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COZIER ON CRICKET: Gift for Best, Hinds

Tony Cozier

COZIER ON CRICKET: Gift for Best, Hinds

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TWO NAMES lept off the computer screen last week from the email announcing the preliminary West Indies 30 for the forthcoming World Cup.
One was Ryan Hinds, the left-hand batsman and left-arm spinner, the other Tino Best, the tearaway (in every sense) fast bowler.
Hinds last played a One-Day International (ODI) in 2004, in the West Indies’ victory in the Champions Trophy at the Oval in London. More than six years later, he is back, aged 30 the week before the West Indies’ first Cup match against South Africa in Delhi.
Tino Best’s last ODI was far more recent, against Pakistan at the Wanderers in Johannesburg in the Champions Trophy last year. But it was dependent on the absence of those leading players serving out time after their earlier strike.
Neither Hinds nor Best has a strong record to recommend him.
Hinds’ highest score in 14 ODIs is 18 not out; he has taken just two wickets. Best’s last two ODIs produced figures of 0-70 off ten overs against Zimbabwe at Bourda in May 2006 and 0-50 off 6.3 overs in that Champions Trophy match against Pakistan.
So why are they there?
The answer is to be partially found in clause 1.4 of the detailed “official selection policy” issued by the WICB last August 27.
It states that, to be chosen, players are “expected to achieve consistently high levels of performance in regional and international cricket”.
While selection panels have lost faith in them – and attitude and discipline appear to be other factors – both have been consistent performers at regional level for Barbados.
In the most recent tournament in October, relevant in this case as it was the 50-overs-an-innings format, Hinds was the leading wicket-taker in Barbados’ five matches with 14 at the cost of 9.5 a wicket, with an economy rate of 2.93 an over.
He also scored 109 runs at 27.25.
Best had ten wickets at 10.1 apiece, with 5-24 against Guyana in the qualifying round and 4-28 against the Leewards in the tied final. Every report was that he was as fast as he ever was but with more control.
As experienced and astute an on-the-spot observer as Tony Becca felt that he should have been chosen for the subsequent tour of Sri Lanka.  
“I remembered Best as a young man,” he wrote. “He was fast and he was wild. This was not the same Best . . . Is he a new Best? Maybe he is, and if he is, I would like to see him in the West Indies team again.”
Best’s returns in four matches in Barbados’ just ended Division 1 league were 22 wickets, average 7.27. Hinds’ batting average in his eight matches was 80.53.
On the surface, they seem unlikely to have carried much weight with the panel but it is worth noting that its newest member is Courtney Browne, who played in the same competition.
Apart from the stats, there is some added method to the selectors’ apparent madness in dusting off the cobwebs from two men long since on their shelf and including them among their 30 main candidates for international cricket’s most prestigious tournament.
All but one of the West Indies’ six first round World Cup matches are in India, the other in Bangladesh. History suggests spin bowling will be essential.
The 30 are already packed with those who deal in the art in various guises – Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller (left-arm), Devendra Bishoo, Anthony Martin (leg-spin), Shane Shillingford’s withdrawal leaves off-spin as the only missing link.
Hinds makes the fifth spinner in the 30 but he is the only specialist batsman of the lot and one assured against spin.  
So if spin is the likely go, why the need for Best when there are already seven fast men (Lionel Baker, Jason Holder, Nelon Pascal, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Gavin Tonge) in the 30?
Yes, quite. The answer is far less clear than Hinds’ inclusion.
It could just be that, without the still recovering Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor, Best offers Roach the support of genuine backup of 90-plus miles an hour with the new ball and that the selectors saw in him what Tony Becca saw during the regional tournament in October.
All of this is not to say that either Hinds or Best will be in the final 15 when the next e-mail lands by the January 19 deadline (perhaps form in the first round of the WICB’s Twenty20 will be a factor). It is simply to find reasons why they are there in the first place.
Why, they could have been pulled from a hat, a method not entirely foreign to West Indies selectors. Or, then again, it might just have been a way of giving them a surprise Christmas present for services rendered to regional cricket.
 THE ISSUE of leadership in West Indies cricket remains a hot topic.
It is likely to persist, given the reluctance of the territorial boards to entrust younger players with the responsibility of captaincy.
With Chris Gayle away vending his talents in the Australian Big Bash, Jamaica have turned to Wavell Hinds, aged 34, to carry their team in the forthcoming WICB Twenty20 Tournament, even with Dave Bernard, 29 and skipper of West Indies “A” in the recent series against Pakistan “A”, in the squad.
Apart from Darren Sammy, 27, the new West Indies captain who leads the Windwards, others at the helm are Ramnaresh Sarwan, 30 (Guyana), Ryan Hinds, 29 (Barbados), Daren Ganga 32 during the first round (Trinidad); Wilden Cornwall, 37 (Leewards).
Surely there must be some bright young men around who would do a capable job if given the chance. Surely.
• Tony Cozier is the most experienced cricket writer and broadcaster in the Caribbean.