Colin E. H. Croft
Two weeks ago, this column wondered if West Indies selectors Clive Lloyd, Courtney Walsh, Eldine Baptiste and Courtney Browne still had testicular fortitudes and true perspectives enough to select a team capable of winning men’s ICC WT-20 2016. Thankfully, the selectors still do!
To have sent any WI team to that exciting competition without the recently-selected usual suspects would have been like committing suicide by shooting yourself just after you had also drunk poison; a dead certainty that WI would not have only lost but might have embarrassed us in India too.
Almost all of those selected have, somewhere in the world, even in the Caribbean last week, been playing much, except for those who were injured; out self-medicating an arm or a leg. So here is a real chance for players like much improved Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo to show real mettle for WI and to put their on-field performances ahead of any vocals.
But Darren Sammy’s men will still have to work diligently hard to qualify for the final on April 03, to try to win that competition a second time. Since WI’s selectors have bitten the bullet, after that recent shellacking in Australia, and selected a plausible team, WI stands a good chance.
Cricket is not like boxing, where champions are regularly challenged by contenders to hold on to championship belts and No. 1 rankings. Even though WI is now ranked, by default, at No. 1 in ICC’s T-20 scale, that does not automatically make them the world’s best T-20 team, even with those successful stars present. WI will have to prove that again, especially after 2012’s win!
In Group 1 with England, South Africa, 2014’s champions Sri Lanka and one of the early competition qualifying teams, WI will not find it at all easy going. It will be very tough indeed!
Given that so many of our intrepid cricketing world travelers, from 2012’s victory, have been reunited, having been recently, vigorously, plying their trades around the world, no-one can accuse them, except for Marlon Samuels, of not being fully up to speed, involved and in good form.
Only Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Dwayne Smith, from 2012’s triumph, are, correctly, omitted. Edwards, now a Kolpak cricketer at Hampshire, no longer qualifies to play for WI, while Rampaul and Smith no longer count.
But that only Denesh Ramdin, Jason Holder, Darren Bravo, Andre Fletcher and Sullieman Benn, of those who participated in the recently concluded WICB-NAGICO Super-50 2016 competition, have been selected, must high-light how relatively bare WI cricket’s younger coffers really are.
While missing Samuel Badree and Sunil Narine, victorious Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel’s head-coach Gus Logie really hoped that new faces, from his team and others, would come to the fore, but Jerome Taylor, whose returns have been horrendous in his last two tours, is still retained. That does not bode so well for supposed replacements for those who will represent us in India.
The semi-finals and final of that 50-overs competition last week showed nothing new. Kraigg Brathwaite looked poised against Windward Islands, but that was that, except for the stunning brilliance of Darren Bravo’s 95 v Guyana in semi-final No. I and 97 in the final v Barbados.
Guyana’s much vaunted batting, with three Test batsmen in its first four, and five international cricketers in its XI, looked terribly out of place, either lost, overawed with the occasion, or seriously under-prepared for their task then. None deserved considerations for WT-20 2016!
Windwards too, for their semi-final v Barbados, looked so flat that one wondered if they realized that some of them may have had a chance to make the flight to India, via London and UAE.
From T&T, perhaps only Jason Mohammed, an enterprising, learning captain, even if he did not bat as well as he would have liked, and the early pearl, one that faded when it mattered, Evan Lewis, might have had a chance for India. Neither shone in the finals last week.
WI, though, still has its own travails from now to that first official game in India, v England at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on March 16. Many WI players are still struggling with either fitness concerns or, indeed, in Narine’s case, proving that he can indeed bowl legally.
Chris Gayle, like the force of wind for which he is named, still has much power. He can blow teams away quickly, but as he comes, thus he also goes. One has to hope that his chronic back problems let up enough for his presence, and runs, to have telling effects that they normally do. Ditto for Kieron Pollard, whose injury must have been more serious than at first thought.
Samuels especially needs much cricket under his belt and a forest fire under his ass too, as his returns in Australia and overall façade there make this selection look strange indeed. He can produce, if he tries, but this could be his last sojourn, so he had better put on the after-burners!
With this squad, WI could win WT-20 in 2016 again, but only if players are really at the very best that they can be. Enjoy!
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