By Colin Benjamin
The inclusion of Narine and Pollard in the ODI squad, and omission of the likes of Russell, Sammy and Bravo, raises questions about the WICB’s selection policy
(CRICINFO) – In a television interview before the announcement of West Indies’ squad for the tri-series at home against Australia and South Africa in June, commentator Ian Bishop stressed on the need to focus on white-ball cricket ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
“Let us not burn any more bridges,” Bishop told Sportsmax Zone. “We are already missing the Champions Trophy next year. The World Cup is coming up in 2019. Let us start putting pride and ego aside.
“Re-engage those guys who were sidelined in the last year and a half and that will spill over to the Test team, because the bulk of our experience is in white-ball cricket. So while we develop the Test team, let us push hard with the 50-overs and T20 teams.”
If you look at the squad named for the tri-series, you will assume the West Indies board and its selectors are not only thinking on totally different lines from Bishop but that they are also contradicting their own policies.
Clive Lloyd, Courtney Walsh and the rest of the selectors have picked a team that has left the majority of the Caribbean media, fans and players flabbergasted.
How does Jonathan Carter, who averaged 6.33 in three ODIs in Sri Lanka, and wasn’t among the top ten run scorers in the Nagico Super50 competition, make the squad?
How do Andre Fletcher and Johnson Charles, who averaged 13 and 18 respectively with the bat in the Super50, get selected over Evin Lewis, the best opener in competition?
Kemar Roach is out of form and Ravi Rampaul a Kolpak player, so their omission is justifiable, but why is Shannon Gabriel, who did not play in the Super50, one of the quick bowlers in the squad ahead of Rayad Emrit?
There are three spinners in the squad – Sunil Narine, Ashley Nurse and Sulieman Benn. Why wasn’t Devendra Bishoo chosen, given West Indies’ first two ODIs will be played in Guyana, his home turf? It’s amazing that Bishoo and Narine, the ICC’s Emerging Players for 2011 and 2012 respectively, have only played one international together.
The WICB selection policy goes back to 2010, when, under the regime of Julian Hunte and Ernest Hilaire, it was mandated that West Indies’ star cricketers needed to play in the domestic tournaments to be eligible to play international cricket. Since the arrival of Richard Pybus, the current director of cricket, this stance has become more inflexible. Last December the players were told that if they didn’t reject playing in the Big Bash and the Pakistan Super League for deals that were worth between US$50,000-75,000 in order to appear in the Super50 for $700 per game, they would be ineligible for the tri-series.
Some have argued that Kieron Pollard, who was injured, and Narine, who was suspended from bowling, were eligible for selection for the tri-series, unlike Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Lendl Simmons, who didn’t come back to play the domestic matches. But that’s not entirely accurate.
When Pollard and Bravo were left out of the 2015 World Cup squad, they didn’t go off to the Big Bash. They adhered to the selection policy and helped Trinidad & Tobago win the domestic title. Yet, later in the year, when coach Phil Simmons wanted them picked for the Sri Lanka tour and expressed his frustration at not being allowed to, he was suspended for his inappropriate comments.
The late great Tony Cozier wrote that there had been “outside interference” in the selection process.
Pollard has not played an ODI since 2014 and he would have fulfilled his Big Bash contract if not for his injury, given the obvious uncertainty of his West Indies future outside of T20 cricket.
With Narine, the WICB ignored the ICC ruling that allows suspended bowlers to play in domestic competition, though T&T wanted to play him in the Super50 tournament. This was presumably done in good faith by the board, since they wanted his action 100% ready before being tested again.
Narine’s agent at Insignia Sports International said in hindsight that he thinks not playing in the Super50 worked in Narine’s benefit, since he would not have otherwise met sport bowling expert Carl Crowe and been able to put in the daily concentrated work he needed to make a successful return.
So, although fans will be pleased by the decision, for the selectors to have picked Pollard and Narine is a glaring inconsistent. It’s clear the WICB is capable of being flexible and could have easily done the same for Gayle, Bravo, Russell, Simmons and Sammy.
In the global context, the rise of T20 leagues has posed problems for which the ICC has failed to find a clear solution. It was suggested before the governing body’s recent Dubai meeting that the topic of creating windows in the international calendar for domestic T20 tournaments would be discussed. While Cricket Australia’s chief executive, James Sutherland, an influential voice in the running of international cricket, isn’t in favour of the idea, why is the WICB, one of the weakest boards in the world financially, trying to deny its best players from earning money from one of the few viable sources in the convoluted global cricket climate, which it and its and fellow global administrations haven’t managed to stabilise?
After the World T20 victory this year, Sir Viv Richards said, “This is the greatest period ever since that wonderful phase involving Clive’s [Lloyd] team. Considering the success that the West Indies team had on a consistent basis, this is the closest any West Indies team would have got in terms of pride among all nations that make up West Indies cricket.”
He is right, but disappointingly, due to the WICB’s inconsistent policies, the team has not been able to build on their success since winning the 2012 World T20.
It has been previously highlighted on this site in the past that if the WICB had acted more like New Zealand Cricket, which has negotiated well with its star players who wish to play in T20 leagues, the building process could have been accomplished.
NZC was confronted by similar challenges as the WICB and chose a different, perhaps more pragmatic, path. By understanding early that it was never going to have the financial clout to prevent a T20 exodus, the New Zealand board cleared a window to allow the players to have their cake and eat it too.
The result: New Zealand are enjoying arguably the most successful period in their history while West Indies continue to stagnate.