Questions linger re: Windies T20 World Cup squad selectionWednesday, September 22, 2021
BY SANJAY MYERS
Compelling questions linger regarding the West Indies squad named for the Twenty20 (T20) Cricket World Cup starting next month.
Jason Holder, the world number one Test cricket all-rounder, is a notable omission from the 15-member primary unit. He is, instead, named alongside batsman Darren Bravo, pacer Sheldon Cottrell and spinner Akeal Hosein in a four-man reserve list.
Intense debate also surrounds the selection of veterans Chris Gayle, who celebrated his 42nd birthday yesterday, and Ravi Rampaul, who turns 37 next month.
Chief selector, Roger Harper, said Sherfane Rutherford and Odean Smith were left out after falling short of the Cricket West Indies (CWI) fitness standard.
Highly rated spinner Sunil Narine, 33, who previously was said to have lacked confidence in his bowling action, misses the World Cup squad because he, too, was among those who failed to reach the fitness requirement. But Rampaul, who last played for West Indies six years ago, and Gayle were given medical exemptions by CWI, paving the way for their selection.
Former West Indies wicketkeeper Jackie Hendriks told the Jamaica Observer that the absence of Holder from the main set-up was a surprise.
“I'm puzzled as to why Holder would be left out because he has performed with bat and ball in all forms of cricket,” the Jamaican, who played for West Indies in the 1960s, said.
“It's a little bit concerning to me that Holder would be left out. That's the one that really stood out for me,” added Hendriks.
Holder, 29, has only played 27 T20 Internationals, compared to 55 Tests and 121 One Day Internationals. He does not feature in the top 20 list of T20 International all-rounders. The former West Indies captain tallied 109 runs in nine innings and took five wickets during the recent Caribbean Premier League (CPL).
Former regional side spinner Nehemiah Perry said Holder's exclusion is a disputable topic.
“I think it's a fair squad, taking everything into consideration of what we have in the pool. There are a lot of people who argue that maybe Jason Holder could have been in the initial 15 rather than the travelling reserve for his all-round cricket, instead of [fast bowler] Oshane Thomas and so on,” Perry told the Observer.
Harper said Thomas, 24, could offer another dimension because of his raw pace and aggression. Thomas claimed six wickets, while conceding runs at 7.39 per over from seven CPL matches.
However, many argue that Smith, 24, or 26-year-old Romario Shepherd could have taken his place, with the added benefit of being capable lower-order batsmen.
Both were in electric form in the 2021 CPL campaign. They took 18 wickets each and both scored useful lower-order runs. Smith was consistently the fastest bowler during the tournament, clocking up to 150 kph.
In the wickets column both narrowly trailed fellow pacer Rampaul, who led the CPL with 19 victims. Smith (7.54) and Shepherd (7.69) had marginally better runs-per-over statistics than Rampaul (7.96).
Disregarding the CWI's fitness stance, Perry acknowledged that the 23-year-old batsman Rutherford was a possible inclusion at the expense of Andre Fletcher, who is 10 years his senior and also provides a wicketkeeping option.
“You could have maybe included Rutherford somewhere there, but ahead of whom?” he asked.
“People could say you could have had Fletcher in the reserve and have Rutherford ahead of him. But I think six of one, half a dozen [of] the other. I think they are two good players — exciting to watch, so I'm just looking forward to see the combination on the day,” the Jamaican, who played four Tests for West Indies in the late 1990s, explained.
Perry added that he is “glad to see Roston Chase make the squad” after a topping the CPL runs chart.
Rutherford, who some say should have been named ahead of the out-of-form Gayle, aggregated 262 runs in 10 innings in the 2021 CPL. The 29-year-old Chase led the way with 446 runs in 12 innings. Chase's off-spin also got him 10 wickets.
Gayle, arguably the world's greatest batsman in the game's shortest format, has endured a lean spell in 2021, and has registered only one half-century in the last five years. He scored 165 runs, including a best of 42, in nine CPL innings this season.
Fletcher has not been particularly convincing of late either, scoring 229 runs with a best of 81 not out in 12 CPL knocks.
The global T20 tournament is to be jointly held in the United Arab Emirates and Oman between October 17 and and November 14. West Indies are the defending champions after dramatically beating England in the 2016 final in India.
West Indies squad – Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh.
Reserves — Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein.