Tony Deyal | A Browne boy in the ring
Let's start with this, nibble on it, and then see if we end up with indigestion. The last time they squared off in a T20I, Afghanistan won by six runs in a league match in the World T20 tournament against the West Indies (WI) last year. The WI went on to win the final, beating England by four wickets.
But, as Heraclitus the Greek philosopher, said, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." This is true in the case of the WI versus Afghanistan three-match T20I series that starts on June 2 and ends on June 5. Not the same river and definitely not the same men.
I am writing this column on Wednesday, May 24, and the Afghans have not announced their team as yet, but I am sure it will include many of their stalwarts from last year. The match was played on March 27, 2016, just about 14 months ago, and batting first, the Afghans scored 123 runs, with Najibullah Zadran top-scoring with 48.
The wicket-takers for the WI were Badree with three wickets and Benn with two. The WI were bowled out for 117, with DJ Bravo top-scoring with 28 and other 'high' scores coming from Johnson Charles, 22, and Dinesh Ramdin, 18.
The wickets were almost evenly shared, but a few names figured in the bowling attack that are also in the T20I bowlers who top the economy charts - Badree is at No.1 and Sunil Narine is at No.4, but at position three is Afghanistan's Rashid Khan, and at seven is Samiullah Shenwarie, with Amir Hamzah and Mohammed Nabi on the list before two West Indians, Benn and Sammy.
Apart from Badree, none of the West Indians who were prominent in that match is on the team that will meet Afghanistan - no DJ Bravo, Ramdin, Charles, Benn, Sammy, only Carlos Brathwaite, who got zero wickets for 20 runs in two overs, and, batting at No. 10, made 13 from 11 balls. His incredible batting streak in the finals of that World Cup never happened before or since, and he spent most of this year's IPL on the sidelines and justifiably so.
At the same time, a teenage Afghan leg-spinner, Rashid Khan, emerged for the Sunrisers together with his teammate Mohammed Nabi and demonstrated that the Afghans' goal of becoming No. 5 in World Cricket is not a pipe dream.
So who got selected for the West Indies? Well, Chadwick Walton, who again flopped in the ODIs against Pakistan and has a batting average of 12.71 from seven matches, is back and will probably open at the expense of either Lendl Simmons (42 matches, batting average 24.13, bowling 9.16 with an economy rate of 9.16) or Evin Lewis (nine matches, batting average 24.66).
Rovman Powell, considered a good prospect, did not have much of an IPL and in his two T20I matches has an average of 2.5. While one should persist with Powell unless there are other young players with as much or more potential who have been ignored, the selection of the 32-year-old Walton is as questionable as selecting Brathwaite instead of Pollard as captain. Normally, captains must first justify their selection on the team, and apart from one standout performance, Brathwaite has shown that he is nothing more than a bits-and-pieces player.
Among the omissions to make way for Walton and company are Christopher Gayle, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo and his brother Darren Bravo. Gayle, seen as the prototype of the pure T20 batsman, played 50 T20Is, has a 35.2 batting average, and a 22.17 bowling average with an economy rate of 7.09. Brathwaite, to his credit, has a 23.12 batting average, but his bowling average after 17 matches is 37.54 and economy rate is 8.69. Given Brathwaite's performances, by the time he reaches the 25 matches that will give us a better indication of his abilities, it is likely that his batting average will drop and his economy rate will get worse. This means he will give away even more runs than he makes.
The presence of Badree and Narine on the team is important, so, too, is that of Kesrick Williams, who has only played five matches but has taken six wickets at an average of 15.5 and an economy rate of 5.47. Ronsford Beaton is on the international team for the first time. His is a surprising selection since his first-class ODI bowling record is not very good - 33.01. His T20 average is worse - 34.9.
Jason Mohammed, ignored for the ODIs despite his form, is back, but, unlike Powell, he averages 18 in his two matches. What all this goes to show is the validity of the basis on which the espncricinfo.com website selected the greatest T20 players of them all, an eleven that included three West Indians - Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard. As statistician, Kartikeya Date asked and answered himself, "How do you pick an all-time T20 world XI? You use data." It is clear that while Date used data, the WICB's selectors use criteria that increasingly defy logic and seem to be based on parochialism instead of performance or even potential.
Such is the case of the elephant on the field, not in terms of size but because of the question he constantly poses by his very presence in the team.
Why isn't Kieron Pollard the captain of the WICB's T20 team despite being one of the top 11 in T20 cricket globally, an IPL winner for the third time, a member of the WI team that won two T20 World Cups, the captain of the CPL Barbados Tridents T20 team and a player who Desmond Haynes describes as a leader "on and off the field"? I find it ironic that a player who, as the WI wicketkeeper, dropped some crucial catches in his career as a cricketer continues to be allowed to do the same as the chief selector.
- Tony Deyal was last seen saying that Browne and his crew should consider what MS Dhoni said about captaincy, "One of my theories is to be captain on the field and off the field, you need to completely enjoy each other's company. I don't like discussing cricket off the field."