Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Tony Becca | The team of magic, what can it do?

Published:Sunday | June 5, 2016 | 6:00 AM
Keiron Pollard
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The West Indies are taking on two of the world's best cricket teams in a Tri-Nation series, and one of their famous, or infamous, cricketers, probably in a state of anger at his non-inclusion, has described the selection of the Windies team as "magic".

Dwayne Bravo, not one of those expected to be included in the team, also called the team, "the joke of the day".

Chris Gayle, also not expected to be named, asked simply, "How was the selection of such a team possible?" Daren Sammy, also not expected to be named in the West Indies team, questioned how one of the players, in particular, qualified for selection.

The other two teams in the Tri-Nations are Australia and South Africa. They are two of the best teams around with some outstanding players, and the West Indies would be expected to put out their best to face them, especially, although it does not matter, a few months after winning the World Twenty20 Championship.

And after failing to qualify for the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy, it would also mean something if the West Indies were to somehow come up with some formula, apart from the magic of team selection, find a team, a good team, and defeat them both, especially Australia.

 

Crucial times

 

Bravo, Gayle, Sammy, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, and Lendl Simmons were never expected to be named in the squad, not by me, not by a number of West Indians, and not, I figured, by President Dave Cameron.

The reasons for this were simple. Some of the players, who had retired from Test cricket in frustration of not being selected, were not on one accord with the West Indies Cricket Board, and this always came up at crucial times and just before a tour.

Action speaks louder than words, and although they have said they have always been faithful to the cause, some also showed no interest in playing for the West Indies, except at times like the World Cup or such big-time championships.

Some are only interested in the money to be made from their trading their talent around the world, some promise more than they deliver, and although it showed that it really does not matter to them on the board, not one of them fulfilled the board's requirement of playing in the previous regional Super 50 tournament in order to qualify for selection.

Deep down, however, despite the outrageous behaviour of some of them, of Sammy and Marlon Samuels in particular, at the end of the recent ICC World Twenty20 tournament in India, I expected a couple of them, if they so desired, to have been included.

After all, the West Indies won the tournament, they are champions of the world, and the board, especially in recent times, and as hard it is, has a tendency of trying to run between the raindrops without getting wet at certain times.

What has become of the board's long-held stipulations, like playing for one's country except in very special cases, before playing for the West Indies?

As well-intentioned as that was, that was a rule for a different age. In an age of not much attraction from elsewhere, it was aimed to keep players active, to keep the territories at full strength as much as possible, and to keep the competition as high as possible.

The world has changed, however. Australians, Englishmen, and, especially, the Indians have come to save the West Indies, and while they have not changed their rules, they have, quite skilfully, changed how West Indies administrators think and how they look at things.

Despite the rules to guide their movement, West Indies players were allowed to roam the world freely, to play wherever and whenever they wished, and then, whenever they so desired, come back home to the West Indies.

 

Rules

 

I remember at the start of the Indian Premier League (IPL), when the rules governing players' involvement were being discussed, when rules to protect the countries were being talked about, the then CEO of the West Indies said, loud and clear for all to hear, that he would never stop a West Indies player from playing in the IPL, from earning money.

He was probably speaking of Gayle. Now, he would be speaking of players like Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sammy, Pollard, Narine, Russell, Simmons, Dwayne Smith, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder, and Samuel Badree, a whole team of players.

It happened before, but definitely from since that day, the West Indies have never been able to put out their best team.

Apart from Pollard and Narine, the team for this Tri-Nations series includes only Holder and Brathwaite from the list above, from those playing in the IPL, and the question must be asked of the venerable selectors, or the chief selector: Where are all the others, especially those who won the ICC World Twenty20?

Without asking of Gayle and captain Sammy, who obviously would have been out, where are Bravo, Russell, Badree, and Simmons?

They did not play in the Super50, but neither did Pollard or Narine, for whatever reason. Of the lot, I probably will miss only Simmons, and probably Badree and Russell, for his once-in-a-million flash of sixes or acrobatic catches while previously playing for the West Indies.

West Indies take on Australia and South Africa, and the question is - Who will win the series?

I know that the West Indies, at present, are a weak one-day international (ODI) and Test team, and I wish they were better prepared, or, better than that, I wish they were better players.

Looking around the West Indies, some of the players who are getting into the team seem not to be ready for the transition, both as regards their performance and their technique, and, as such, they usually fail.

Of the squad called up for the first four matches of this series, players like Darren Bravo and Brathwaite look good and definitely deserve their places, so do Holder, Samuels, and Nurse. And of the other players around, Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope also look good and promising.

Jonathan Carter, with an ODI average of 19.23, however, has been given a fair chance, also one like Andre Fletcher, with an ODI batting average of 14.72, and Sulieman Benn, with a bowling average of 39.17 in ODIs and 33.60 in T20 internationals.

 

Selections

 

O Lord! How long will the selectors continue to select players who look good and then hope for the best?

The results in the two practice games against a Barbados Select X1 were very, very disappointing for West Indians, whoever they are and wherever they may be.

With a little luck, however, despite the lack of match-ready talent around, in spite of the magical-type selections by the selectors, according to Dwayne Bravo, Gayle and Sammy, the hope is that players like Samuels, Darren Bravo, Pollard, Brathwaite, Narine, and Holder come good and set the stage for the others to work a miracle.

When I look, however, at the Australians and see batsmen like Steve Smith with an ODI average of 40.02 and five centuries, David Warner, 37.88 and five, Steve Finch, 38.46 and seven, and a promising newcomer like Usman Khawaja, and when I look at fast bowler Mitchell Starc and see a bowling average of 19.65 and a best of six for 28, his colleague Nathan Coulter-Nile, all-rounders James Faulkner and Glen Maxwell, and a leg-spinner like Adam Zampa, I fear for the West Indies.

And although the South Africans have a tendency to crack, it is no different when I see Hashim Amla, 52.45 and 22, Quinton de Kock, 42.94 and 10, AB de Villiers, 54.56 and 24, Faf de Plessis, 38.73 and five, and Imran Tahir with a bowling average of 24.11 and a best of five for 45, plus the young and promising fast bowler, Kagiso Rabada, who boats a haul of six for 16.