BY BRYAN DAVIS
ALTHOUGH West Indies selectors stuck to old favourites for the T20 World Cup 2021, denying youthful cricketers the advantage of gaining experience, an under-19 World Cup is starting shortly in the Caribbean, allowing the selectors to witness what, if any, talent exists for the future.
We have the benefit of playing at home and the youngsters have been hard at work in Antigua, headquarters of Cricket West Indies, playing practice matches, gearing themselves to be at the top of their game when the competition begins on January 14.
This will go a long way to prove whether WI youth cricketers have the natural ability and flair to move forward. Once that talent can be properly pinpointed, then the follow-up through territorial cricket must be closely monitored with the link to that territory’s cricket.
However, there are questions to be asked about present cricketers who are selected for the limited-overs (white-ball) games but not chosen to play in Test matches. Why are fine players like Shimron Hetmyer, who has already proven himself as a Test cricketer, Evin Lewis and Nicholas Pooran, two of the most talented batsmen in the Caribbean, not included in the two-inning format?
This may be one of the reasons why they are struggling in the white-ball tournaments. They lack the art of batsmanship. In all formats a batsman has to be knowledgeable in shot selection, knowing just how to attack bowlers, and when to take risks.
When playing in first-class or Test cricket, one has to concentrate and build an innings, adjusting according to the dictates of the game. A batsman has to practise often to improve his skill, learning shot selection. He does not have to slog and swing his bat at all deliveries, as some do in T20 cricket. In that way, it’s a lottery. Luck and chance. So many things could go wrong when concentration is absent. Although more risk is necessary for this format, the batsman still has to know when to take such a risk. Losing one’s wicket could upset the innings.
Kieron Pollard was recognised for his excellent batting exploits in four-day first-class cricket for TrT when he exploded onto the scene in January 2007, at 19. Pollard scored a brilliant 126 in 150 balls with 11 fours and seven sixes in Barbados on his first-class debut, then followed up with another scorcher of an innings, hitting 117 off 87 balls with 11 fours and six sixes against the Leeward Islands, at the National Cricket Centre in Couva. That was his third first-class game.
Fantastic batting, except the selectors of the day committed a grievous error by not choosing him for Test matches. They were terribly short-sighted and ignorant of natural ability. Nevertheless, his superb timing of strokes, plus his orthodoxy, made him a superstar.
My point is, Pollard should have played in all formats. His background from schooldays was solid, his discipline secure, plus his dauntless attitude and self-confidence combined to create the player he is. Not everyone could be like Pollard, because he was blessed with many attributes; then again he’s a big man, possessed of strength and timing. However, don’t doubt that initial background of first-class cricket.
At present, it would be interesting to know why those three left-handed batsmen I named are not playing first-class or Test cricket.
Rumour has it that they are not interested. I was shocked when I heard that.
If a player is available to play for the WI, then that player has to participate in any format for which he’s chosen. There are three versions, and all West Indian cricketers should be available to play in all three, except for injury or other critical matters. The tail can’t wag the dog! CWI would have spent a pretty penny in developing cricketers, and certainly not for them to turn around and decide what cricket they would play.
If the rumour is untrue, then why are the selectors blind to the ability of those three talented players? Their technique, concentration and cricket intelligence would improve. They would grow in confidence. Progress would be seen in their building of an innings, regardless of the format, yet within its limits, so that they would learn to exchange the strike, identifying singles and in that way putting off bowlers.
Cricket intelligence is needed in WI cricketers. Great opportunity to spot the talent of the youth in the under-19 World Cup.