CRICKET: Sharpened Knives Now Drawn And Pointed At West Indies’ Selections Panel

By Reds Perreira and Tony McWatt  September 20, 2021

(This column was originally published in the Stabroek News newspaper)

“Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors, aren’t yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!”

Those were the words of the seasoned Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford, in reaction to the storm of controversy that has been created as a result of the choices made by Selections’ Chair Roger Harper and his Panel for the West Indies official squad of 15 plus four reserves to participate in the forthcoming ICC 2021 T20 World Cup. The 2021 ICC T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE from October 17 – November 13.       

Further revelations from the most recent episodes of the West Indies World Cup Squad “selections fiasco,” would now suggest that the sharpened knives have since not only been drawn but that it is now only a matter of time before they are used to pierce the tenure of Roger Harper, Miles Bascome and Head Coach Phil Simmons as members of the West Indies Selections Panel with terminal effect!

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) was among the first to publicly question the Panel’s competence. Angered by the Selections Panel’s omission of Sherfayne Rutherford on the grounds of his not having met the established fitness criteria, the GCB suggested that Cricket West Indies (CWI) should advise the Caribbean cricket public regarding the standard and schedule for fitness tests for regional cricketers.

Stating that the Selections Panel has disappointed both Guyana and the Caribbean at large, while referring to its decisions as a “selection fiasco,” the GCB called for the Panel to be made accountable to all cricket institutions and stakeholders in the region and to justify its choices.
“Failure to do so, the GCB calls on CWI to dismiss the Selections Panel and to replace it with a more competent one which will represent the best interests of West Indies cricket!”

In addition to the GCB’s issued statement, several Caribbean Heads of States have also weighed in with their own criticisms of the selected squad. The respective Prime Ministers of Barbados and St Vincent, the Honorable Mia Mottley and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as well as Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, have all expressed their profound disappointment and disagreement with some of the Harper-led Selections Panel’s choices.

Further, the former West Indies fast bowling legendary great, Sir Andy Roberts, referred to the Selections Panel’s non-inclusion of Barbadian Jason Holder, within the final squad of fifteen and his relegation to the status of a mere reserve as “embarrassing!”

Holder holds the current ICC ranking as international cricket’s best all-rounder. He is also the Cricket West Indies’ only all formats, Tests, ODIs and T20s, contracted player.

Holder’s relegations as a reserve, the medical exemptions provided to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul, as well as the reported non-consideration of Odean Smith and Sherfayne Rutherford as a result of their respective failures to meet the established fitness criteria for West Indies selection. These are uppermost among the far too many highly questionable World Cup Squad decisions made by Harper and his Panel.

It can now arguably be said that never before in Caribbean cricket’s illustrious history has a selected West Indies squad caused such controversy. The very centre of which appears to be the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding the fitness standards that were applied to determine selection, or conversely non-selection, of certain players to the squad.

Where is the consistency between the medical exemptions granted to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul and the non-consideration of Smith and Rutherford for not having met the established fitness criteria? That is the very simple question now being asked of Harper and his Panel. Shouldn’t “what’s good for the goose, also be granted to the gander?”

Furthermore, as Sir Andy Roberts has also correctly reasoned as important a tournament as the T20 World Cup is, coupled with the fact that we are the reigning Champions seeking to defend our title, why are we even considering, let alone actually including players who are in need of medical exemptions?

The former West Indies opening batsman, Bryan Davis’ reaction to the fitness-related decisions of Harper and his Panel was even more damning.

“This is dangerous territory we’re entering and the precedent being set for future selectors by the disqualification of young promising players while giving past successful players a medical exemption is a sign of dishonesty in selection policy. One is either fit enough to take his place in the team or he’s not. Every international cricketer walking out on that field to represent WI must deserve his place on the team by his performances and by extension his fitness. Equal status for all.”

Harper himself has also attracted the ire of former West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace. The outspoken Wallace has highly criticized Harper’s self-admitted decision as Selection Chairman to leave the determination of Obed McCoy’s fitness readiness for the World Cup in the hands of Cricket West Indies’ Medical Committee.

As one of the designated death bowlers and hence a vital member of the West Indies’ World Cup bowling attack, McCoy has reportedly been suffering from recurring shin splints for some time now. His appearances in actual matches of late, including both those in the recent West Indies T20 Series against Australia and Pakistan as well as this year’s recently concluded CPL, can only be best described as having been sporadic.

Harper having left the determination of McCoy’s fitness to the Medical Committee would, therefore, appear to be an abdication of his responsibilities as Selections Chair. Moreover, it also now means that in addition to already being the most aged of the 2021 T20 World Cup’s 16 participating teams, as well as arguably the most unfit, the West Indies could also well be the only squad containing an injury affected player even before the tournament’s commencement!

