WI play the aim
Last Wednesday, the Barbados Cricket Association announced a 13-man squad to face Trinidad and Tobago in the first match of the WICB regional four-day competition starting next Friday.
The squad featured wholesale changes to the team that represented the island in the just-concluded Caribbean Twenty20 competition, including the omission of experienced all-rounder Dwayne Smith.
Last Thursday, chairman of selectors George Linton sat down with NATION Associate Editor (Sports) Haydn Gill to explain the thinking of the selectors, the reasons behind Smith’s omission, the inclusion of Pedro Collins, the progress of recuperating fast bowler
Fidel Edwards and the ultimate goal for the competition.
GILL: You and your fellow selectors have come up with a squad for the first match of the regional four-day tournament. It shows several changes from the Caribbean Twenty20 squad – as many as nine new players are in this team.
Can you start by giving an overview behind the selection of the squad?
LINTON: We sat down as a panel and thought it best to separate the three versions of the game.
It’s not easy picking the same players for all competitions. That has happened a lot over the years. What we tried to do was not to only look at the players’ performance but how they played in the one-day competition in Jamaica and the T20 and we tried to assess them coming into the four-day tournament.
We’ve earmarked players who will be around the one-day format. We also recognize there are players who are more likely to play in the T20 version. For the four-day competition, we thought it best to expose some of the emerging talent.
We had a meeting with the WICB selectors and they were of the view we should embrace the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) instead of pushing them away.
They were saying that if we selected players and those who are students at tertiary institutions were not selected, CCC could be in a position to use those players. We have no problem with that. There are some players who we will need because the season is quite long.
When we picked the squad, we also realized there are other players who did well – like Raymon Reifer, Jonathan Carter and Randy Thomas. If they are students, they will be available to CCC.
If these players are not in our set-up, we need them to be in position to be exposed at the first-class level.
We don’t want the public to think that we are just pushing youngsters aside. We have picked six players under 23 years of age and we still have some other young players available. CCC could help with those players. We also had a meeting with the CCC management team. They set out their rationale and we are happy with it.
GILL: You talked about the challenges in picking players for all three versions of the game.
With this tournament coming so soon after the Caribbean T20 and having made several changes, the general feeling is that this might be a response to the failure of the team in the T20 tournament. Is that the case?
LINTON: No. If you look at the four-day squad from last year and the players that are available, we didn’t take into consideration the T20. We went for players who we thought would have done the job at that level. We kept meetings often. When we got to the four-day, we always had in mind that this is the year we must expose players.
There are so many young players getting into West Indies squads ahead of our players because they are being exposed.
We have to be wary when we think about winning the competition. You’d like to win the competition but we still want a balance.
We recognize too that some players are in the West Indies set-up. We have three players in the High Performance Centre who have been included in West Indies ‘A’ teams already. Shamarh Brooks was the captain of the High Performance Centre and Jason Holder was the vice-captain of the West Indies ‘A’ team. Kraigg Brathwaite came into first-class cricket and started with 70-odd. These are the players we want to encourage.
Kyle Hope only got one chance last year. He made over 1 000 runs the local season before last. If you thought it was a fluke, he came back last season and scored the must runs again. This guy must be rewarded. He should be in a starting line-up.
Lest we forget, we have Roston Chase, who has been scoring runs consistently for Guardian General Barbados Youth.
He came into the trials and continued that good form with 130-odd, 70-odd and 47. When a guy is scoring like that, it is very, very difficult to leave him out, especially at the age of 18.
Dwayne Smith is still in our plans.
At the present time, Dwayne will be preferred at the one-day level and the T20. We prefer to expose these talented young players to the West Indies selectors and to the public.
GILL: Smith’s non-selection will raise eyebrows, especially after a relatively good run in the T20.
You mentioned still having room for him in the shorter forms of the game. Is he capable of handling the longer version of the game?
LINTON: He is capable of handling the longer version of the game, but again, we have Kevin Stoute, who is a batting all-rounder. He is also in the West Indies set-up. He just made a tour to England and he is also on a retainer with the WICB. These are guys who the West Indies have their eyes on. I don’t think you will give a guy a retainer just because you are giving them out willy-nilly. These guys need to be exposed.
Dwayne will still feature. Although we are playing these youngsters, we have to let them know that performance will count. You can’t just go in and don’t perform. There are other young players waiting in the wings. We have players who have been scoring runs over the years – Randy Thomas, Kenroy Williams, and now young Jason Greene and Rayon Reifer have put their names in the hat.
GILL: Another omission that will create debate is that of Jonathan Carter, a young player who was in the West Indies 30-man squad for the World Cup. Was it a tough decision to leave him out?
LINTON: It was tough. We recognized that we wanted [Hope and Chase] who have been doing exceptionally well. Jonathan has been struggling of late.
