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It's up to you

Bennett urges Test aspirants to present themselves at regional first class tourney

Monday, October 26, 2020

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JAMAICA'S former National Coach Junior Bennett is urging batsman Nicholas Pooran and other West Indies Test aspirants to play first-class cricket to underline their interest in the longest format.

Cricket West Indies (CWI), under President Ricky Skerritt, scrapped the strict guidelines implemented by the previous administration which, barring an exemption, forced players wanting to play Tests to participate in the regional first-class tournament.

However, by and large, West Indies selectors have stuck with those who play in the regional first-class tournament.

Only recently, lead selector Roger Harper said fringe players plus those who have played little or no regional four-day cricket have the chance to compete in first-class contests on the upcoming Test and Twenty20 (T20) tour of New Zealand.

The 25-year-old Trinidadian Pooran, who is a member of the Windies T20 set-up, heads a list of regional cricketers who Bennett believes should take the opportunity.

“It is quite obvious that the selectors are saying that if a player doesn't participate in the first-class competition then they will not be considered for selection,” Bennett told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“I think the players should work out their thing and play some first-class cricket,” he said.

Pooran has been a regular in global T20 franchise leagues since he was a teenager. The left-hand batsman has played three regional four-day matches — all of which came between November and December 2014 — and averages 23.83.

He has an impressive average of 49.05 in 25 One-Day International (ODI) matches. He has 21 T20 caps for West Indies, averaging 23.53.

Earlier this year, the dashing batsman spoke of his desire to become a Test player.

“Test cricket is something I always wanted to play. I would love the opportunity to experience Test cricket at some point, but just right now I'm taking it step by step,” Pooran told the Observer during a telephone interview in May.

During a virtual media conference over a week ago, Harper also mentioned the Jamaican quartet of fast bowler Oshane Thomas, batsman Brandon King and all-rounders Fabian Allen and Rovman Powell — all players in the T20 squad to have expressed interest in Test cricket.

King, 25, made his debut for West Indies in T20 and ODI cricket last year, playing eight and four matches in the respective formats. He compiled over 600 runs during the 2018-19 regional four-day season. His subsequent tally of 496 runs in the 2019 Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament fast-tracked him into the West Indies white-ball squads.

Powell, 27, has represented West Indies in 34 ODIs and 26 T20Is. Though yet to ignite with the bat in his brief first-class career, Powell has been a successful medium pacer, utilising deceptive variation and swing to claim 25 wickets in 11 matches at 21.76.

Thomas, 23, has played 20 ODI and 12 T20I matches. The fiery speedster has only played eight first-class matches despite a fairy-tale start for Jamaica Scorpions at Sabina Park in November 2016, claiming the prized wicket of Windward Islands Volcanoes batsman Devon Smith with his first ball in regional four-day cricket.

Allen, 25, is another player still in the early days of his West Indies career, playing 14 ODIs and 13 T20 matches. But he is also yet to feature for the Test side despite an outstanding start with the bat in regional four-day cricket. In the 2017-18 campaign — only his second season of four-day cricket — Allen, who also bowls left-arm finger spin, scored two unbeaten hundreds, including a career-best 169.

West Indies are scheduled to play two Tests and three T20 matches from November to December on the proposed New Zealand tour.

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