Who gets picked and why?
Last weekend, news broke that Tamar Lambert was not included in Jamaica's 14-member squad for the first two games of the upcoming regional four-day season.
The news passed with little fanfare and has attracted little media attention. Cricket no longer appeals to the public the way it used to. The Jamaican public apparently couldn't care less with cricket, especially the longer version.
There are a lot of things which come up for discussion here. For one, Lambert has represented Jamaica for years, and his place in the squad has never really been in doubt. He is as consistent a figure in the squad over the last decade as anyone else. Last year, he announced that he was no longer interested in captaincy, and bingo, the very next year, he can't make the squad.
Certainly, this begs the question if Lambert was selected some of those years purely based on his captaincy. His record as a captain is second to none in regional cricket history, and it must have been tempting to keep him going as skipper as long as he wanted to play. He didn't have a great season last year, but he has had moderate seasons before and his place was assured. Did Lambert cost himself the first two games of the upcoming season, and possibly more, by stepping down as captain? One remembers Viv Richards announcing he was stepping down as captain before the World Cup in the early '90s and was subsequently dropped from the West Indies team altogether with Richie Richardson taking over. If Viv had stayed on, they wouldn't have had the heart to drop him. Is this a similar story?
What's interesting is that Lambert is one of the players who is on a retainer contract with the Jamaica Cricket Association. The business of retainer contracts for players is a relatively new phenomenon, and there will be inevitable teething pains.
It can't be easy to decide who gets a retainer contract and who doesn't. Players lose form and fitness, for example, but if Lambert's game wasn't assured, then why was he placed on a retainer? Lambert is in his 30s. His shelf life is less than players who are much younger. It appears to me that it would have been wiser to award a younger developing player that central contract and allow the aging players to be compensated on a play-for-pay basis.
The man who has taken over from Lambert is Paul Palmer Jr, another interesting choice in its own right. Palmer is a good young cricketer. He is a dependable top-order left-handed batsman, who has good temperament and a good cricket brain. I watched him score a hundred at Melbourne while he was captaining the national under-19 team a few years ago, and it was one of the best compiled innings I've seen at that level. Palmer, though, has not yet played for Jamaica at the senior level. I can't remember any other stage in Jamaica's modern cricket history the designated captain will also be playing for the first time. By making him captain, he has been guaranteed a game.
I'm happy for the youngster. He is someone I have admired as a player since he was a lad in Westmoreland, but his elevation to captaincy and, thereby, to certain selection, does make one wonder about how some players are lucky while others aren't. I can think of other players in the not-too-distant past who would have presented just as pressing a case for selection and were left out in the wilderness.
It's an unbelievable irony that Paul Palmer Snr was one of those unlucky ones robbed of a spot in the Jamaican team because of the politics of the times. It's a well known local cricket story that the elder Palmer was batting in trials, was on a big century and seemed like he would bat forever. He was called off by the powers that be and still wasn't given a game, when the side was picked!
Nikita Miller captained the side before in the limited overs tournament last year, and from all reports, he did ok. He is the 'big man' and the most experienced of this bunch; and his international experience is huge. Why was he overlooked as skipper? Is there some good cricket reason a youngster playing his first game for Jamaica should be handing out instructions to a stalwart like Miller? Is there something we are not being told?
- Orville Higgins is a radio talk-show host. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.