By Orville Higgins
The squad named by the West Indies selectors to face Australia in a series of limited-over games next month is not a bad one. By and large, it was fairly predictable, with those chosen generally representing the best we have in that format of the game.
There are two issues which I have with this team, however. One is the inclusion of Ramnaresh Sarwan, and two, the continued snubbing of Krishmar Santokie.
I don't doubt Sarwan's ability. He may be past his best, but when he is on song, he probably is still one of the best batsmen in the West Indies. My problem with his selection stems more from the fact that he is being called upon now while he was overlooked before.
Sarwan has expressed a desire to play for the West Indies in recent times, but was overlooked, mainly because he hasn't represented Guyana for a little while in regional tournaments, and because he and the board had a dispute regarding his fitness.
He wasn't idle, though. He played in England, representing Leicestershire with relative success. He averaged 40 in the four-day format, with three centuries, and had showed, towards the back end of last season, that he could still make a contribution.
He wasn't selected, and many people, including broadcasters, supported his non-inclusion because he didn't satisfy the criterion of playing in the West Indies. So now he is playing in the ongoing regional T20 tournament. Up to Thursday (January 17) evening when this article went to print, his scores have been dismal. In his first four innings, the recalled Sarwan had made a grand total of 18 runs with a top score of 8! His strike rate was 60, which means he had faced a mere 30 balls combined in those four innings! His average, up to yesterday, was 4.5!
Despite all that, he has been called back into the West Indies team. He is good enough to be a West Indies player now when he is clearly struggling, but couldn't be a West Indies player when he was having some moderate success in England.
This ridiculous rule that you must play 'in' the West Indies in order to be eligible 'for' the West Indies really means that failure in the West Indies is more likely to gain you selection than relative success abroad! That has to be a joke! No other serious sport insists that you must play in your domestic competition in order to play for your country. Change that rule now!
Second, what do the regional selectors have against Krishmar Santokie? By all accounts, by everyone except the wilfully perverse, he is among the best bowlers in the West Indies in 20/20 cricket. When you compare his figures with most other seamers in the region, he comes out comfortably ahead in this version of the game.
Even in this year's tournament, up to January 17, Santokie was among the top-three wicket-takers. Despite his superior numbers, he has played only two 20/20 games for the West Indies. Why? How can it be rationally explained why one of our top performers in 20/20 cricket can't be given a run in T20 internationals?
Santokie is brilliant in the shortest version of the game for a reason. He swings the ball both ways, oftentimes quite late. He has great change of pace, bamboozling most batsmen in the region, and he is deadly accurate. He gets more people bowled, as a percentage of the wickets he gets, more than most bowlers in world cricket. Why are all these skills not available to the West Indies team?
Those who feel he is merely a 20/20 specialist need to explain to me why the skills that make someone a great 20/20 bowler wouldn't also make him a good 50-over bowler. Santokie is being given a raw deal. It's as simple as that.
His 50-over record for Jamaica is also quite spectacular. In 14 games for Jamaica, he has taken 17 wickets at less than four runs apiece. This makes him one of the most economical bowlers around the region in the 50-over game, yet he continues to be slighted. Santokie probably needs to take up football!
Orville Higgins is a sportscaster with KLAS. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.