Cricket selectors should not ignore a rich vein of form for spurious reasons.
Lead selector of West Indies teams Desmond Haynes, along with the two other selectors – coach Darren Sammy and assistant selector Roland Butcher – conspired to choose a team without, at present, by sheer production of runs and irreplaceable experience, the best batsman in the West Indies.
Darren Bravo has scored the most runs by a distance – 416 runs at an average of 83 per innings.
On observing studiously the way he played in this recent Super50 tournament, in addition to his classy batting of last year 2022, one could notice the new-found maturity in his batting and, dare I say, in his leadership.
There are a few things one has to be aware of as a cricket selector – a most demanding job. The most important is that the team one is responsible for selecting must be the
best team available that is capable of winning the game, a series of matches, or the format of the challenge.
Age doesn’t come into it unless the player is obviously not up to standard because of it. A selector has to weigh very carefully the attitude, spirit, form and demeanour of the player. A younger contender has to be worthy of being chosen before the experienced batsman.
The cricketer – batsman, bowler, wicketkeeper, slip specialist, whatever – must always be creditable enough to be suitable in his role in the BEST team at the selectors’ disposal.
Although it is still a shock that Bravo is not on the team to play against England in the West Indies next month, it is also surprising that Shimron Hetmyer is on the side.
This batsman has fallen so far from his promise that it is difficult to rescue him.
Nevertheless, he has time on his hands at just 26. A drop from the squad might have benefited him, as he could work on his concentration and skill, as he’s short on mental toughness.
Maybe he’s going through similar problems that Bravo was struggling with a few years ago, which I innocently believe to be a dearth of self-confidence. Any proficient coach ought to be able firstly, to identify the problem and secondly, to be aware of how to deal with it.
A batsman is expected to have a bad day, though it should not affect one’s confidence in future games. Cricket is very much a mental game and has to be intelligently approached at all times. A cricketer, at all times, must understand that he has to earn his selection.
I believe Alick Athanaze and Keacy Carty are reasonable choices, based on youth and ability, but not on recent scores.
However, the jury is out with Sherfane Rutherford 26, a fine all-round cricketer who needs to mature. In the Super50 he scored 278 runs at 46 per innings for the Harpy Eagles. He’s just 25.
When these youngsters are playing with and batting alongside a senior, in-form batsman like Bravo, it would help a hundredfold in their own development.
The experience would bring them on, more so than the coaching they might receive.
The balance between young, skilful performers like Athanaze and Carty and an experienced artiste a la Bravo, especially with the golden streak he’s enjoying at the moment, will only improve their cricket, as it did with Kjorn Ottley and Yannic Cariah of the TT side in the recent regional Super50 tournament.
The proof is there, through the improvement shown by both these players, having been chosen for the WI team to face the Englishmen. Bravo's influence on their cricket built their confidence as the tournament progressed.
The runs and averages of the batsmen are below par, and Bravo’s form was so brilliant that the WI team cannot afford not to have him on their side.
Haynes’ statement that they’re investing in young players is so off the mark that the selection committee strikes me as a weak one. The chairman must stand up and be counted. How could he defend leaving out one’s best batsman because he’s 34, while choosing another batsman who is one year younger, with no experience?
There’s enough time for the new boys to make a hit and learn how to bat. And if the coach is any good, the entire team can improve their cricket.
However, they need the team’s leading batsman of the day in form and experience – Darren Bravo.