Stoute deserved second chance
by WAYNE HOLDERBARBADOS’ miraculous loss where they virtually snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in that now infamous final of the inaugural Caribbean Twenty 20 tournament against Guyana at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad is now history. For all the hysteria in some cases and euphoria in others there remains for a number of Barbadian supporters one question which remains unanswered. Our bewilderment has its genesis in the decision taken by the management of the local team to unceremoniously dump all-rounder Kevin Stoute from the starting 11 after that fateful first match against CCC at Kensington Oval. Stoute, the sixth bowler employed by Barbados, was severely punished by Ryan Wiggins as his two overs cost 32 runs towards the end of the CCC’s almost-successful run-chase.The Bajans only lost six wickets and Stoute was not required to bat.
For the remainder of the tournament, the stylish right-hand batsman and clever medium-pacer was mysteriously relegated to carrying the towels despite his experience and track record at the regional first class level; in the process giving way to unproven players with lesser, and in some cases no previous history at all. Opening batsman Kirk Edwards was reportedly unfit for the second match versus the Windwards and young Jason Hinds was given the opportunity to make his debut while Javon Searles, a promising fast bowling all-rounder, was preferred in Stoute’s place. That Searles recorded figures of four for 19 from four overs as Barbados registered a facile victory by 39 runs justified his inclusion in the line-up.
The final preliminary match against Guyana in Trinidad to decide the Zone B winners was washed out and so it was onto the semi-final with Jamaica, runners up to the defending champions in Zone A. A recovered Edwards duly took his position at the top of the batting order while just prior to the scheduled start word broke that ace fast bowler Kemar Roach had been injured while warming up and would be unable to take part in the game. It was only logical, cricket-wise that Stoute would automatically fill the void with only Jason Hinds and the unproven rookie Larry Babb as the other contenders.Top playerHere was a man who only a couple weeks before was leading the Empire club to the Sagicor Twenty20 crown with a Man-Of-The-Match performance in the final against UWI. He complimented a timely 17-ball knock of 20 with a telling new ball burst in which he grabbed three cheap wickets to terminally set back the UWI response. Those three scalps pushed his overall tally of wickets to 12, the most by any bowler in the entire competition. This came on the heels of his return from Britain after being called up as a late replacement on the West Indies “A” team. To say that his sojourn with the “A” team was an unqualified success would be the ultimate understatement. Stoute distinguished himself in the one-day tri-series with returns of 52 not out and one wicket for no run and 30 unbeaten against India “A”, and 64 off England Lions.
He followed up with a knock of 61 and figures of one for 43 in the first of two matches against Ireland while he took one wicket for 36 runs and did not bat in the second. The crowning moment of his tour was left until the team’s final outing against Lancashire when he grabbed headlines with figures of eight for 52, the ninth best ever bowling figures in List A cricket. Such a recent record, one would have thought, would have made a compelling case for inclusion in a Barbados starting 11. But lo and behold the management chose Larry Babb; unproven, unknown and inexperienced on the regional stage and all.
As it turned out Barbados overcame the Jamaicans and Babb acquitted himself well, making the best of his limited opportunity to shine. He proceeded to maintain his place for the final. Whether Stoute’s inclusion would have made the critical difference in the local side’s fortunes or not will forever remain unknown. What is clear though is that barring injury, of which nothing has subsequently come to the fore to suggest that such was the case, or disciplinary action to which the average layman is not privy, the decision to omit Stoute was in the least, flawed.