Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Orville Higgins | Windies and ODIs - looking ahead

Published:Friday | September 29, 2017 | 12:00 AM

The West Indies are now down 3-0 in the one-day international (ODI) series against England. With only one game left, it is now likely that the West Indies may well end up losing the series without winning a game. Having already lost the right to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup, and with the series already lost, there is not too much at stake for the final game, unless, of course, the West Indies don't want to suffer the ignominy of being unable to leave England with an ODI win.

The one other thing that we can do is to try to learn as many lessons as we can and start preparing a team that can not only help us to qualify, but make us competitive in the World Cup tournament. The selectors have some decisions to make.

One of them is what do we do with the two batting stalwarts, Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle. At 36 and 38 years old, respectively, none of them is in the prime of youth, and by the time 2019 comes around, they will be senior citizens, and may well struggle to be as productive as they were in former years. Samuels has been good in the last two years before 2017. In 2015, he averaged 46.23 in 15 games, and in 2016, he averaged 37.40. He was our best ODI batsman in that period.

Samuels has struggled in the three games he has batted this year with an average around 9.0. The question is whether these low scores are an indication of a dip in quality, or must be treated simply as a dip in form. Gayle hasn't played one-dayers for the West Indies for two years, but his blistering 94 in Game Three shows what he can do with the bat, even while his running between the wickets is becoming more and more laboured.

Gayle and Samuels are both now proving to be less of an asset in the field than they once were. The question is, do they produce enough with the bat to make them worth their spots despite the fielding and running handicaps?

 

ARE THEY STILL WORTHY?

 

That is not an easy question to answer. Both Gayle and Samuels will have to be treated like prized bulls. We don't want to push them out while they can still be useful, but we don't want to keep them after their sell-by date. The year 2019 is a long time away. How the selectors treat them may well hold the key to how far we advance in both the qualifiers and the World Cup itself. If left to me, they would both be in my plans as a sort of last hurrah for the West Indies, but would have to be managed carefully.

Evin Lewis and Gayle then would form my opening partnership. At three, I am hoping to get back Darren Bravo if only he can sort out his issues. I would still have Samuels batting at No. 4 with Shai Hope at five. Shai is also the wicketkeeper.

Here is where I am differing from the selectors. I want Jermaine Blackwood at six. There is no cricket reason why your most aggressive Test match batsman is not in your one-day team. The selectors are making zero sense here. Blackwood should be included in the ODI set up from here on in.

At seven, I am making a choice between Jason Holder and Dwayne Bravo. It's not easy to choose. Bravo may well be the better bowler, especially at the death, but Holder is a better batsman in recent times. I'm leaning to Bravo because the West Indies bowling is weaker than its batting, and Bravo may well be a better asset to the team. Holder may get the nod from the selectors because they want him to lead. Or they may fit in both with Bravo batting at No. 8. I wouldn't have a problem with that at all.

My other three bowlers must include Narine, if only someone can convince him to play. My two opening pacers depend on form and fitness, and it's up for grabs at the moment. No two have claimed the spot and made it their own, but purely on their showing in Tests this year, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel must surely be the front-runners.

Ashley Nurse would be the back-up spinner, Jason Mohammed could be the back-up middle-order batsman, with maybe Jerome Taylor and Sheldon Cotterell lurking in the wings as pacers. This is a squad that could cause some damage. I'm assuming that we will qualify. I'm not overly optimistic about our chances, but we could well be the dark horse that could make some noise.

- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.