VETERAN fast bowler Ravi Rampaul and all-rounder Roston Chase have been included in the 15-man West Indies team for the ICC (International Cricket Council) T20 World Cup, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates and Oman from October 17 to November 14.
The West Indies will be vying for a third T20 World Cup crown, having emerged victorious in 2012 (in Sri Lanka) and the last tournament in 2016 (in India).
However, the major talking point is the inclusion of the “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle, who will turn 42 on September 21.
Gayle is one of the legends of T20 cricket but, in the twilight of his 22-year international career, the lanky left-handed batsman has totalled 227 runs in 16 T20 Internationals this year (at home to Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia and Pakistan), with a top score of 67 and an average of 17.46.
During the ongoing Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in St Kitts, Gayle, who is the stand-in captain for Dwayne Bravo at St Kitts/Nevis Patriots, has only scored 83 runs from five innings, with a top score of 42.
Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief selector Roger Harper, during a Zoom media conference on Thursday, said, “When you look at the stats in itself, they can’t be looked at in isolation.
“Of course, present form is important (and) performance is key, but I think, as well, we’ll look at the pedigree of the player, what the player brings to the team and, in Gayle’s case, all that was taken into consideration in terms of what he can offer the team, and whether being part of that squad would make it stronger,” he continued. “I think the selection panel was happy to answer yes to those questions, thus he’s been included in the squad.”
The 36-year-old Rampaul justified his recall with a haul of 17 wickets, from eight matches, during this year’s CPL, for the Trinbago Knight Riders, at Warner Park, St Kitts.
Rampaul, who was part of the 2012 team, last played a T20 International against Sri Lanka, in Colombo, on November 10, 2015 – the last time he donned the WI colours. Harper said, “Rampaul is a very experienced bowler, has a tremendous record and, whenever he plays in any tournament, he usually handles himself very well.
“There are areas in the team where we were looking to strengthen. He would add a bit of potency in the powerplays, as well as the ability to take wickets in the middle of the innings, and (he) can contribute to the death bowling. He provides a lot of options for the team.”
Chase is yet to play a T20 International, but he has been a consistent performer, during the 2021 CPL. For the St Lucia Kings (before Thursday evening’s match against Jamaica Tallawahs), he tallied 281 runs at an average of 70.25 and, with the ball, took seven wickets at an average of 22.28 with his off-breaks.
“Chase, by dint of his performance last year in the CPL, and this year, has shown that he can hold an innings together while scoring at a good strike-rate,” said Harper, former Guyana and West Indies off-spinning all-rounder. “He has earned his place on the team and it was a situation where, with a lot of left-handers in the squad, he’ll be the ideal foil for the type of players we already have.”
Another surprise selection is fast bowler Oshane Thomas, who has featured in 17 T20 Internationals since making his debut in 2018. However, he has only played in two T20s for the WI this year.
“Oshane brings that sort of x-factor to the team,” Harper noted. “We know when he’s at his best, he’s a real force. A lot of work has been done behind the scenes with Oshane.”
About his expectation, and that of the selection panel, for the team at the World Cup, Harper said, “We’ve picked a squad that’s got good strength and depth in each department, a squad with a tremendous amount of T20 experience and, more importantly, a lot of World Cup-winning experience. If we can mould that team and get them to play for each other, I think we’ll be a world-beating team. I think we have a good chance of defending the title.”
The selection panel named four reserves – batsman Darren Bravo, all-rounder Jason Holder, left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein and left-arm pacer Sheldon Cottrell.
Darren Bravo played a lone T20, against Australia, this year.
Harper said, “We looked at the batsmen that were available to choose from, and what they would bring to the team. We saw Darren Bravo as our best option, as a reserve batsman, in that situation.”
Concerning Holder, Harper said, “Leaving a player of the calibre, standard and quality of a Jason Holder out of our 15 was a very tough decision. Considering the all-rounders we had, he was unfortunate not to make it. It’s a 15-man squad. Everyone can’t make it.”
Hosein has claimed 11 wickets for the TKR in the 2021 CPL. Harper said, “He’s had an excellent tournament so far, he’s performed exceedingly well. When we looked at the balance and the composition of the team, that’s where he got undone.” At the World Cup, the West Indies will be in Group 1, along with Australia, England, South Africa and two qualifiers.
West Indies squad: Kieron Pollard (capt), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Lendl Simmons, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Reserves: Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Sheldon Cottrell, Darren Bravo.