Keep­ing faith in the Young Turks

Daily Nation (Barbados) - - Comment -

HEAD­IN­G­LEY gave West Indies cricket a life­line when least ex­pected.

That mag­nif­i­cent vic­tory over Eng­land, against the long­est odds, re­stored self re­spect and the crick­et­ing world’s ad­mi­ra­tion.

It showed that all hope wasn’t lost and there was some­thing there to work with.

I be­lieve it is against this back­ground that the se­lec­tors de­cided to stick with the same play­ers for the Zim­babwe tour. A hu­mil­i­at­ing white­wash against Eng­land may have prompted some changes. The se­lec­tors would have been un­der some pres­sure if they had done any­thing dif­fer­ent in dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances.

The naysay­ers weren’t able to say “I told you so”, there­fore the Court­ney Browne panel had some breath­ing space to ma­noeu­vre to their ad­van­tage. I say ad­van­tage be­cause I get the feel­ing they are in­tent on re­build­ing the Test team with the core of this squad and to do so there has to be con­ti­nu­ity.

In other words, the play­ers must be given a rea­son­able run for the se­lec­tors to get the blend they are look­ing for.

It is not go­ing to be an easy road get­ting back to the top as the dom­i­nant teams are main­tain­ing their prow­ess, and even some of the former min­nows are get­ting bet­ter. Bangladesh re­cently won their first Test against mighty Aus­tralia. In fact, in the past ten months they also did the same against Eng­land and Sri Lanka. Zim­babwe also posted their first away ODI se­ries win against a ma­jor team in 16 years by beat­ing Sri Lanka in July.

So the trend is to­wards more com­pet­i­tive cricket and we haven’t been able to do that con­sis­tently ex­cept in the T20 for­mat in re­cent years. We have been left be­hind in Test and ODI ex­changes. We have to come up with a strate­gic model to take us back to some level of re­spectabil­ity in those for­mats.

It is for the tech­nocrats to for­mu­late strat­egy but it is the play­ers who have to ex­e­cute it. The se­lec­tors can, or should, only use the per­for­mances of the play­ers in re­gional cricket when choos­ing teams. If this pro­vides a dilemma for them based on the play­ers’ re­turns so be it, but it is the only yard­stick they have at their dis­posal un­less they use blind faith in se­lect­ing un­der­per­form­ing play­ers, but who they think have the po­ten­tial and are pre­pared to give them a chance to de­velop.

The same ap­proach can be used to fast-track crick­eters who may only have had lim­ited first-class ex­pe­ri­ence but ap­pear pre­co­cious enough to get the nod in the hope that they would de­velop into some­thing spe­cial. Michael Hold­ing, Joel Garner, Colin Croft and Mal­colm Mar­shall fell into this cat­e­gory. The rest is his­tory. Just say­ing there are dif­fer­ent op­tions and rea­sons avail­able to as­sist se­lec­tors in do­ing their jobs ef­fec­tively. Some­times it works, some­times it doesn’t. They have to live with the out­come and the pub­lic per­spec­tive that comes with it.

The choices for Zim­babwe will be judged ac­cord­ingly. It could be that they were im­pressed with what they saw in Eng­land and/or they be­lieve this is a chance to build con­fi­dence against a weaker op­po­nent even if it is in their own back­yard.

I think we can agree that those who didn’t de­liver in the last two se­ries should know that there will be no hid­ing place if they don’t show marked im­prove­ment in Zim­babwe. There is only so much time that se­lec­tors can vouch for play­ers who aren’t de­liv­er­ing the goods whether it is against strong or weak op­po­si­tion.

In a very re­cent con­ver­sa­tion some­one opined the only rea­son Ba­jans aren’t clam­our­ing for some changes is be­cause there are nine of us in the squad. Would our tone be dif­fer­ent if play­ers from an­other ter­ri­tory had an equal num­ber of play­ers and the results weren’t to our lik­ing or if some of those play­ers were fail­ing?

These are very real sit­u­a­tions that can play on se­lec­tors’ minds in a time of sus­tained famine even if we ac­cept that in­su­lar con­sid­er­a­tions are part and par­cel of the cul­ture and ge­og­ra­phy as­so­ci­ated with West Indies cricket through the years.

De­spite this phe­nom­e­non, I think the Browne panel did the right thing in main­tain­ing the squad that toured Eng­land. It is for the play­ers on the radar to re­pay their faith on the trip to Zim­babwe.

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