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HOT SPOT: Selectors off target


EZRA STUART

HOT SPOT: Selectors off target

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THE RECENT selection of Barbados and West Indies cricket teams has predictably generated a certain degree of debate among the pundits.
Certainly, if players were selected on performance and not potential or personal preference, there should be no need for such pontification and pronouncements.
Hence, the inclusion of Ryan Hinds and Tino Best in the West Indies’ 30-man provisional World Cup team, would be welcomed based on meritocracy.
Based on what I witnessed in the last WICB 50-over competition in Jamaica, Hinds and Best are not only deserving to be among the shortlisted players, but should be automatic choices in the final 15 if the best West Indies balanced side for this format, based purely on cricketing factors, is chosen.
Hinds has strangely not been selected for a single One-Day International since he played in the final for the triumphant West Indies Champions Trophy team in England in 2004. Therefore,  it is unfair to judge him on his returns six years ago when he had just six completed innings in 14 ODIs, batting late in the order and had an economy rate of 5.15 runs an over.
He was 23 years but has since improved by leaps and bounds and gained a wealth of experience with 6 270 runs and 211 wickets in first-class cricket, a feat which no other present-day West Indian cricketer can boast of.
His left-arm spin, which has brought him 92 wickets in List A matches, is just as economical (3.91 runs an over) and effective as any slow bowler in the Caribbean, and his batting and excellent fielding, despite his size as was seen in the regional one-day competition in Jamaica, would be an asset in the Windies World Cup team.
Best’s improvement has also been noticeable this year, starting with the regional four-day competition when his wicket tally could’ve doubled if not for a plethora of dropped catches.
Showing the benefits of  a stint with the Yorkshire county side, he was the fastest bowler and one of the most penetrative bowlers, even outshining compatriot Kemar Roach and it is mystifying how the likes of Nelon Pascal and Ravi Rampaul were selected ahead of him for either the Test or One-Day series in Sri Lanka.
Can anyone remember a significant bowling performance in Jamaica from Rampaul or the rising Pascal to justify their selection? Rampaul’s ODI stats, of 49 wickets in 50 matches at an average of 34.14 and economy rate of 5.04 runs an over, are simply not good enough for a new ball strike bowler.
Let’s compare Rampaul’s bowling returns with the West Indies’ “fall guy” Dwayne Smith, who was unceremoniously cast aside because of an injudicious late-innings shot against Zimbabwe in Guyana last March 4.
In 77 ODIs, Smith, who has been used as a third and fourth change medium-fast bowler, has taken 56 wickets at 36.78 and an economy rate of 4.92 but he has been judged unfairly by his critics solely on his modest batting returns, rather than his all-round game.
Despite an overall batting average of 16.22, the selectors seem to have forgotten that in six ODIs in 2010, Smith actually performed creditably when the Windies were whitewashed by the Aussies “Down Under” earlier this year, taking seven wickets at 35.28 and averaging 33.50 with the bat in his four completed innings with a highest score of 59 not out.
Only Ramnaresh Sarwan (95.50), Darren Bravo (44.75), Dale Richards (39.25), Darren Sammy (39.25) and Narsingh Deonarine (37.76) among West Indians, had a better average than Smith.
Yet at age 27, the West Indies selectors, in their wisdom, have dumped him while retaining another all-rounder like Jamaican David Bernard, who also played six ODIs in 2010, and averaged 18 after two not outs in his three innings with a highest score of 13 not out while taking four wickets at 35.25.
Even the statistics of the million-dollar man Kieron Pollard, who has a batting average of 19.92 in 30 ODIs but has taken 30 wickets at an average of 27.76 and an economy rate of 5.33 runs an over, are worth comparing.
It was also befuddling the way Richards, who is now nursing an ankle injury, was treated after scoring two half-centuries in four ODIs against the South African bowling attack, led by Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. No reward, not even a B or C grade retainer contract came his way.
Another Barbadian who was also dealt harshly was Kevin Stoute who, after his commendable batting and bowling feats on the West Indies last “A” team when he captured a career-best eight for 52 from nine overs – the ninth-best performance in List A limited-over matches – was not selected for the next series against Pakistan A team in the Caribbean. Just imagine that Guyanese Assad Fudadin was selected ahead of him as well as some of the unproven High Performance Centre cricketers.
Locally, the omission of Kenroy Williams, undoubtedly one of the best allround cricketers in this country, with powerful statistics in all formats in the 2010 local season to support his claims for selection, is outlandish.
The success of Ashley Nurse in the inaugural Caribbean T20 should’ve indicated to our selectors, that off-spin bowling will once again be a key weapon in this format.
Thus, Williams, the most economical bowler (4.84 runs an over) in Barbados’ domestic T20 competition this year, should’ve been an automatic choice.
In addition, Williams is also a specialist batsman, who scored an impressive 62 in a Twenty20 warm-up match for the WIPA XI against eventual World champions England in Trinidad and Tobago this year. His outstanding 2010 Division 1 season of 792 runs (ave: 56.57) and 33 wickets (ave:23.82) and match-winning knocks against Spartan and Carlton in the Sagicor Super Cup, should’ve guaranteed selection.
Can anyone explain why the local selectors have once again chosen a team for limited-overs cricket without playing a single practice match? Can they really judge T20 or ODI cricketers from net sessions?
The exclusion of the inform 24-year-old Omar Phillips — who had such a prolific local season and only last year made 94 on his Test debut against Bangladesh — from the Combined Campuses and Colleges T20 team while 38-year-old coach/player Floyd Reifer continues to play, is a backward and non-developmental step, especially since the main plank of this team’s participation in regional competitions, is to provide an avenue for the student-cricketer.
Isn’t it also ironic that the UWI-organised Inter-Parish Twenty20 Tournament has proceeded smoothly, but the BCA’s Sagicor General Cup day-night final between BNB St Catherine and Guardian General Barbados Youth has been indefinitely held up because an appeal by the Sagicor-sponsored UWI after their protest was thrown out by an independent body?
• Ezra Stuart is a NATION senior reporter and can be reached at [email protected]

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