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HOT SPOT: If not Gayle, Bravo, then who?

Haydn Gill

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WHEN the West Indies cricket selectors sit down later this month to nominate a captain for the tour of Sri Lanka in December, they will be entering uncharted territory.
It stems from the fact that Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, captain and vice-captain for most of the last three years, recently turned down one-year central retainer contracts.
The decision by Gayle and Bravo to say no to the offer has prompted several to question their commitment to West Indies cricket and there is a widespread view around the region that neither should be considered for a leadership position.
I respectfully beg to differ. I know I am in the minority, but by the time I put my reasons on the table, I hope to convince some of you to change your mind.
Under normal circumstances, you’d want to have your captain as a contracted player but on the evidence of the litany of controversy, confusion and chaos over the past decade, there is very little about West Indies’ cricket that is normal.
My arguments for still considering Gayle and Bravo for the captaincy are two-fold.
Who among the 15 contracted players are certain of automatic selection?
With the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief executive officer having revealed the board had no clear policy on whether the captain should possess a retainer contract, what is there that disqualifies Gayle and Bravo from being captain or vice-captain?
In announcing its new selection panel at the beginning of August, the WICB informed us that a selection policy document would be prepared to guide the process. When it was completed, the following were listed among the criteria for selection:
• As part of the WICB’s commitment to international cricket, the player must participate in regional cricket when not representing the West Indies.  
• The player must demonstrate a commitment to continued personal and professional improvement.
• The player is expected to show commitment to personal and professional development by actively participating in activities organised by the WICB, territorial boards, WICB team management unit or through personal initiative.
• The player must demonstrate a commitment to West Indies cricket.
Gayle and Bravo have satisfied these criteria in the past and having indicated that they remain committed to West Indies cricket and are available for selection to the West Indies team, to assume that they won’t be available at any time over the next year is bordering on finding them guilty without having a trial.
If not Gayle or Bravo, then who?
From the time I have been following cricket, I have always been inclined to believe that a captain should be a player who commands a place in the team. I assume that many of you agree with me on that score.
I can only identify one among the 15 players who signed the retainer contracts – Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The others – those who have played long enough – have been dropped more than once by selectors over the years.
Chanderpaul is the only player with a Grade “A” contract, a proven performer, the only genuine world-class batsman in the region and was appointed West Indies captain in 2005. He gave up the post a year later and has never since expressed any interest in doing the job again.
Of the remaining players with retainer contracts, two are on the Grade “B” scale and 12 on Grade “C”.
I don’t think I would be too far off the mark if I suggested that someone who was considered a certainty for the team would have been offered a Grade “A” contract. In essence, I believe the WICB was telling us that outside of Chanderpaul, no one else is an automatic selection.
The only one who could be considered something of an outside contender for the captaincy is Darren Sammy, a decent cricketer, handy all-rounder with an effervescent spirit and true team man who has potential to inspire those around him.
For all of those wonderful qualities, he has never been a stand-out performer and eight Test matches since his international debut in 2004 enhance the argument that the selectors have never seen him worthy of automatic selection. Nothing has happened over the last few weeks to change that.
If the selectors were to look outside the 15 contracted players, other possible captaincy candidates include Ramnaresh Sarwan and Denesh Ramdin. Neither was even offered a retainer – and the WICB used strong language to point out why. If the argument against Gayle and Bravo is that they don’t have retainers, it must also extend to Sarwan and Ramdin.
In the circumstances, therefore, I see no other option for the WICB than to return to Gayle as captain with Bravo as his deputy.
If the board feels, however, that the skipper has to hold a retainer contract, the only other choice is for them to try and convince Chanderpaul to take up the job again on short-term basis for the next year and hope that by the time the next set of retainers are offered, Gayle and Bravo would be ready to sign.
• Haydn Gill is the NATION’s Associate Editor (Sports) and can be reached at [email protected]