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Time to change the panel


Ezra Stuart

Time to change the panel

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Wanted! A New West Indies selection panel.
Why? The members of the current panel were probably fast asleep during the humiliating recent two-match Test hiding which the regional cricketers got from India in what had been dubbed the Sachin Tendulkar Farewell Series.
They either weren’t awake or following closely what was taking place at Eden Gardens in Kolkata and the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai over the past two weeks.
Maybe they were just dreaming as the selection of the same squad for the upcoming series in New Zealand is a reward for failure.
No one is asking for wholesale changes or even the immediate sacking of captain Darren Sammy but a shake-up was definitely in order and the axe should’ve certainly been wielded.
By giving the thumbs-up to a team, which was badly beaten by an innings and 51 runs in the first Test and by an even bigger margin of an innings and 126 in the second, both times in three days, could be regarded as an admission the players did their job.
Could the selectors be saying this group of players is the best in the Caribbean, whether they perform outstandingly, moderately and dismally?
While there are times one must show faith in certain cricketers, it was crystal clear there is a dire need to alter the composition of the side, by making a few tactical changes.
However, the unrelenting selectors, continue to live in a fool’s paradise. Maybe, they will be justified if the side replicate the 2-0 series win in the Caribbean.
It is really baffling that they have retained a second wicketkeeper in Chadwick Walton to shadow vice-captain Denesh Ramdin, whose place in the side is secure, taking into consideration his improved batting record in his last ten Tests.
Won’t it be better to pick an extra batsman, probably a third opener or an additional fast bowler, to give the tour selectors more options?
Based on the squad selected for the two Tests in India, I had stated in last week’s column, that either Narsingh Deonarine or Kirk Edwards should play in the second Test instead of Veerasammy Permaul to strengthen the batting.
However, Deonarine’s average of 27.68 in 15 Tests is not one which should guarantee him that final batting slot, compared to Edwards (39.11 in nine Tests), the out-of-favour Ramnaresh Sarwan (40.01 in 87 Tests), or even all-rounder Dwayne Bravo (31.42 in 40 Tests), who is now being seen primarily as a limited-overs player.
Permaul’s continued inclusion, even in the One-Day International side where no place can be found for dynamic all-rounders Dwayne Smith and Andre Russell, remains as mystifying as Sunil Narine’s exclusion from the Test team.
For the New Zealand trip, where the pitches should be faster than those in India, I believe, the selectors, could’ve made at least four changes to the squad, chosen for India.
I would’ve brought in improving opener Kraigg Brathwaite, experienced fast bowler Fidel Edwards, once he’s fit, Narine, who took 12 wickets against the Black Caps in the two-Test series in the Caribbean last year, and the older Bravo while excluding Walton, Sheldon Cottrell, Permaul and Deonarine.
Brathwaite, who is still only 20, has a penchant for occupying the crease with great powers of concentration like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, which West Indies’ coach Ottis Gibson is demanding from the current crop of batsmen.
Based on his returns of 577 runs at an average of 57.70 with two centuries in the 2013 regional first-class season and on the recent West Indies A Team tour of India when he compiled scores of 92, 34, 82, 104 not out, one and 21 (334 runs, ave: 66.80), Brathwaite is now ready for the Test stage again.
With Brathwaite knocking on the door, this New Zealand series could be an important one for the experienced Chris Gayle, who needs to display more responsibility and consistency at the top of the order.
Because of his lack of foot movement and with his eye sight not as sharp as when he was in his teens and twenties, Gayle will always be susceptible to the ball angled across and moving away from his body.
At this stage of his career, Gayle, now 34, could eventually fall from grace like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir if he doesn’t convert 20s and 30s into significant scores. Apart from two hundreds and a half-century, he has not past 40 in his other 12 innings since returning to the team in 2012. 
Over the years, many pundits have posited that Dwayne Bravo is not a good enough batsman to bat as high as No.6 in the Test side, comparing him with Sammy but statistics hardly lie.
In 40 Tests, Bravo has scored 2200 at an average of 31.42 with three centuries, while taking 86 wickets at 39.83 apiece. On the other hand, Sammy has scored 1189 runs in 35 Tests at an average of 21.23 with one century and captured 77 wickets at an average of 35.66.
In fact, Bravo’s batting average is better than specialist opening batsmen like Daren Ganga (48 Tests, 2160 runs, ave: 25.71, three centuries) and Devon Smith (33 Tests, 1384 runs, ave: 24.71, one century) who played alongside him for most of their careers.
One can also mention the record of two other openers, Sherwin Campbell (52 Tests, 2882, ave: 32.38, four centuries) and Stuart Williams (31 Tests, 1183 runs, ave: 24.14, one century) of recent vintage as well as Wavell Hinds (45 Tests, 2608 runs, ave: 33.01, five centuries).
Even the returns of his under-rated fast-medium bowling compared favourably with teammates Tino Best’s 49 wickets in 22 Tests at 39.22 and Ravi Rampaul’s 49 wickets in 18 Tests at 34.79 as well as Jamaican fast bowlers like Darren Powell (37 Tests, 85 wickets, ave: 47.85) and Jerome Taylor (29 Tests, 82 wickets, ave: 35.64), who also played alongside Bravo.
Finally, it is indeed surprising that after a six-wicket haul in his last?Test, Fidel Edwards seems to have fallen out of favour with the selectors. His record speaks for itself as he is the tenth in the all-time list of highest wicket-takers for the West Indies with 165 scalps at 37.87 apiece in 55 Tests.
Among West Indians, only Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall, who all had 22 five-wicket innings hauls as well as Lance Gibbs (18) and Michael Holding (13) have taken more five-wicket hauls in Test cricket than Fidel, who has 12.
It should be noted that Walsh’s strike rate of a wicket every 57.8 balls is only slightly better than Fidel’s 58.1.
Respect is due!

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