CRICKET- West Indies – Haynes-Led Selection Panel Gambles On Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach For India Tour Squad!

By Tony (McWatt) and Reds Perreira

As the first exercise of its associated duties since having been appointed, the Desmond Haynes-led Selection Panel recently announced its chosen 15 member squad for the West Indies limited-overs tour to India. The West Indies will play three ODIs and an equal number of T20I matches against their Indian hosts, during the two-week tour which runs from February 6-20.

Except for just two of the players named by Haynes and his fellow Section Panel members, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Head Coach Phil Simmons, the remaining thirteen of the fifteen chosen can now be said to have been wholly expected. The two whose selections have since caused a fair bit of consternation, as well as quite a few raised eyebrows, are Darren Bravo and Kemar Roach.     

The somewhat surprising inclusion of both Bravo and Roach is indicative of the Haynes-led Panel’s inclination to gamble heavily on the abilities of both players to deliver on what will now be expected of them. A gamble which has not necessarily been supported by either of their performances of late.

Almost three years have now passed since Darren Bravo returned to active participation as a West Indies player, following his extended hiatus for a variety of reasons. During that relatively lengthy period, Bravo has struggled to get back to any semblance of the very reliable player he used to be prior to his extended absence.vo’s last ODI twenty innings in West Indies colors, stretching from his most recent against Australia to as far back as the first of the five matches played against England in February 2019, are as follows: 18, 0, 2, 102, 10, 37*, 8, 16, 39, 19, 0, 3, 6, 17, 1, 9*, 7, 61, 25 and 40. His overall average for those twenty innings is a paltry 23.33. As is evident, there were also only two scores of over 50 and just a single century in those twenty innings.

Hardly the type of numbers that would urge any Selector to want to rush to pencil in Bravo’s name among those to be chosen for a forthcoming ODI tour. Even more so when the timing of the tour is less than two years before the next World Cup, and its venue is the very same country that will be hosting that prestigious tournament’s next edition.

Yet those very same factors may have actually worked in Bravo’s favor with regards to his selection. Despite his highly uncomplimentary returns, he still remains as one of the best players of spin within the Caribbean. With India and its spin-favored pitches as the host country for the October 2023 ODI World Cup, Bravo’s expertise in that area could well be a key factor in determining the West Indies’ success at the tournament.

Haynes and Co have obviously also now placed their faith in Bravo’s abilities to regain his long-lost form, sooner rather than later. They can, therefore, be excused and given some degree of slack for having done so. Much the same cannot, however, now be said in relation to their inclusion of the soon to be 34-year-old Kemar Roach, as a member of the chosen India Tour fifteen member ODI squad.

Haynes’ stated justification for the inclusion of Roach, who has so far captured only 124 wickets from the 92 ODI matches he’s played for the West Indies, was as follows:

“Kemar Roach is one of our leading fast bowlers and we believe we need bowlers upfront to get early wickets, and Kemar, with an economy rate of five, is certainly good enough to play.

 The immediately obvious discrepancy in Haynes’s statement is that he’s given the need for the West Indies to capture early wickets as the reason for Roach’s inclusion. But the justification cited for Roach’s inclusion is his economy rate!

The reason for Haynes’ discrepancy is, of course, that Roach’s ODI stats are not in any way indicative of his abilities as a consistent and reliable wicket-taker. 124 wickets captured in 92 matches played equates to less than two per match.

There is absolutely no questioning the value that Kemar Roach has provided as the West Indies leading Test seamer for the better part of the last decade. With 231 Test wickets from just 68 matches played, and with 9 five wicket hauls to his name he has undoubtedly been the indisputable leader of the West Indies seam attack in the game’s longest and most prestigious format.

Yet those highly impressive Test returns have never quite been repeated during Roach’s ODI appearances to date. In his 92 matches played he has had only three five wicket hauls and an equal number of fourfors!

Roach is also now 33 years old and will not too far from now be celebrating his 34th birthday this coming June 30th. He has also not represented the West Indies in an ODI since August 14, 2019. His returns in that match against the very same India that he will be up against in a few weeks, and which was played on the Queen’s Park Oval pitch that is not unlike those most likely to be encountered, were 1/53-7 overs.

Roach’s inclusion has also seemingly come at the expense of Jayden Seales, the exciting much younger 20-year-old, genuinely quick, Trinidadian-born who made such am impressive international debut during last year’s Test Series against South Africa. Although he is still yet to make his ODI debut for the West Indies, Seales just recently concluded a highly successful maiden Sri Lanka Premier League Season.

Seales had returns of 3/23, 2/23, 2/40, 4/13, 3/24 and 1/36 in the six matches that he actually bowled in, while representing the Jaffna Kings in the Sri Lanka 2021 Premier League. Returns which are more consistently indicative of wicket-taking abilities than anything Roach has produced of late in either form of white-ball cricket.

Time is also now not on Roach’s side. By the time next year’s World Cup rolls around he will be 35. The West Indies Selectors should, therefore, have been far more forward thinking by choosing Seales instead Roach for the forthcoming tour, with a long-term view towards next year’s World Cup.

One of Haynes former teammates from the West Indies halcyon days of world cricket domination, he who knows a thing or two about quality fast bowling having himself been one of the greatest ever exponents of the art, has pointedly said in reaction to Roach’s inclusion “if you are rebuilding a team you should be looking forward by selecting players who represent your future, not backward to those who have played for you in the past!”

For all the foregoing reasons, the Haynes’ led Panel’s choice of including Roach among the fifteen chosen for the forthcoming India tour has left a very unsavory feeling among West Indies cricket fans. The optics that have been created by the shared Barbadian nationality between Haynes and the aging Roach are not at all good either.

We will now hope that for Haynes and his Panel’s sake the gambles they have taken with Bravo and Roach do indeed pay off. Time will surely tell.

About The Writers:

Guyana-born, Toronto-based, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted towards Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.

Guyana-born Reds Perreira has served as a world-recognized West Indies Cricket Commentator for well over fifty years. Reds made his broadcasting debut during the 1971 West Indies-India Test Series and has commentated on 152 matches since then!

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