Selectors ‘cover’ blown
THE LAST-MINUTE call-up of Guyanese pacer Brandon Bess to make his Test debut yesterday against South Africa could have been avoided had there been more foresight by the West Indies selectors and team management.I was absolutely shocked on the eve of the important third Digicel Test which began at Kensington Oval yesterday, that no replacement had been named once it was clear Darren Sammy’s tear in the right thigh would have eliminated him from selection.The team’s media officer Philip Spooner confirmed Sammy’s unavailability in a release on Friday evening.Already without the services of the injured Ravi Rampaul, the West Indies selectors should have moved with haste to provide the cover in the event of one of the two remaining specialist fast bowlers in the squad – Kemar Roach or Nelon Pascal – breaking down on the morning of the match.
Lack of foresightThat “cover” should have joined the squad immediately to familiarise himself with the environment and psyche himself up just in case he was needed as it turned out to be, but such lack of foresight is one of the reasons why West Indies cricket continues to decline.Without wanting to say, “I told you so” or being prophetic, I had questioned both captain Chris Gayle and chairman of selectors, Clyde Butts about the seriousness of the situation and the need to have a standby fast bowler, after it was revealed that the squad was down to 12 players.Lo and behold, Pascal strained a neck muscle prior to the spinning of the toss yesterday morning and had to be replaced but the “cover” was nowhere at the playing venue.With only batsman Darren Bravo left, the need for the extra bowler, which I had seen as a necessity from the previous morning, was then clearly manifested. It meant that Bess, who had been dropped from the Guyana team this season, had to be rushed from the High Performance Centre (HPC) at the 3Ws Oval, Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, to take his place in the final eleven.The question has to be asked if he was the “cover” for one of the fast bowlers, even though Butts had said the previous day, the standby player, was yet to be named, why wasn’t Bess already at the ground to participate fully in the pre-match warming up session?This is not a club match, but a serious Test – well, not everybody may think so – which the West Indies need to win to square the series and absolutely no excuse can be made for this, regardless of the length of time it would take for Bess to get from UWI to the Oval.Luckily, the West Indies won the toss and opted to bat, so Bess was able relax in the dressing room with his new teammates.Who knows, maybe, Gayle’s decision to bat first, may have been prompted because he only had one fast bowler, Roach present, when the toss was spun.Just imagine had the West Indies been forced to bowl first. Would Bess have been able to give of his best? Would he have been ready to open the bowling with Roach?Even so, the selection of 22-year-old Bess, who has taken 30 wickets in 18 first-class matches at 48.80 runs apiece with a best of four for 107, ahead of Combined Campuses and Colleges’ (CCC) pacer Kevin McClean, who is also 22, has 48 wickets at 25.22 in 19 first-class matches with a best of five for 49 and is also at the HPC, is strange.I also understand Shannon Gabriel [seven wickets in four first-class matches at 34.85] was also put on standby.In the last first-class match which both Bess and Gabriel played for the West Indies “A” team against Zimbabwe in Grenada, Bess’ figures were 6-1-24-0 and 10-3-31-1, while Gabriel’s bowling stats were 9-2-26-1 and 15.3-2-59-2. But nowadays in West Indies cricket, it seems size and pace matter more than swing and the ability to bowl and take wickets.
Gayle’s sayHere is what Gayle had to say when I asked him on Friday morning about the need to have someone to cover for either Roach or Pascal in the event of injury.“That’s the selectors job to actually come up with that sort of solution. I just have to work with what I have here. “At this point, maybe time is short but as you mentioned, there are close countries by but I don’t know who they may have in their thoughts. “We have “A” team cricket in England as well, so that might be a long way off. We just have to work with what we have.“It is an important game and you need players around to actually be a part because you never know what can happen on a match day as well, so that’s something seriously that I would have to take into consideration. “I’m sure there will take it on board and in the future, maybe this won’t happen again,” Gayle said.Now here is what Butts said when I posed the question to him on Friday morning.“I think, we have drafted in a couple to help us out in terms of the fielding and so on. “If it is necessary, I don’t think we will have a problem in drafting in somebody to replace any player if it becomes necessary, but at this moment, I think, we’ve got our cover to play tomorrow,” Butts said.As a follow up, I then asked: “Who will be the cover?”“We haven’t named anybody as yet but we will have our cover,” Butts said.Maybe, I’m making much ado about nothing even though I had foreseen such a situation happening.