As a member of Cricket West Indies’ recently structured Committee to develop a new policy for the governance of the selection of West Indies teams, Wallace has also indicated that fitness was identified as the most basic fundamental requirement of its submitted recommendations. The Committee’s recommendations were subsequently wholly endorsed by Cricket West Indies’ Board of Directors. As such, in the light of the Word Cup selections decisions that have been made by Harper and Company, Wallace has suggested that the Committee’s recommendations are now seemingly being ignored.

“When does this current Panel’s tenure end?”

That was the question posed by Philo Wallace as one of the panellists on the recent September 14, 2021 broadcast of the highly popular Barbados-based Mason & Guest Programme. Mason & Guests is hosted weekly by the noted West Indies cricket Radio Commentator, Andrew Mason.

If Wallace’s question is not now surely a sign of knives not only having actually been drawn but also being pointed squarely in the direction of Roger Harper and his Cricket West Indies Selections Panel, then “the Pope isn’t Catholic!”

 

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Comments

  • wally n  On 09/22/2021 at 9:37 am

    Hi Guyana WALK AWAY or better RUN LIKE THE WIND. Believe me you are now full grown, stop playing with children. These mini Napoléons love fighting among themselves, start developing your own talented players, of which we have many.
    Pretty Please.

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/22/2021 at 11:05 am

    On merit, please:

    Yesterday, Chris Gayle turned 42. He’s currently with the Punjab Kings of the IPL in the Middle East – where the Covid-suspended tournament has resumed. The spring event started in India when Covid struck.

    The writing is on the wall for the old fella, apparently. He was excluded from the playing XI yesterday, which was narrowly won by the Rajasthan Royals – RR 185, PK 183.

    There is no reasonable justification for the inclusion of Gayle and Rampaul in the team for the upcoming T20 WC. The current Selection Panel has embarrassed all West Indians and should step down.

    RS

  • wally n  On 09/22/2021 at 1:01 pm

    I am sorry, seems I might be the only one left, wanting to see a Guyanese Test Cricket Team, that is what happens when you become ole ole school. Case closed.

    • Ron Saywack.  On 09/22/2021 at 2:38 pm

      Wally:

      “I am sorry, it seems that I might be the only one left wanting to see a Guyanese Test Cricket Team (become a reality) …”

      No, you are not the only one, Wally. If the West Indies selection charade continues, one day Guyana could very well break away from the current setup to become a Test-playing nation.

      RS

  • wally n  On 09/22/2021 at 3:03 pm

    “one day Guyana could very well break away” wondering what would drag them to that tipping point…maybe just after Afghanistan start ruling the Cricket world?
    I believe we can start the ball rolling with a lil push? Dreaming?

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/26/2021 at 2:28 am

    There was a double-header yesterday (Saturday 21 September 2021) in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. One of the teams featured West Indian teammates on opposing sides – Sunrisers Hyderabad vs. Punjab Kings.

    It was a low-scoring affair. PK batted first and could only manage 125 in their allotted 20 overs. Chris Gayle made 12 and struggled mightily to run between the wickets. Regulation doubles were ambled singles. His teammate Nicholas Pooran could only muster 8 runs in his very brief stay at the crease.

    Bowling for Sunrisers, Jason Holder impressed with both bat and ball. He claimed three wickets in his 4 overs for 19 runs.

    In reply to Punjab Kings’ score, Sunrisers fell short of the target by 5 runs (120) with Holder blasting a scintillating 47 not out (including 5 towering sixes) from only 29 deliveries. He almost brought it home for Hyderabad but did not get enough support from the other end.

    For his impressive performances, he was named MoM, and a host of others awards, which earned him a cool half a million US dollars for a couple of hours work.

    Now, this has put the West Indies selectors in a pickle as to why they chose to omit the 29-year-old Holder but included the declining 42-year-old Gayle in the playing eleven for next month’s WC T20 competition.

    Facts are indeed stranger than fiction!

    RS

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/26/2021 at 2:57 am

    Correction: The first line above should read 25 September.

  • wally n  On 09/26/2021 at 11:31 am

    Ron…did you ever broadcast …I am now getting back into…if you did not maybe you should, add some spark. nonchalant here, nonchalant there, not only in Cricket but also in a lot more serious subjects. Just me.

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/26/2021 at 12:20 pm

    Good day, Wally:

    Yes, I trained in radio broadcasting in Ottawa in the latter part of the 1970s and did a weekly musical show recorded at the University of Ottawa Radio Station and then aired on cable television every Saturday evening. I also did some live cricket commentaries in Western Canada.

