Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Selecting the West Indies team

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Tony Becca, Contributor

Cricket is supposed to be a game of discipline, one in which everyone connected to the game is expected to abide by its rules and conventions, including, in the case of the West Indies, their selectors, both Test and territorial.

There is something also about it being a team game, and therefore, about the importance of the selection of the team, and playing as a team. It is, as the Three Musketeers' call of, "One for all, and all for one."

Years ago, in West Indies cricket, players used to all but shed tears if they did not get selected for their territory or for the West Indies. There were rules to be followed, however.

For the players, it was a cardinal sin, for example, if you were selected and turned up late for a match, or worse, did not show at all.

You were also expected to play for your territorial team anytime and all the time, or else; and if you were selected by the West Indies selectors to tour and was unfortunate to be sent home, that was it, even if you were twice as good as George Headley.

The selectors, especially the West Indies selectors, were also guided by rules. If a player did not practise, did not play club cricket, did not attend trial matches, and did not play for his territory, he was out.

Those days it was almost, "Do as I say, or else."

In those days, however, players wanted to play, they gave everything, and the West Indies rose from almost novices to champions of the world, not once, but twice.

Today, in this changing world, the players get away with almost everything, even to say when they are available.

The players do not train as much, or as assiduously as before, they seldom play club cricket. After a while, it matters little to them if they are selected, and on top of that, they drop out of matches, Test matches, or tours, every so often.

The West Indies players are now professionals, they play anywhere and everywhere they can, and West Indies cricket, much more territorial cricket, mean little, or nothing, to them.

They are always missing, whether through injury, it is said, or for personal reasons, whatever those may be. Whenever, however, it comes to the fashionable T20 cricket anywhere around the world, you can bet your bottom dollar, they are fit and ready to play.

That attitude, however, is fine, or almost fine, and it is fine because every man has a right to do whatever he wants to do, providing it does not affect someone else.

Cricket, however, is a team game. It is "One for all, and all for one."

The attitude of doing just what they wish to do is maybe the reason why the West Indies is losing today, and why they can only beat Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and New Zealand now and again.

Since around 1997, the West Indies team has been in turmoil. In the years since then, the team has seen many changes, including players who play one or two Test matches, second X1 teams playing Test cricket, players "injured" or "unavailable", and many, many captains.

It has been tough on the selectors, very tough.

But there also has been the attitude of the selectors, an attitude which sees some territorial selectors going against the West Indies selectors, and the West Indies selectors ignoring the territorial selectors or management.

Once upon a time, if you did not play for your club you could represent your territory, if you did not play for your territory, you were not available for the West Indies, or if you were sent home by the West Indies, then you were not considered for your territory.

Times have changed and players, like people, should be and must be pardoned, especially for some sins.

There have been instances, however, where a player was sent home for a West Indian youth tour to Pakistan and was selected to represent his territory immediately on his return home; there was the case of a player sent home from the High Performance Centre and was selected for the West Indies shortly afterwards; and there was the case of the player who was sent home by his territory recently and he was promptly selected by the West Indies.

Poor behaviour

There have been many, many more cases of poor behaviour going unpunished by territorial boards and by the West Indies board and its selectors.

The more things change, however, the more things players get away with, and the players become worse.

The Jamaica selectors, quite rightly, dropped Marlon Samuels because he has not played for his club recently and the West Indies then selected him for South Africa.

There was a time when he would not have been considered for the West Indies team. Times, however, have changed.

And what of Chadwick Walton, who is the reserve wicketkeeper to South Africa? He also is not playing in the regional competition, and not for Jamaica, and not for Barbados, where he attends university.

Maybe one of the reasons is that the territorial selectors believe that he could not get into the Jamaica team over Carlton Baugh - neither as a wicketkeeper nor as a wicketkeeper/batsman, at least not now - and neither could he get into the Barbados team ahead of Shane Dowrich, also not now.

And what of Sheldon Cottrell? Jamaica did not select him for the first three matches of the regional tournament because he was injured and was passed unfit by the Jamaica management, including its doctor. The West Indies selectors selected him for South Africa and then asked Jamaica to play him in a domestic T20 match and the third regional match so that they can see if he is fit to tour.

Apart from going against the rules of their own contract for the players, which says that a player must make himself available for club and country when not on West Indies duty - apart from turning a blind eye to indiscipline - and apart from robbing the regional tournament of the competitive spirit by advising the regional selectors what to do, the selectors, both West Indies and territorial, are also hurting West Indies cricket by the job they are doing, or rather, not doing.