Stabroek News Sunday

A most welcome Christmas present

- Pakistan T20 series pointers for West Indies’ new selection panel

- By Tony (McWatt) and Reds (Perreira)

Cricket West Indies (CWI) has presented all Caribbean cricket fans and followers, ourselves included, with a most welcome Christmas present. It has been announced that the Roger Harper-led Selection Panel’s contract will now not be renewed.

The decision was likely made in the wake of the widespread public uproar that followed the Harper-led panel’s horrendous choices for the recent 2021 T20 World Cup and the resulting calls from numerous commentato­rs, including ours, for its immediate replacemen­t. The announceme­nt effectivel­y means that West Indies will have a new selection panel in charge of choosing its teams in the coming new year, the most important of which will be the final 15 member squad for the Australia-hosted 2022 World Cup.

In that regard, the recent Pakistan T20 Series, despite the 3-0 loss suffered by the

West Indies, should now provide some very useful pointers towards the 2022 World Cup squad’s final compositio­n. In terms of the panel itself several months ago we had suggested a reversion to the previous five-member format with Jeffrey Dujon as its Chair and the likes of Tony Gray, Lockhart Sebastien, and Philo Wallace as members along with the Coach. Should Wallace be unavailabl­e our suggested substitute would be Kenny Benjamin.

Assuming everyone is fully fit and in sufficient­ly good form, if the West Indies 2022 World Cup 15 member squad were to be picked today, there would be a least eight players who would be considered by most to be automatic selections. Discountin­g Kieron Pollard’s participat­ion in any possible manner the referenced eight would then be Nicholas Pooran as captain, Evan Lewis, Shimron Hetmeyer, Sherfane Rutherford, Jason Holder, Fabian Allen, Akeal Hosein, and Obed McCoy.

That would arguably then leave only an additional seven players to be identified. Before any such identifica­tions can be made, however, the West Indies’ selection panel’s brain trust will first have to decide as to what the ideal compositio­n of the squad should be in relation to both the playing conditions and the quality of opposition likely to be encountere­d. Initially, as part of the qualificat­ion process and hopefully, subsequent­ly in Australia itself during the actual World Cup.

As Sir Andy Roberts has repeatedly suggested it would be best for the West Indies selectors to identify and decide on the squad’s final compositio­n as quickly as possible, to allow as much time to be made available for it to gel completely as a team. The forthcomin­g five matches January 22 – 29, 2022 series against England should, therefore, provide the perfect opportunit­y for them to do so.

With Pooran to continue as captain, the next biggest priority for the selectors will be to identify candidates, possibly two, from which the best choice of the most suitable partner to open the innings with Evan Lewis can be made. Towards that end, Brandon King’s return to form during the Pakistan series was highly encouragin­g.

King’s series aggregate of 111 runs from three innings batted at a 37.00 average was the highest among all of the West Indies batsmen. Skipper Pooran, who scored 108 runs from his three innings, was the only West Indies batsman to score over 100 runs in total during the series.

Although he only had scores of one and 31 in the two innings he batted, Shai Hope’s batting in the third and final T20 was sufficient­ly encouragin­g as to suggest that he should be given further opportunit­ies to also stake his claims for inclusion as one of Lewis’ potential opening partners. Hope’s abilities behind the stumps would also, of course, address the need for the squad’s inclusion of a backup wicketkeep­er.

Darren Bravo was unfortunat­ely ill enough to have missed the first two T20’s of the Pakistan Series. His 27 ball 34 not out in the third would, however, have given everyone concerned reasons to hope that he could now be finally back on the road to regaining his long lost status as one of the Region’s finest batsmen. He should, therefore, be given as many opportunit­ies as possible to re-establish his credential­s in the new year.

Given the seamer-friendly conditions likely to be encountere­d in Australia the remaining positions on the squad will likely be geared towards bowlers of the faster variety. For which there will certainly be a fair number of contenders.

In Pakistan, Odean Smith and Romario Shepherd each captured four wickets in three matches played at the respective averages of 28.50 and 31.25. Their respective economy rates of 11.40 and 11.53 were, however, expensive enough to give cause for concern. They were both, neverthele­ss, sufficient­ly impressive with their power-hitting punctuated batting as to merit their further considerat­ion as potential T20 World Cup final squad members

The other two seamers used by the West Indies were Dominic Drakes 2/11411 overs; avg, 57.00, econ 10.36 and Oshane Thomas 2/98-9 overs; avg. 49.00 econ 10.88. While Drakes can perhaps be somewhat excused for being in his debut series, there should no such considerat­ion for the far more experience­d Thomas, who continued to have issues with his run up while also appearing to be overweight and unfit.

Haydn Walsh Jr’s., continuing loss of form is also a cause for concern. Walsh Jr., bowled just six of the eight overs that were available during the two matches he played. His returns were an unimpressi­ve 1/60-6; avg 60.0 econ 10.00. England’s now well-establishe­d reputation as having

batsmen who are rarely entirely comfortabl­e against quality leg-spin should, however, allow Walsh to be given further opportunit­ies to recapture his lost form during that upcoming series.

The new West Indies selection panel whoever they may be, will certainly have much to consider and a fairly large pool of viable candidates to choose from. As a means of providing the best possible level of support towards the selectors’ eventual choices, Cricket West Indies (CWI) on its part must also seriously consider the now obvious need for changes to be made to the Phil Simmons-led Coaching cadre.

Simmons himself may be protected from immediate dismissal by CWI’s somewhat hasty provision of a four-year contract, the expiry date for which is not until October 2023. There should, hopefully, be no such safety net for Monty Desai and Roddy Estwick as the team’s current batting and bowling coaches. Their glaring inadequaci­es have been sufficient­ly obvious as to warrant their immediate replacemen­ts.

In a previous article, we had suggested Desmond Haynes as a potential replacemen­t for Simmons as Head Coach. Given the apparent security of Simmons’ tenure, Haynes should be perhaps be drafted as Desai’s replacemen­t as the batting coach. Franklyn Stephenson would still be our first choice as the bowling coach, supported by Samuel Badree as his assistant to work specifical­ly with the spinners.

The year 2021 has undeniably been an annus horribilis for West Indies cricket, certainly in terms of the continuing overly disappoint­ing performanc­es in each of internatio­nal cricket’s current formats. CWI’s announceme­nt that there will now be a new selection panel in the new year is, however, a very positive first step towards a much improved 2022!

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 hundreds of matches since then!

 ?? ?? Joseph (Reds) Perreira
Tony McWatt
Joseph (Reds) Perreira Tony McWatt

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