What will the selectors come up with?
Asks Sean Devers
The Regional One-Day competition is usually scheduled for this time of the year and under normal circumstances this 50-over competition would not be of much significance to the Regional selectors as they sit to pick a team for a Test tour.
However, the industrial dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) which resulted in a makeshift team being assembled for the Bangladesh home series and the Champions Trophy in South Africa and the decision by the WICB to mandate that all players participate in the President’s Cup to be eligible for selection for the year-end tour has intensified the interest for the 2009 Regional One-Day competition.
The issue of Captaincy is also critical to the future of West Indies cricket at a time when a power struggle, politics, insularity, selfishness and disunity is eating out the very core of a sport which united the region more than any other thing since slavery was abolished in 1834.
Trinidad and Tobago Skipper Daren Ganga is arguably the best Captain in the
region; both as a tactician and a leader, but his modest International record means that he is not an automatic pick in the team and this should be taken into consideration.
Ganga, like former Skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan has publicly endorsed Gayle’s leadership and says he has the support of the players. Both have seemingly taken themselves out of the race for a position which is considered a poisoned chalice.
Some, including veteran Regional Broadcaster ‘Reds’ Pereira has nominated dashing all-rounder Dwayne Bravo for the job with Reds first pick being Ganga. Others feel Denish Ramdin should be given the job.
With incumbent Skipper Floyd Reifer not a serious contender due to his poor record as captain and batsman after returning to Test cricket 10 years after his last Test and rumors of Daren Sammy’s name being mentioned hard to believe, Jamaican Gayle should be re-appointed.
Team sprit is very important as the T&T team under Ganga has shown and the WICB should be careful not to pick players because of loyalty instead of ability since a united team with the same principles should play for each other more than a team divided in its views.
Now that the pugnacious Gayle has cleared the air about his commitment to all form of West Indies cricket he should be one of the automatic picks regardless of his performance in the President’s Cup, being played on low slow tracks not best conducive to attractive stroke play and hostile fast bowling.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul could have personal distractions but the second highest Test run scorer in the West Indies loves batting more than most thing in his life and should be keen to make up for a poor last tour to Australia in 2005 and is easily the region’s best batsman. Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo, Ramdin, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards (if fit) are automatic selections which means that 8 places should be up for grabs.
Adrian Barath was in the squad to play against Bangladesh before the players withdrew their service in St Lucia and with 5 centuries since making his First Class debut 2 years ago and plenty of talent, the 20-year-old should open the batting with his Skipper.
An indifferent attitude to fitness training has supposedly stalled Narsingh Deonarine’s International career after he played the first of his 4 Tests in 2005, and while his Test average of 21.40 is uninspiring, at 26, he now looks a fitter, more matured batsman and should be on the plane to bat at the number 4 position between countrymen Sarwan and Chanderpaul.
While his talent has never been a problem, Deonarine, who has just managed 99 runs from 5 ODIs, has been judged by his statistics. If the selectors do the same now he is ‘head and shoulders’ above the other regional batsmen this year.
Deonarine this year became the first batsman to score 1,000 runs in a regional season while in addition to scoring plenty of runs at the local level. He made 51 and an unbeaten 104 in the first two matches of the President’s Cup, which the WICB says is being used to pick this team. This must be enough from a batsman, who once in top form, is arguable the 3rd best middle-order batsman in the region.
Daren Bravo, the Brian Lara look-alike, is young and at times impetuous at the crease but at 20, he is the most exciting young batsman in the region and with 2 tons since his First Class debut in 2007, he is also maturing. His top score of 43 for T&T in their emphatic first round President Cup win against Jamaica also suggested he is in form and should be selected.
Surrounded by shot-makers and crowd pleasers, Chanderpaul is dogged but dependable and while he is labeled as selfish and many feel he bats for not outs, his ilk is needed in any team to provide the rock of the middle order. Not too many batsmen in the West Indies value their wicket as Chanderpaul does and Brendon Nash, the Australian born to a Jamaican father, is among the few who do.
The 31-year-old already has a century and 4 fifties from 9 Tests at a sound average of 38.32 and his brilliance in the field and steady left-arm medium pace make him a great utility player who should also regain his place in the team.
Nikita Miller has done well in West Indies colours and his batting has improved while the towering Sulieman Benn, who can also bat, is the more experienced of the 2 left-arm spinners. They are both in the same age group (Miller 27, Benn 28) and have both played Test cricket this year. Miller’s solitary Test against Bangladesh was due to the forced absence of the senior players while Benn has managed 24 wickets at an average of 49.08 from 9 Tests since his debut against Sri Lanka in Guyana last year.
Miller has the ability to produce flight and turn while Benn is steady but both spinners cannot be considered destructive at the Test level and left-arm back-of-the hand spinner Dave Mohamed should get the nod as specialist spinner in the absence of a genuine ‘big-turning’ off-spinner, a style of bowling that seem to trouble the Australians.
Mohamed turns the ball both ways and at 30, seems to have matured as a person and bowler since he played the first of his 5 Tests in 2004. His livewire fielding can also be inspiration for his team mates while he also has a Test fifty. He should be the lone specialist spinner selected with back up from Gayle and Deonarine.
Taylor and Edwards are the 2 best pacers in the region while Kemar Roach and David Bernard, who both were considered good enough to be picked for the West Indies when all of the players were available could be the only two players who did not support the strike selected.
Roach, for all his recent crest kissing mode of celebration of wickets for the makeshift team, proved that he is also a very good fast bowler who has the age and ability to improve while Bernard has delivered 3 fifties and an average of 40.04 from his 3 Tests and bowled steady spells. Ravi Rampaul or Andrew Richardson could be the 3rd specialist pacer on tour.
Whatever the selectors come up with tonight, it is hoped that their selection is based on cricket and that take into consideration the region is expecting the best possible team to be picked regardless of the stand the players took during the contractual dispute. A tour to Australia is a tough one for any team and picking players because of loyalty to the Board or to punish those with ability but who are deemed ‘trouble makers’ should not be allowed since it will further tarnish the imagine of West Indies cricket.
Messer Clyde Butts, Rafik Jumadeen and Robert Haynes could undertake their most difficult and important assignment tonight and the entire West Indies population is watching and waiting.
The probable 15-man squad:- Chris Gayle (Captain), Denish Ramdeen (V/Captain), Adrian Barath, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Narsingh Deonarine, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Daren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Brendon Nash, David Bernard, Jerome Taylor, Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach, Dave Mohamed, Ravi Rampaul.
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