By Orville Higgins
The West Indies will bow into action tomorrow in the World Twenty20 tournament with the entire region believing that this competition could be one where we truly impose ourselves on the cricket world.
The West Indies have been installed as pre-tournament favourites in many quarters, and not without good reason. No other team in world cricket has the hitting power that the West Indies have right through the batting order. When they are on song, Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, and even Darren Sammy can be as explosive as anybody else in this version of the game. If we bat true to form, we have the most feared batting line-up.
The weakest part of our game is our bowling. Sunil Narine apart, there is nobody else that opposing teams will be overly concerned about. Leaving out Krishmar Santokie was a selection blunder. In fact, it continues to baffle me why he has only two international appearances.
In 25 domestic Twenty20 games, Santokie has 51 wickets. His two-wicket-a-game ratio unquestionably marks him out as being the most deadly seamer in regional Twenty20 cricket. His economy rate is in the region of 6.07, which is commendable, if not outright special.
Better than best, edwards
Two pacers were chosen ahead of him. Fidel Edwards, in domestic Twenty20 cricket, has played 44 games and has taken 40 wickets at 7.23. At the international level, he has played 17 games for 14 wickets, at 8.18 a piece. Tino Best has not yet played an international Twenty20, but domestically, he has played 21 matches for 19 wickets at an economy rate of 6 .53.
Santokie then, statistically, has proven superior to both Best and Edwards domestically, and yet for some reason the
selectors continue to overlook him. Even if you judge Santokie on his limited international experience, it's still not bad. Two
matches, two wickets at 7.33, which means he still has a better economy rate at the international level than Fidel.
Santokie takes more wickets per game and is far more economical at the domestic Twenty20 game than most bowlers in the region, including Fidel and Best, who are both in Sri Lanka. Yet he has had to be twiddling his thumbs and watching TV like the rest of us.
The argument that he is too slow is illogical. Sometimes pace on the ball is exactly what international batsmen need to keep the scoreboard racing. I remember Sachin Tendulkar, of all people, once saying that Chris Harris from New Zealand was among the toughest bowlers he had to face in limited-overs cricket.
Harris was a medium-paced trundler who was no quicker than Santokie. Harris played 250 one-day games for New Zealand, with an economy rate of 4.28, which would make him among the most frugal 50-over bowlers in modern times. So the arguments about Santokie's lack of pace cannot stand up to objective scrutiny.
WHY FOUR OPENERS?
We have carried four people to this World Twenty20 tournament who can open: Gayle, Smith, Charles and Simmonds. Why do we need four openers and leave out one of our best Twenty20 bowlers? Gayle will play every game, barring injury, which means that at the best of times only one of the other three will be needed at the top. Surely it would have been a better bet to carry the extra seamer.
Another possible weakness could be the wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin. If you look at all the other top nations, the wicketkeeper is a serious batting threat: Dhoni for India, Sangakarra for Sri Lanka, De Villiers for South Africa, Kieswetter for England, Akmal for Pakistan.
The wicketkeeper in these teams is almost picked for his batsmanship first, and as a keeper next. With a strong batting line-up and the mystery spin of Narine and, probably, Badree, probably we do need our best keeper, but a runless Ramdin could be a luxury we can't afford.
Twenty20, unlike any other format, can be turned on fielding, and while we are not the best - with Bravo, Smith, Pollard, Russell and company - we are among the top three teams in that department. With a little luck, the West Indies should be able to bring home the crown.
KLAS sportscaster Orville Higgins is the 2011 winner of the Hugh Crosskill/Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Reporting. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.