    In fact, I was invited by the Alberta Cricket Council to do some live-streaming commentaries this past Labour Day weekend in Calgary but declined.

    Cheer, Ron.

  • wally n  On 09/26/2021 at 12:46 pm

    I picked that up early, having an opinion backed with experience. Sadly a Closing window.. Not wanting you to expose your reasons, why did you decline? You don’t have to respond.

    • Ron Saywack.  On 09/26/2021 at 1:11 pm

      Family comes first, always, Wally:)

  • Ron Saywack.  On 09/29/2021 at 1:20 am

    Red flag on the horizon:

    There was another IPL match contested on Tuesday, September 28 in Abu Dhabi highlighting West Indians on opposing teams — Punjab Kings vs. Mumbai Indians.

    Batting for the Kings, Chris Gayle faced four deliveries for his solitary run whereas Nicholas Pooran eked out 2 runs from three balls, in consecutive failures with the bat. It’s an ominous sign for the West Indies going into the WC in just three weeks’ time.

    Batting first, Punjab Kings struggled to reach 135/4 their 20 overs, which the Mumbai Indians knocked off with relative ease with an over to spare –137/6.

    Trinidadian Kieron Pollard starred for MI, taking 2 crucial wickets in only one over, including that of Indian Test-star KL Rahul, and Gayle, and was there in the 19th over when the winning run was scored. Pollard blasted a mammoth six and a four in his 7-ball 15 not out and was named MoM.

    As the WC approaches, it may behoove WI selectors to reconsider the many questionable selections if the team is to have a fighting chance in a very competitive field.

    RS

  • geoffburrowes  On 09/29/2021 at 9:43 am

    There have always been regional dissatisfactions and disagreements over West Indian team selection. I would hope that the present firestorm is a healthy disagreement by all stakeholders and not the precursor to the break up of a team team that has nobly represented our West Indies, a very diverse group of countries. Wha’ happenin’ man?

    • Ron Saywack.  On 09/30/2021 at 3:47 am

      Change is an inexorable inevitability:

      Geoff writes: ” (I) would hope that the present firestorm is a healthy disagreement by all stakeholders and not the precursor to the break up of a team …”

      I am sure many in Guyana and the Caribbean at large would agree with those sentiments, Geoff. But, I am with Wally on this one. If managerial malpractice, malfeasance, and unjustifiable selection shenanigans continue, it is conceivable that Guyana could one day begin procedures to secede from the current West Indies infrastructure to operate independently as a Test nation. It happens all the time. Take, for example, Bangladesh.

      In 1971 (not that long ago) Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan and became an ICC Associate member in 1977. In 2000, it played its first Test against India in Dakha.

      It is, naturally, human nature to resist change, but change is a natural part of the human condition. Change is also a healthy part of cultural, political, and sporting evolution. Anything (animate or inanimate) that ceases to change is doomed.

      When the Imperial Cricket Conference was founded in 1909 (as the ICC was originally called), only three nations were members: England, Australia, and South Africa, all racially and culturally homogenous.

      Today, there are twelve Test-playing nations spanning the rich diversity of humanity. Our beloved Guyana could one day join that exclusive, elite club of Test nations! When will that happen? It remains to be seen!

      As you can clearly see, even the ICC (International Cricket Council) has changed. When the West Indies played its first Test in 1928 against England, the West Indies were an integral part of the massive British Empire. That imperial system gradually disintegrated and today no longer exists, even though, for some, sentimental attachments remain.

      When the British imperialistic system finally ended in 1997 (when Hong Kong returned to Chinese administration), the West Indies continued to function under a defunct system. But it is an untenable situation as well as an aberration. It is bound to be dismantled at some point in the future. When that becomes reality is anyone’s guess.

      RS

      • wally n  On 09/30/2021 at 10:28 am

        Well said, cannot believe 2021, we are still considering? I don’t think “change” is sufficient for Guyana, maybe growth, maturity. Everyone should spend some time considering your observation, makes more sense than I have ever read on the subject!

  • wally n  On 09/29/2021 at 11:43 am

    Geoff..our West Indies?? You saying not supporting a Guyanese Test Team?Just Asking.

  • Ron Saywack.  On 10/18/2021 at 1:32 am

    This Sri Lankan-born player is ambidextrous. He can bowl effectively with either arm. Have a look:

    https://www.greenteam92.com/eng-v-sl-2018/watch-kamindu-mendis-stuns-everyone-including-icc-by-bowling-with-both-hands/

  • Ron Saywack.  On 10/18/2021 at 1:38 am

    In case you were wondering about his name, he’s Kamindu Mendis. Scroll down in the above link to watch him in action.

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