BY BRYAN DAVIS
GENERALLY speaking, selectors of cricket teams have a job of great responsibility that requires deep thought processes, knowledge of the sport, the conditions of the venue and a host of ideas as to what constitutes a balanced team to deal with the opposition under various circumstances.
In the end, it comes down to the right combination to win the contest. And that is the crux of the matter, to be victorious in the competition. There is no other reason for the selection of a cricket team.
There are times when it’s justified to choose certain players knowing they would be in a position to strengthen the side in the future and be triumphant then, for instance, by including talented youngsters who can hold their own at present and be eventual match-winners.
However, that’s only if there are no better players available. A selector should never weaken his team at present to build its effectiveness for a subsequent event to come.
An international cricket competition in any of its formats, Test, ODI or T20, is far tougher than playing in a franchise competition.
Reflecting on the poor standards generated by players in the present Hero CPL T20, it was noticeable that the batting is inconsistent, the bowling is off-target and the catching is horrendous. All fell below the quality expected of professional cricketers.
A few – too few – stood out and played above the average in the three basic disciplines mentioned. Nevertheless, one would have expected, generally, a higher standard overall.
I am bemused by the selection of Chris Gayle on the West Indies T20 team to defend the World Cup title which bowls off in the United Arab Emirates and Oman on October 17.
WI’s first game is on October 23 against England, the side they whipped in the final in 2016 in Calcutta. In that game Carlos Brathwaite struck consecutively, in the final over, four glorious sixes to stamp the climax on a batting performance structured by Marlon Samuels, who was also the batsman whoshaped the innings in 2012 to beat Sri Lanka in the final.
Why Gayle is in the team is a mystery to me. He will be 42 years old on September 21 and shows his age. Gayle has scored very few runs in the past five years. During this tournament, he’s very slow in reacting to the faster bowlers and his judgement of the spin bowlers is faulty. Because of the below-par bowling, he might get away with the odd long hop or full toss to dispatch – nonetheless, not enough to make him productive.
He’s very slow in the outfield, and a captain has to be very careful in placing him. His fitness is of serious concern, yet the officials talk about the new fitness perspective that is required (still new?). Lead selector Roger Harper said that “Gayle was given a medical exemption for fitness, and while his stats are not up to par, he brings immense value to the team.”
What rubbish! Therefore, the question must be asked, just what is this value? And will he go on and on without end, because of this value? Does Gayle or his performances decide his retirement? Common sense makes me ask: if he’s exempted medically, plus he’s bringing value to the team, then who decides when that value disappears? Gayle or the selectors?
Also, what is the message that is being sent to other players, young and old, about Gayle not performing, yet being selected, ageing and slow, but not required to pass a fitness test? What a precedent to set for the future of WI cricket.
Meanwhile, Sherfane Rutherford, at 23, who batted positively throughout the competition, and is a hard-hitting left-handed batsman similar to Gayle, is said to have failed a fitness test. Nonsense.
This is dangerous territory we’re entering and the precedent being set for future selectors by the disqualification of young promising players while giving past successful players a medical exemption, is a sign of dishonesty in selection policy. One is either fit enough to take his place in the team or he’s not. Every international cricketer walking out on that field to represent WI must deserve his place on the team by his performances and by extension his fitness. Equal status for all.
WI cricket is more important than the individual. So I’m extremely disappointed that the WI selectors did not have the courage to tell Gayle goodbye. Sentimentality trumps practicality.