A close observer of West Indies cricket told me he heard a spectator sitting close to him say when on one morning of a Test match Lara got out early, that “Lara never makes runs when we need them.” My friend could not help himself. He started rattling off statistics, the fellow became silent and everything returned to normal. During the period when most fans loved Sammy I was sitting next to a stranger in a Test match when Sammy dropped what looked like an easy catch. I had not been paying close attention to the play at the time so I asked the stranger whether Sammy had dropped the catch; he said, “Oh No”. Later I learnt that indeed Sammy had dropped the catch.
There are many who believe Gayle has an awful batting record, so it doesn’t bother them that he no longer plays for the West Indies. Gayle, of course belongs to the select group of cricketers with two triple centuries, a double century, the distinction of batting through a Test innings in Australia, a score of 198, and about ten other centuries and an average of about 43 opening in Tests, twenty-one one-day centuries and over ten thousand runs in twenty over cricket. The first time young Kieron Powell opened with Gayle they both scored centuries. Gayle opened with Barath only once or twice, but said publicly he would have liked opening with him.
Darren Bravo admittedly has not played a great deal of cricket, but he is one of the few West Indian batsmen with a double century early in his career in New Zealand, a place that has often over the years been a graveyard of sorts for West Indian batsmen. Bravo, by the way, has the highest average of any West Indian batsman away from home. Narine and Badree are two of the most respected spinners internationally, although without any evidence the myth has developed that they are only suited to the shorter forms of the game. Up to very recently broadcaster Mandrekar referred to Samuels as one of the better one-day batsman in the game, no doubt partly because of his elegance, but also because he has scored ten one-day centuries, and over twenty-two fifties.
Dwayne Bravo, Pollard and Sammy are the type of cricketers who bring an awful lot to the game, which explains why they are so admired abroad. All three are as good at fielding as any cricketer anywhere. Bravo has scored at least three Test centuries, and is regarded by knowledgeable people as one of the cleverest bowlers; Pollard and Sammy are among the ‘cleanest’ six hitters anywhere, and they can both be more than useful change bowlers. Conventional wisdom has declared them fit only for limited overs cricket. In a region with a relatively small cricket population these are guys that you always want to consider for your squad. Conventional wisdom has it that it does not matter who is selected because in the twenty-first century West Indies always loses. While that is not a good reason not to field your best team, it is in any case not true, because even in recent years West Indies have won games, including two championship finals.
I am yet to hear a thoughtful explanation of what, apart from its length, makes the longer and shorter forms of the game fundamentally different. More importantly, perhaps, it would be interesting to know how many times in, say, the last ten years the West Indies has been able to select a team based purely on an assessment of probable performance. I remember being present at a Test match after Roach at his best bowled the first over, and the skipper had no alternative but have a kid named Brandon Bess brought down from Cave Hill on the morning of the first day of the Test. The captain was, naturally, blamed for the loss.
It is difficult to understand why the WICB is so insistent on excluding all the above-noted players from our team, even when it is clear to any rational observer that a few of them could not only help improve performance but actually help the development of the younger players. It is impossible to understand why they are allowed to get away with such dastardly conduct.