He didn’t play last year either. It wasn’t a case that he was in the squad last year. Last year we had Dale Richards, who averaged over 40, and Jason Haynes who did very well.
How do you get Carter in ahead of these two young players, although he was in the West Indies squad?
West Indies picked him for the “Tests” against Pakistan from the one-day competition. Jonathan is a student at UWI, so there is an opportunity for him to play at the regional level and be exposed to the West Indies selectors.
GILL: In looking at the bowling, the attack features just three fast bowlers – Pedro Collins, Tino Best and Jason Holder – and there is no specialist spinner although there are guys in there who can bowl. There is a feeling that the balance of the team is top-heavy with batting.
LINTON: We are looking at Shamarh Brooks as the genuine leg-spinner. The pundits will say that he is a batsman, but we’ve recognized over the last two years, his bowling, especially at club level, has come on leaps and bounds. Now that he is in the High Performance Centre honing his skills day in, day out, we will go there occasionally and have a look ourselves. From what I’ve seen of Brooks, he looks like an improved bowler.
With the experience of Collins, Best and Ryan Hinds, who is an underrated bowler at this level, we think that is a good combination. We think it is best that we go for the younger spinner. Brooks led the West Indies youth team to the World Cup, he led the High Performance Centre. He seems to be growing in confidence with his bowling, so we have decided to go with him as the out-and-out spinner.
GILL: Collins was the leading fast bowler in the first-class competition last year, but wasn’t around for the one-day competitions. Many might have been surprised to see his name.
LINTON: He came in the trials and put down some work. There was competition. We didn’t know if Tino Best and Kemar Roach would have been available and if Fidel Edwards was fit. Collins came into the trials and bowled well. He swung the ball as usual. He bowled 32 overs in one game when the scores were big. It wasn’t a case where he came in the trials and just shirked about. He really put in the work.
With young Jason Holder in the attack, we felt it best to go for the experienced seamer in Collins as guidance for the seam attack. We’ve picked three seamers and Kevin Stoute will be the extra medium-pacer.
GILL: Fidel Edwards returned
to the game at the end of the local season after a long layoff with injury and also played a bit in one of the trial matches. How is he looking?
LINTON: He looked good in the nets.
He is bowling quite fast in the nets. We wanted to see him in a match situation. In the nets, you can just run up and bowl and stop. In a game, you bowl, you have to run around and field.
He was invited to play in the first trial game. He came and bowled a five-over spell and looked good. He got a wicket. After those five overs, he was in the outfield and moving. The captain brought him back late in the evening after tea.
He bowled one over and didn’t look too comfortable. After the second ball of the second over, he pulled up. He said he had a sore hamstring. It was strapped. We told him to check with the BCA medical services and let us get an opinion.
We spoke to him since and I asked him if he had any report from the physio. He said he was okay. We will be concerned. He is coming back from injury. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we rush back a guy and we don’t have any medical evidence.
We took the precautionary step of letting him continue to rest and will monitor the situation. Once the physio gives us an all-clear, we will be able to assess him for the next game.
GILL: Many of the fans were disappointed by the performance of the team in the Caribbean Twenty20. What’s your assessment of the performance?
LINTON: To be honest, T20 is one that is so difficult to assess. We played badly. We had a game where it boiled down to two runs off four balls and ended up losing that game. If we had won that game, we would have gone into the semi-finals and the public might have forgotten about that. That is not a defence, but T20 calls for so much thinking and thinking quickly.
As selectors, we don’t get involved.
The team is picked and coaches and management deal with it. People will say the batting order should go a certain way, but I believe you can’t have a set batting order in T20. You need to have the players there and as a situation arises, you send them to do the job.
When we played Hampshire, we wanted nine runs in the last over and we got seven in two balls and ended up tying. It could have been different with sensible cricket. All you need is a good innings in T20. None of our top batsmen played that sort of innings with the exception of Dwayne. There was no help for him.
The batting was weak. The pressure got to the guys.
GILL: As we wrap up, earlier you touched on the balance between trying to develop players and trying to win. What is the ultimate goal as we look ahead to this competition?
LINTON: My main concern is to expose players to the West Indies level. It is time that we get some players out there and give them the opportunity to perform and let the selectors see what we have.
Winning is not the ultimate goal for me – not when you are picking so many young players and looking to expose them.
You might win if you can get the team gelling quickly but my aim is to expose these players, give them every opportunity to be seen by the West Indies selectors and the public.
There will be people who are for and against some players. My ultimate thing is to get these players out there, get them developing and showcasing the young talent.
There was a period [in the early 1990s] when a few experienced players were taken out of the Barbados side and we brought in a whole crop of youngsters – the era of Philo Wallace, Sherwin Campbell, Courtney Browne and others. All these players were exposed and they got into the West Indies team at some point. That is what is needed again.
As long as we can put the players out there and they could perform, the West Indies selectors will take note.