Seales a good choice despite his youth
Watching CricketWednesday, June 09, 2021
with Garfield Myers
He has played just one first-class game and none at the regional level, but those who watched digital streaming of the recent four-day warm-up West Indies squad game shouldn't be surprised at the inclusion of 19-year-old Jayden Seales in the 13-man squad for the first Test against South Africa.
In my opinion, once top fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, the highly talented Chemar Holder and the pacy Guyanese Nial Smith all fell under the injury cloud during or immediately after the four-day practice match, Seales was an obvious choice.
Cricket watchers will recall that the young Trinidadian was a standout with his pace, skill and control at the Under-19 World Cup just before COVID-19 hit in early 2020.
Big, strong, athletic and well over six-foot tall, Seales tested all batsmen in the warm-up game with his pace and away movement. His duel with Shai Hope, who made a second-innings century to follow up a first-innings 70-odd, was well worth watching.
He is still some distance away from his 20th birthday, so the selectors may well be hesitant about throwing him in the deep end against South Africa tomorrow. But to my mind, Seales's talent is not in question.
The selectors may well have given thought to the intriguing 25-year-old left-arm, fast medium swing bowler Preston McSween from Grenada. He had a wonderful first-class season prior to COVID and bowled well in the second innings of the four-day practice match. In the end, chief selector Roger Harper and his team probably felt they needed someone with more zip. Hence, Seales.
My own disappointment was that another Trinidadian, Anderson Phillip, who played a single limited overs game for the West Indies earlier this year, was not part of the recent four-day practice. Phillip, to my mind, is ahead of Keon Harding, who whenever I've seen him, hasn't shown the control required at the highest level.
Whether or not the selectors decide to go with Seales tomorrow will probably be determined by the look of the pitch at the Darren Sammy National Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia.
Last week, the strip on which the four-day game was played was well-grassed and proved to be fast and bouncy.
If the Test match pitch looks similar, the West Indies may decide to field a pace attack of Kemar Roach, Alzari Joseph, Jason Holder and Seales. All-rounder Rahkeem Cownwall with his off spin would complete a five-man front-line bowling attack.
However, let's not forget Kyle Mayers, who not so long ago was recognised more for his out-swing medium pace than his batting.
The presence of Mayers, who established himself in the West Indies middle order in Bangladesh and against Sri Lanka in the Caribbean earlier this year, means the selectors could go for off-spinning all-rounder Roston Chase ahead of Seales. Chase, in addition to providing his valuable off spin, would bolster the West Indies middle-order batting against the potent South African pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.
Hope was highly successful while opening the innings in the four-day warm-up game. He seemed comfortable using a more open-eyed stance and a pronounced back-foot movement across his stumps just before the fast bowler delivers, which I hadn't seen before. I am eager to see how the technical adjustments work for him going forward. But I don't expect to see Hope opening the innings with skipper Kraigg Brathwaite tomorrow.
I think the selectors will go with the accustomed opener Kieran Powell who impressed with a second-innings 95 last week. Powell, a 31-year-old Nevisian, would be reclaiming the position he lost in early 2019 to the now omitted Jamaican John Campbell.
Regardless of the final eleven, the West Indies — at least on paper — will have a fairly lengthy batting line-up. Cricket watchers will be hoping that Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner continue their fabulous form shown against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Solid starts will be needed from the openers, while Jermaine Blackwood will have to return to his gutsy best, with Holder, wicketkeeper/batsman Joshua Da Silva, Cornwall, Joseph, et al, all making their presence felt.
South Africa's ICC ranking at number seven, one below the West Indies at sixth, shouldn't fool anyone. Even without former captain Faf du Plesis and the celebrated AB de Villiers, the visitors boast highly talented batsmen and their captain, Dean Elgar is among the world's leading openers.
Without doubt, their biggest proven strength is their fast bowling led by Rabada and the express pace of Nortje. The supporting cast includes fast medium Lungi Ngidi and Wiaan Mulder as well as an interesting 21-year-old left-arm speedster Marco Jansen. Also, South Africa's left-arm spinner Keshan Mahraj is a class act.
If Brathwaite and his men can pass this South Africa test, they will have done extremely well.
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