Surprising Test omissions
An?ageing legend on one side, an inconsistent batting line-up and a modest bowling team on the other, set the scene for an India/West Indies duel that is unlikely to raise the profile of Test cricket that is badly in need of a top-class series match-up to boost its sagging image.
Lions at home, and lambs away, India are favourites to win this hastily arranged two-match series that has never been mentioned in the ICC’s Future Tours Programme, but what will this series prove?
There are just two Tests, hardly a guage to test one’s self in the highest level of the game and secondly, the West Indies for all the hoopla, about winning their last six Test matches – New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the opponents – still have a lot to prove especially away from home, where they have not won a major series since the 1992-93 season when Richie Richardson’s men came from behind to win 2-1.
The truth is, this coming series appears to have been planned to give the great Sachin Tendulkar, the chance to play his 200th Test match on Indian soil rather than in South Africa where it seemed planned for.
Unless one is looking through rose-tinted glasses or living in fantasy land, one has to accept that Tendulkar, who has now gone 21 tests and nearly three years without a Test ton, is unlikely to prosper against the likes of Steyn, Philander & Morkel – considering he also hasn’t fared well against lesser attacks recently.
You can’t say Test cricket is priority and let it fade like this with a meaningless series. Home or away, every Test series should be for a minimum of three Tests. Most fans, Indians included, will be gutted that India’s young stars like Pujara, Kohli and Dhawan, will now have a shortened series against Steyn, Philander and Morkel.
So what about the Test series and the prospects for the West Indies? The first thing that comes off the bat is that the selectors haven’t quite got it right by choosing two wicketkeepers, including left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell and leaving out the much vaunted off-spinner Sunil Narine.
It is hard to understand why the selection panel of Clyde Butts, Robert Haynes and Courtney Browne, opted for a second ’keeper, namely Chadwick Walton for a three-week tour.
Walton, 28, has come a long way from the player, who made little of an impact when he was part of the replacement squad that was named after a player boycott erupted before the home series against Bangladesh in July 2009. On that occasion, he had nearly as many catches (ten) as he had runs (13).
He was the leading run-scorer this season for Combined Campuses and Colleges, scoring 409 runs in six first-class games. However, I am not convinced he can raise his game to the international level.
Jonathan Carter, a more accomplished batsman, now enjoying the best season of his career, with matchwinning hundreds in Dominica and India, for Barbados and West Indies “A”, should have been included in the squad. With his lively medium-pace on the rise and his ability to keep, the dashing 25-year-old has a complete and improving game that should have been recognized by the selectors.
Cottrell impressed all those who saw him in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League (CPL)?with his exuberance, boundless energy and his eye-catching military salutes. However, international cricket is about more than flashes of brilliance and players especially one who lacks the ability to bring the ball back into the right-hander, should not be picked on the razzmatazz of a festive 20-over competition.
The first-class stage is a more accurate gauge on which to choose a player for an international tour and this season, the athletic Jamaican took just 17 wickets in six matches. Another fast bowling option, Shannon Gabriel of Trinidad and?Tobago, managed just 13 scalps in six matches.
Miguel Cummins, clearly the most exciting young fast bowler in the region, took more wickets this season (35) than Cottrell and Gabriel combined. He is getting better all the time as evidenced by his lengthy controlled spells on unresponsive Indian pitches.
Carter is 25, Cummins, 23, both are turning the corner and it is disappointing that neither of the two of them has been included for next month’s trip to India.
The exclusion of Narine, for all his shortcomings in the longer format of the game, is surprising. If Veerasammy Permaul an average orthodox left-arm spinner, is our second best spinning option, then West Indies’ cricket is in trouble. Narine has 15 expensive Test wickets at 48 runs apiece, but he will present problems with his baffling spin, that Permaul will not.