THAT great performance by West Indies cricketers earlier this month in the two Test matches in Bangladesh, has left the selectors with a problem to choose the final Test 11 to play against the visiting Sri Lankan team next month.
However, they won’t encounter a similar difficulty with the selection of teams to take the field in the T20s and the ODIs. Sri Lanka will be opposing the hosts from March 3-April 2 in three T20s, three ODIs and two Test matches. It’s a crucial tour for the West Indians for there’s a T20 World series in Australia, hopefully in October, plus jostling for position for the World Cup (ODI) in 2023, when the first eight in the standings automatically qualify.
And now that they have jumped to sixth from ninth in the Test match standings, they certainly don’t want to lose momentum. All to play for, and the frame of mind should be rather positive.
The men responsible for picking the players for these challenges are Roger Harper, the lead selector, Miles Bascombe, his assistant and Phil Simmons, the coach, on whom the other two would have to depend for the inside knowledge necessary to do the job. Not that it would be up to him alone, because the game of cricket has many situations to cover; therefore, diverse opinions are needed to put out the best team in a given circumstance.
I’ll start with Test cricket for that’s the format that is toughest to play and by which the strength of international teams is assessed.
There are great discussions and deliberations taking place among West Indian cricket fans. The most intriguing one in my opinion is the choice of captain. This is quite rightly recognised as vital, for the simple reason that a cricket team, more so than any other sport, performs to the beat of its captain.
Kraigg Brathwaite came into the reckoning to lead the side to Bangladesh when Jason Holder, the incumbent, opted out because of mental fatigue, covid19 fears and missing home, even though he played in the Big Bash League, the Australian franchise cricket tournament, immediately after the New Zealand tour.
At that moment, almost as if in sympathy with their captain, several players chose to announce themselves unavailable to represent their region on the international tour of the Asian nation, both red-ball and white-ball players who toured New Zealand. The loophole given to them ayear ago by Cricket West Indies, that if anyone felt insecure about going on tour because of fears of contracting the dangerous coronavirus, which was decimating all countries, would be forgiven and their refusal would not be held against them. Thus, the players who had no problem going to New Zealand suddenly developed fears of the virus in Bangladesh.
WI were thrashed in the three ODIs under the inexperienced Jason Mohammed. He was thrown in at the deep end. It was unfair to Mohammed and WI cricket. In unfamiliar conditions, WI were annihilated and I don’t want to imagine the reactions of those who declined the invitation to participate.
Nonetheless, the best was yet to come. Brathwaite was vastly more experienced in captaincy, and also as a player at Test level. It’s yesterday’s news now what his side did to the Bangladeshis and the fillip it gave to WI Test cricket by its excellent achievement. I don’t agree with those who believe it is a reward to give Brathwaite the captaincy against Sri Lanka. That is not a reward. One plays the game to win and the reward is the self-satisfaction which one feels having conquered the opposition. He deserves to be captain because of his accomplishment.
The Barbadian opening batsman accepted the challenge of captaining an inexperienced team of cricketers who assented to perform where their counterparts feared to tread. He made them into a fighting force of determined players who felt there was no option but winning, a never-say-die outfit who believed in themselves, went out on that field with the sole intention of winning, and furthermore, with the self-belief that they were good enough to do it. Whatever else inspired this effort – Clive Lloyd’s letter, for example – to win that series came from the players themselves, through the motivation of their captain.
There are no two ways about it. One leader abandoned the team, the other built a winning team from the ashes.
No change from Brathwaite now. My Test 11 next week.