Last week Thursday, the West Indies selectors announced the team for the ICC World Cup Qualifiers to be held from 4th-25th March, in Zimbabwe. As expected, whenever team selections are made public, there were folks who were not happy with the selectors’ decisions.
However, in this instance, the situation is rather unique. For the first time since the inception of the World Cup tournament in 1975, the West Indies find themselves in the rather unfamiliar territory of desperately trying to qualify for the competition. Everyone was hoping that the problems between the board and the players of the past few years would be cast aside and the best possible team would be selected.
Chairman of the selection panel, former West Indies Test player and hero of the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy final, Courtney Browne stated in the media release with the team’s announcement that Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo and Andre Russell had indicated to the committee that their services were unavailable since they had opted to ply their trade in the Pakistan (T20) Super League, which runs from 22nd February to 25th March, and clashes with the ICC qualifiers. Browne also stated that selected veteran stars Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels had pledged their full support for the team.
The reaction to the quartet opting out of the ‘do or die’ tournament has not exactly been warm and fuzzy by any means. Former West Indian fast bowler and past chairman of the selectors, Sir Andy Roberts in an interview with Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper said that if he had any say in the matter he would not be granting No-Objection Certificates to the quartet to play in Pakistan. Going further, he even suggested that they should no longer be considered for selection for the West Indies.
President of Cricket West Indies (CWI), Jamaican Dave Cameron was true to form with some rather insular comments in an interview with Jamaica’s TVJ Sports. Cameron suggested the snubbing of the selectors’ reach out by the Trinidadian trio of Pollard, Narine and Bravo marked the end of the road for them in terms of selection for the West Indies. At the same time he advocated that the excuse provided by fellow Jamaican Andre Russell, who is coming off a one-year anti-doping whereabouts ban, is acceptable and he should be considered for future selection.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Cricket Chief Azim Bassarath, also a CWI Director responded to Cameron’s irresponsible comments in an interview with Trinidad’s Express newspaper. In lambasting the CWI president, Bassarath let be it known that no such policy had been discussed by the board and Cameron had no say in who was selected to play for the West Indies; that was the sole decision of the selectors. The T & T Cricket Board president had candidly remarked that “Mr Cameron in his personal capacity and as president of the board cannot speak on behalf of the board.”
CWI Chief Executive Johnny Grave lamented the fact that Bravo, who had been banned following his tweet about Cameron back in November 2016, had declined all offers to return to the international stage despite several offers since the rift with the board had been amended.
Outspoken former West Indies player and T20 star all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, elder brother of Darren, added his thoughts to the bubbling controversy, by calling Cameron a bully and saying that the board had no interest in the senior players and had reached out to them now that they were in a desperate situation. Speaking to Trinidad’s 195 FM Radio station, Bravo called for new management for the West Indies board whilst expressing his fear for the future generation of players.
Bacchanal in West Indies cricket seems to have become the everyday norm, and the latest round of development has just sprouted another series of questions and observations.
With regards to Cameron’s carelessly expressed opinions on the fracas, we can just forget about them as another example of his hopelessly inept leadership, as we await the expiration of his current (and hopefully final) term in office. As the region’s version of Trump, he is probably by now, the only person who takes his own rhetoric seriously.
At the end of the day, the quartet are professional cricketers who have chosen to exercise their option to take the cash rather than play for their country. There should be no quarrel with that, that’s their prerogative and they are free to exercise it. The problem here is, should the West Indies qualify for next year’s tournament, should they be considered for selection, or do we stick with the players that get us there? The selectors will have to cross that bridge if we get there.
On the subject of the quartet, or more specifically, Russell who is returning after a one-year ban for a whereabouts drug ban, shouldn’t we be upping the bar here, and imposing our own ban with non-West Indian selection for another year, rather than welcoming back players by rewarding them with immediate selection? Or should we make that non-selection policy two years when dealing with drug cases?
The West Indies are in dire straits here. Desperate enough to select the last two remnants of the ‘Me-generation’ sides of the early 2000’s, Gayle and Samuels, They have pledged their support to the cause. We anxiously await to see if the over-the-hill wily veterans can survive the vagaries of the qualifiers and get us to the ‘Promised Land.’
The blend of youth and experience under the maroon caps at the ICC qualifiers under the guidance of Coach Law now face the biggest test of their life. The entire West Indies, including those former fans who have abandoned the game, will be following every moment of the qualifiers. Will they return as heroes or will they be vilified as the team that failed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup?
The 15 players chosen to carry our flag are proud to do so. Forget the bacchanal, it’s time, as David Rudder sings, to ‘Rally round’ our West Indies team.