caribbean has to be involved in.Every time they try to push their favorites to the front of the line (cant really blame them) just saying Guyana had/has/will always have an abundance of good players, maybe the time is now, think of the incentive for the up and coming
    young players.We should go ahead leave them to play their stupid childish games, among themselves, that they can do well!!!

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/15/2021 at 3:18 am

    Wally writes: “What I don’t remember is the countless reasons why Guyana should not have its own Test Cricket team.”

    Well, Wally, you are raising a valid point.

    Indeed, the subject has been debated countless times in Guyana and (rum shops) across the Caribbean. But to get a basic understanding as to why the current state of affairs prevails, we’d have to journey back in history to colonial times — under the British Empire.

    When cricket was first introduced to the region in the 1700s, it was entirely for the pleasure of British servicemen stationed at the garrisons. Black and brown folks weren’t welcomed to participate in the game. The extent of their involvement was the retrieval of the cricket ball when it was struck high and far into the tall grass and shrubs outside the playing area.

    The British elites would often marvel at how powerful the throwing arms of the ball retrievers were and, on odd occasions, when the teams were not able to field a full team, they’d ask the local ball-pickers to don whites. Alas, the door became ajar and a foot was in the door, so to speak.

    As time passed, the British elites were gradually replaced by local West Indians –and the West Indies team was born. All ten cricket-playing nations that currently make up the West Indies team represented a particular region of the vast British Empire.

    Then, in the past 60 years or so, those small nations gradually attained their independence but continued to, anachronistically, exist as a regional entity of the now-defunct Empire.

    That remains the case today, as we all know, and an abnormality that must be duly corrected.

    Thus it makes perfect sense, Wally, for Guyana to separate from the West Indies setup and apply, initially, for ICC Associate Membership, of which there are currently 104, and, later, for Full Membership.

    Ireland and Afghanistan have been recently accepted as Full Members of the ICC Test-playing elites. Certainly, Guyana can and should strive for Full Membership from South America – and as the only Test nation on the continent. Such a deviation from the present setup would leave the West Indies with one less nation from which to pick the team.

    And can you imagine Guyana playing Test cricket against the West Indies, against India, against Australia, against England, and so on?

    And it could very well happen one day as nothing in life remains the same forever.

    RS

  • wally n  On 09/15/2021 at 11:43 am

    Thanks a lot. One would think that people involved in Cricket in any form should be advocating for a navel string cut, even though to me, it seems that the colonial mindset runs deep. I was not in agreement with “should strive” after all these years
    a more aggressive approach might be required.
    I read about Afghanistan acceptance in the West Indian newspapers, I thought it was a joke, if that did not wake up Guyanese, then Chris Gayle and….will play forever.

  • wally n  On 09/15/2021 at 12:45 pm

    OK there is the box a mile away and here am I.
    Because there are so many brilliant people on this great site, I think we should throw the first bouncer. You have the knowledge and hopefully the site or location, where we can vent our feelings, concerning a Guyanese Test team. If Guyanese really care, and I think they are, we can become the grass root army. This may be the subject to bring all Guyanese together?

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