Striking the right balance
ONE OF the primary considerations in the selection of any cricket team is the balance.
In recent weeks, I have highlighted what I perceived to be shortcomings in the make-up of both the West Indies and Barbados squads.
Those concerns have not been about the choice of personnel, but the balance of the line-ups.
In the case of the Barbados squad, at the start of the season, it appeared obvious that the batting was too top heavy – which I emphasized by pointing to the fact that wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich was batting at No. 8; that there wasn’t a genuine front line spinner, and that the two reserves were batsmen.
As the season progressed, the selectors eventually got the balance right and the successful squad that just returned from Antigua featured Dowrich batting at No. 7 to be followed by the spinner and three fast bowlers. Ahead of Dowrich was Kevin Stoute, a batting all-rounder capable of being a decent fourth seamer.
West Indies’ selectors, however, are still searching to find that balance that is needed at the World Cup.
When they opted to replace the injured Dwayne Bravo, a batting all-rounder, with Devendra Bishoo, an uncapped leg-spinner, it was obvious that the balance of the squad would be significantly affected.
For the first few matches, wicketkeeper Devon Thomas was slotted at No. 7 to be followed by four bowlers, and the reserves numbered one batsman and three bowlers.
When the decision was made to bolster the bowling, something had to give.
With the inclusion of another fast bowler, Andre Russell, it meant that Thomas was moved up to No. 6 and five bowlers were to follow him.
Along the way, a change was made with captain Darren Sammy being used at a No.3 and Thomas going up to No. 5 because Ramnaresh Sarwan was elsewhere due to circumstances beyond his control.
With all due respect to Thomas, his potential and enthusiasm, he averages 24.10 in 20 first-class matches and can hardly be considered good enough to bat at No. 5 and 6 in a West Indies team.
With a long ‘tail’, it was hardly a surprise that West Indies were found wanting in the two run chases against England and India.
It was even more mind-boggling that they opted to maintain Thomas at No. 6 against India and not recall Shivnarine Chanderpaul given that Chris Gayle was ruled out by injury.
If your batting personnel isn’t enough, can you reasonably expect to score 250?
In earlier times, West Indies wicketkeepers have hardly batted higher than No. 7, a position that Jeff Dujon, a player good enough to score 21 first-class centuries, occupied for most of his career.
If West Indies want to seriously compete against Pakistan in today’s quarter-finals, I see no alternative but to make the adjustment to the balance of the line-up.
If both Gayle and Kemar Roach are available, they along with Chanderpaul should return. Kirk Edwards would make way for Gayle, but selecting the other two players to sit out is not as straightforward.
It’s a tough decision, but either Andre Russell or Ravi Rampaul would have to miss out to make way for Chanderpaul.
And it will be another hard choice, but Sulieman Benn will have to sit out to accommodate Roach’s return.
It’s all in the effort of getting the right balance.