Cricket selection controversy in the era of COVID-19

Cricket selection controversy in the era of COVID-19

Saturday, June 06, 2020

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Despite the peculiar reluctance to formally release the findings of an audit report which points fingers at the previous administration led by Mr Dave Cameron, Cricket West Indies under the presidency of Mr Ricky Skerritt has been reasonably transparent.

For that reason, we expect chairman of cricket selectors Mr Roger Harper will respond to a strident call from the Berbice Cricket Board in Guyana for an explanation regarding the omission of left-arm spinner Mr Veerasammy Permaul from the upcoming West Indies tour of England.

As most readers are probably aware, Mr Harper, himself Guyanese, and his selection panel have chosen an expanded 25-man squad, including 14 frontliners, and 11 reserves for the three-Test match visit to England which will take place in unprecedented, “bio-secure” circumstances, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr Hilbert Foster, president of the Berbice Cricket Board, has described the non-selection of Mr Permaul, even among the reserves, as “sickening treatment”. Guyanese disgust comes against the backdrop that Mr Permaul was by far the top bowler in the 4-day regional tournament, cut short earlier this year because of COVID-19.

Mr Permaul took 50 wickets in eight games at a sensational runs-per-wicket average of 12.98.

Of course, selections in cricket, or indeed any other sport, can't be solely dependent on statistics. There are many other considerations that must come into play.

Also, dissatisfaction about cricket selections in the Caribbean and elsewhere is by no means new. Jamaicans, for example, remain puzzled by the handling of the now retired champion left-arm spinner Mr Nikita Miller who was apparently cubby-holed by the regional selectors as a limited overs cricketer.

He played 50 One-Day Internationals and nine Twenty20 Internationals for the West Indies over the course of 10 years.

But despite a staggering first-class record showing 538 wickets at an average of 16.31 runs per wicket in 100 first-class games, Mr Miller played only one Test match.

But to get back to Mr Permaul: It should be noted that the selection panel kept faith with another left-arm spinner, 28-year-old Mr Jomel Warrican, in the reserve group. The latter's record of 22 wickets in eight Tests at 39.63 runs for each wicket compares favourably with 30-year-old Mr Permaul's 18 wickets in six Tests at 43.77.

Intriguingly, Mr Harper, should he choose to explain, will be doing so in the highly unusual context of there being no Guyanese in the touring squad following the withdrawal of Messrs Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul because of COVID-19-related concerns. Trinidadian Mr Darren Bravo withdrew for the same reasons.

That brings us to the tour itself, which will involve players being quarantined, kept secluded from outside contact, repeatedly tested for COVID-19, and obligated to abide by multiple behavioural protocols for the two-month duration.

It will all be a huge strain on Mr Jason Holder and his men as they seek to defend the prized Wisden Trophy which they won last year, defeating England 2-1 in the Caribbean against all odds. We wish them well as they and their English opponents seek to chart a path for international cricket in a COVID-19 world.

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