Sun | Jul 25, 2021

Orville Higgins | Windies squad okay, but could be better

Published:Saturday | April 27, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Chris Gayle (second right) embraces teammates Carlos Brathwaite (second left), captain Jason Holder (left), and John Campbell after beating England by 26 runs in the second One-Day International cricket match at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Friday, February 22, 2019.

The new Cricket West Indies selection panel has finally named the squad for the upcoming ICC World Cup. We were the last team to come up with a squad, and you can forgive me for feeling that there would have been a few grand surprises. After all, we were told by president Ricky Skerritt that the new selection policy would be more inclusive and would not seek to discriminate anyone. Well, the grand announcement of the names turned out to be – can we say anticlimactic?

What is the point of getting rid of the previous selection panel en bloc, only for the new panel to pick essentially the same names as before? We were expecting drama and bombshells. Darren Sammy as captain with ‘Big’ Bravo (Dwayne) or Kieron Pollard as the vice-captain, for example, with Lendl Simmonds to open with Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine to twirl his off-breaks!

Oh well, we have to make do with the same boring names.

Having decided that they will stick to the conventional names, the selectors did a reasonable job. You can ask a few questions here and there, but by and large, most cricket pundits would get most of the names right. The most surprising pick is Fabian Allen. Fabian has potential to go places. He can craft a lovely innings, like his 169 in first-class cricket last season. He can also blast away if needs be. He also bowls a steady left-arm orthodox and is dynamite in the field. He must consider himself lucky to be on the plane to England, however. He has played 4 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and averages only six with the bat and has not yet taken a wicket. Selectors sometimes make shots in the dark. This is one of them.

If the selectors wanted a slow bowling option who can bat, they should never have to look past Rahkeem Cornwall. I do not want to hear about his size or lack of fitness. He was the leading wicket taker in first-class cricket this year. He averages 35 with the bat in List A cricket, more than a lot of the specialist batsmen around, and, for the last two or three years, has been arguably the best all-rounder in the region across all formats. We are picking cricketers, runs and wickets, not Olympic athletes for their speed and agility. I do not want to hear about fitness tests. If he is fit enough to outperform his peers in regional cricket, he is fit enough to represent the Windies.

Bowling options

I do not have too many other issues with the squad. We are stacked with fast-bowling options who all can be match winners. I would not have Carlos Brathwaite. Captain Holder and Andre Russell will play most games. Both are expected to contribute with both bat and ball. Brathwaite, as another all-rounder, is a luxury the team could afford to do without. I would go for another specialist batsman. Roston Chase would get my vote. His ODI numbers will not blow you away, but he is one of the most temperamentally and technically equipped batsmen in the region. His calm, unruffled approach would be a perfect fit in a team filled with stroke players who can be unreliable at times, and yes, he bowls off-spinners good enough to get eight for next to nothing against the mighty England. So yes, I can live with the squad. We are not favourites, not by a long stretch, but there is enough quality here to create damage. No team can take us for granted.