THE EDITOR: Let me state off the bat that Roger Harper has been doing an excellent job as the chairman of selectors for West Indies Cricket. What influenced him to get it wrong this time is beyond me and for such an important tournament.
Let me emphatically state that Christopher Henry Gayle has truly been a great player – with an average of 42.19 in Tests, 37.8 in ODIs, 29.43 in international T20s and 40.2 in the IPL. Undoubtedly, Gayle was one of the most feared batsmen in all formats of the game with a Test score high of 333, One-Day high of 215 and T20 high 175 (IPL). But the key word here is “was.”
At 42, he is no longer the force he once was. He seems to be a father figure in the group and in my humble opinion that should be his role.
In the recent Test series between England and India, the non-selection of Ravichandran Ashwin was said to be the greatest non-selection in history in England-India clashes.
World Cup and world T20-winning captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been selected in the India squad, except that he will be part of the team as a mentor. He is 40 years of age.
But you know we cannot easily be trumped in the West Indies and the selection of Gayle ahead of the likes of Jason Holder must be the greatest non-selection in West Indies T20 history. Holder is currently ranked as the number one all-rounder in the world in Test cricket, was a former WI captain in all formats and is ranked as one of the best slip fielders in the world.
Veteran sports writer Valentino Singh said, “On what basis does one exclude a player from meeting an absolutely necessary standard that is required for the rigors of an international tournament, particularly one that is fast-paced and intense…? Age? Legacy? Pray, tell me, Mr Harper!”
He was referring to the chairman of selectors’ statement that Gayle was exempted from the fitness standard required for other players. Who does that? he questioned. “One last hurrah, you say?” Perhaps. He concluded that Gayle is there for his off-, not on-, field contribution. You don’t need to be fit to inspire.
Veteran West Indies cricket commentator “Reds” Pereira and Toronto-based media relations manager Tony Mcwatt share “serious concerns” about the West Indies squad. “As damning as the selectors’ treatment of Holder has been, it pales in comparison to the most stupefying and bewildering of all their choices, the inclusion of Darren Bravo, albeit among the four reserves.” Bravo’s returns in this year’s CPL is a mere 50 runs in four matches played before the semi-final.
Oshane Thomas was a surprise pick for me, who at the time of writing had captured only four wickets at an average of 34.21 and a 7.21 economy rate. Harper defended this decision by saying his pace would provide WI with a much desired shock attack X factor.
However, Odean Smith has been the CPL’s fastest bowler by far with speeds in excess of 145 kph at a 17.9 average and a strike rate of 7.35. The legendary fast bowler Sir Andy Roberts suggested that his pace should have made him the selectors’ automatic choice for the “shock attack X factor.” He is also a much more capable batsman and a very good fielder.
Harper contended that Smith did not meet the required fitness standard, which begs the question as to whether we have a fitness standard for all or different standards for different people. A Jamaican cricket journalist said, “Knives for Roger and his hallucinating band of selectors aren’t yet drawn. But surely they are being sharpened!”
As the old saying goes, “Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties.” Let’s hope for the best.