Kaieteur News – The West Indies team selected for the T20 Cricket World Cup is being severely criticised. This is not the first time that this has happened but it is hard to recall so much criticism levelled on any other team, which the selectors had picked at any time in the history of West Indies cricket.
The Chairman of the selectors, Roger Harper, is one of the most knowledgeable persons in the game and is tactically sound when it comes to red ball cricket. When he was made Vice Captain of the West Indies senior team, the then captain, Richie Richardson, had praised Harper’s tactical knowledge of the game.
The squad selected for such an intense tournament requires two qualities: form and balance. In addition, the squad should be judged in terms of the form of the players and the balance of the team.
In cricket, it is said that form is temporary but class is permanent. A player may go through bad patches but once the class is there the form will come back.
When selectors have to pick a touring team, they often have to strike a balance between the ‘form’ player and the ‘class’ player. The player who has form is likely to sustain that form for a few series but the out of touch class player does not always regain form quickly. This is why even the classiest of players are sometimes dropped when they have an extended run of bad form.
The former West Indies captain, Alvin Kallicharran, once had the distinction of never being dropped from a team. When he did, it was for good and this all resulted from a bad patch of form, believed to have been associated with shoulder problems.
Kallicharran was one of the greats of the game. Lawrence Row rated him along with Viv Richards and Gary Sobers as among the greatest players of the game. Richards himself said Kallicharran was a complete batsman.
However, Kallicharran had a dip of form and then got injured in a regional tournament, and he was dropped from the team. He was a class player and his form deserted him for a couple of series and he was dropped.
Selectors tend to persist with the class players because they know that eventually the class will prevail over form. The West Indies persisted with Carl Hooper despite him underperforming early in his career. The class was there and it was only a matter of time before it was translated into form.
But the selectors would know also from experience that form does not return overnight. Therefore, an out of form player in the just-concluded Caribbean Premier League is not likely to return to form in time for the World T20 tournament.
The out of form players, Chris Gayle and Lendl Simmons, should not have been selected. There is not enough time for them to return to form before and during the tournament.
A team also needs balance. The selectors appeared to want to strike this balance but the selection of Gayle distorts the balance of the team. If Gayle plays, he should play for his explosive opening batting. But the team already has three openers in Lewis, Simmons and Fletcher. Gayle therefore would be playing to anchor the middle order but he is not suited to this role and his task is made more difficult by his recent poor form.
Shimron Hetmyer is likely to come at number three. But who will follow at four? The selectors appear to have opted for Royston Chase who is a bowling all-rounder but who was explosive in his batting during the CPL. His selection creates some problems of balance in the team because there is Fabian Allen and Hayden Walsh who are batting and bowling all-rounders respectively and excellent “finishers’ – a department in which the team is packed with the likes of Allen, Russell, Pooran and Pollard.
Oshane Thomas has been selected for the cutting edge he brings to the pace bowling department. The selectors got it right with him. Romario Shepherd is not a cutting-edge pacer and while Odeen Smith is quick, he is not the same type of tear-away bowler as Thomas.
So long as Fidel Edwards was not being selected, the selectors had to go for another pacer to bowl at the death with Dwayne Bravo. And the best of the death bowlers during the CPL was Ravi Rampaul.
If there are any problems with this team, it has to do with its balance. The opening slot is going to be a problem. And just where Chris Gayle will bat and what role Chase will play, will have to be answered when the tournament bowls off.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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