Age is just a number for cricketers
How much more evidence do we need to debunk the Dark Ages thinking about when a competitor is too old to perform at acceptable levels in international sports?
Here we go again with West Indies Lead Selector Desmond Haynes discarding Darren Bravo, who recently topped the batting in the regional one-day tournament, because he will be 38 when the next one-day World Cup is played.
One would have thought this kind of thinking would have ended when Linford Christie won one of the most demanding events, the Olympic 100 metres, at age 36. Or when a fast bowler, Courtney Walsh, became the 10th-oldest bowler to take 10 wickets in a Test at 37 years and 243 days, just behind the great Hines Johnson of Jamaica who did the same at 37 years and 258 days to win the fourth Test against England at Sabina Park in 1948.
A statistical analysis of recent West Indies superstars in Tests after they passed their 38th birthday is revealing. Haynes himself averaged 36.17 and Vivian Richards 37.24. Gordon Greenidge averaged 34.86, including his highest Test score, that magnificent 226 against a high-quality Australian attack when he was 12 days shy of 40. The selectors dumped him shortly thereafter!
The worst example of this backward thinking was Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He averaged 51.62 after his 38th birthday, higher than his lifetime average of 51.37, hit his joint highest Test score (203 not out), and this phase of his career included five centuries. The selectors, led by Clive Lloyd, then dumped him and sent Rajendra Chandrika, then averaging ducks after his embarrassing pair on debut at Sabina Park, to open our batting in Australia.
Bravo averages 36.47 in Tests, including a double century against New Zealand. He dropped out of first-class cricket for a while but has now come back with a bang.
Haynes and his other selectors are making a mistake by, in effect, forcing Bravo into retirement when our batting is flaky, to say the least, with Kraigg Brathwaite averaging 34.89, Jermaine Blackwood 30.18, Roston Chase 26.33, Shimron Hetmeyer 27.93, Shai Hope 25.01, Kyle Mayers 32.72, Shamarh Brooks 23.04. Only Tagnarine Chanderpaul (40.69), among the current lacklustre lot, has a Test average higher than Bravo.
Errol W A Townshend