FORMER West Indies wicket-keeper David Williams said it is unfortunate that the talented pair of Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer were omitted from the One Day International (ODI) team for the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka because of fitness, but agrees with the decision to leave out the left-handed batting pair because "rules are rules."
On Monday, Cricket West Indies announced that Hetmyer and Lewis were not selected for the ODI team after failing to reach the new minimum standard fitness requirements in recent assessments.
Williams said, "Rules are rules...this has been around for a long time in terms of fitness requirements, maybe in the past we use to take it for granted I don't know."
Williams, a former TT and West Indies team-mate of regional team coach Phil Simmons, said the West Indies coach pays attention to the rules and requirements for team selection.
"Knowing Simmons, he is a very serious guy and he will enforce whatever it takes to take West Indies cricket back to the top."
Lewis and Hetmyer have been an integral part of the West Indies recent improvement, as they have both delivered with some top performances. Williams knows the players are skilled players and is hoping they learn from this experience.
"That is one of the areas that we need to address, it is unfortunate for both Evin and Hetmyer. They are talented, but fitness requirements are fitness requirements so they will learn from this mistake. It is a way forward. When you have rules you want to implement them otherwise there is no use having them. It is unfortunate, it is two young men with an abundance of talent, but at the end of the day if we want to go forward then we have to abide with whatever is laid down by the authorities."
Williams, who played 11 Tests and 36 One Day Internationals, said fitness is key in maximising a player's potential as was the case when Australian physiotherapist Dennis Waight worked with West Indies.
Waight, who guided the likes of Sir Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, Sir Vivian Richards and Brian Lara as the physiotherapist from 1977 to 2000, helped West Indies rule the cricketing world, especially during the period 1980 to 1995. It is said that Waight's strict fitness regime helped transform West Indies cricket, as the team was fitter than they had ever been.
Williams, speaking about the importance of fitness, said, "In any sport fitness is a requirement for you to perform at your top level. Cricket is a game of consistency and you need to be fit in order to keep or maintain that sort of consistency."
The former wicket-keeper said in the 1980s and 1990s there were always gifted players in West Indies, but Waight made the regional team even stronger.
Williams, who was under the guidance of Waight during his West Indies career from 1988 to 1998, said, "Dennis changed the face of West Indies cricket by taking fitness to another level and it goes to show that we always had it in us, but, because of lack of fitness, we weren't able to perform to our max.
"We were all talented guys then, the Vivs (Viv Richards) and all the talented guys, they were always talented but when you take your fitness level to another height then you can really perform consistently and that's is why West Indies won so handsomely in the two decades that we played."