Orville Higgins | Devon Smith a good selection but ...
The West Indies selectors have surprised me again in the naming of the Test squad for the Sri Lanka series. Selecting a cricket team is never an easy task, ask 20 people to name a squad and you are likely to get 20 different responses, but there are some glaring issues with the current squad that just do not stand up to intelligent scrutiny.
Let me start out by giving the selectors credit for what I feel were the "right'" decisions. Despite many disagreeing, the selection of Devon Smith was almost automatic and the selectors should be commended for going back for him despite the inevitable controversy. How do you ignore 1,095 runs at an average of 84 with six hundreds? People point to his age, but even if he was 73 and batting on crutches, you can't say no to that kind of performance. It is not that this is a mere one season effort either. Devon Smith has been the most consistent four-day batsman in the region for the last three seasons. You simply have to pick him.
What I don't understand is Kieran Powell still being in the squad. You can't go back for Devon Smith simply to have him carry the towels, so he should play. The presence of Powell as the other opener to Brathwaite is therefore unnecessary.
Jermaine Blackwood and Sunil Ambris have both lost their places in the squad. I feel it for Ambris. He never made the most auspicious of starts to his career in New Zealand, but was out hit wicket twice and then got injured. Surely the selectors could have given him this home series to show what he could do at the test level. He had certainly earned his spot on the team by scoring heavily in recent times. That one off opportunity in New Zealand was not enough.
Some cricketers are picked and given a fairly long stint to get settled. Shai Hope, for example, averaged teens for much of his first dozen and a half Test matches. The selectors saw something in him and stuck with him and now that is paying dividends. Ambris should have been treated similarly. I can understand the selectors frustration with Blackwood. He needs to temper his overly aggressive instincts in Test cricket. His string of low scores in recent times would not have helped his cause. I still feel that he still has a lot to offer.
Why was Jahmar Hamilton included as the second wicketkeeper? He averaged a mere 16 in four-day cricket last year. Yes he did reasonably well against the England 'A'team, including getting a hundred, but surely that should not be enough for him to suddenly be in a Test squad.
Why no Ramdin?
Did Denesh Ramdin not do enough to earn a recall in the same way Devon Smith did? Where is the consistency in the selectors thinking? If you go back for Devon Smith on the basis of a strong regional showing why then was Ramdin ignored?
Ramdin was in fact the second leading runscorer in this year's regional four-day competition. He finished with 799 runs, three hundreds and an average of 61. A case could be made that he could be selected purely as a specialist batsman! He is still very capable with the gloves although he doesn't always keep for Trinidad and Tobago these days. Is that what worked against him? Why was Jahmar Hamilton preferred ahead of him? Why do we need a second wicketkeeper in a 13-man squad playing at home, especially when Shai Hope is already in the squad?
How do you leave out Kemo Paul? Paul was by far and away the leading fast bowler in the last four-day competition. He took 42 wickets at a miserly 18.69 apiece. When was the last time we had a regional fast bowler having such an impressive season? He took the third most wickets in the four-day tournament with the top two places going to spinners as usual. He was also quite handy with the bat getting a hundred and averaging 18.5. If he was not injured, then leaving him out defies belief. Miguel Cummings must feel lucky to hold on to his place. He has never really set the place on fire for me. Clearly the selectors are seeing something that I don't.
Davendra Bishoo hangs on to his place as the lone spinner despite very moderate returns in his last few series. Again Nikita Miller must be wondering what does the cricket Gods have against him. A selector never has an easy job, but this time around I really feel they got too many things wrong.
- Orville Higgins is a talk-show host.