WI World Cup selections under scrutiny

By Tony McWatt
Source: Barbados Today
The days that have passed since the September 14 announcement of the West Indies 2022 T20 World Cup squad have proved to be very interesting. Punctuated as they have been by selection chair Desmond Haynes provided explanations for some of the more contentious choices, as well as the overall reactions to the fifteen that have been chosen.

With the commencement of the West Indies’ 2022 World Cup campaign less than a month away, time will very soon emphatically reveal the exact wisdom, or lack thereof, of Haynes and his panel’s choices. Particularly those that have been hotly debated and viewed as highly contentious by West Indies cricket fans and followers.

In the interim, some performances in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) matches that have been played since the September 14 belated announcement of the squad’s composition have been supportive of Haynes and his panel’s choices. Others by contrast have not been nearly so.

Having not represented the West Indies in a T20I since April 2016, the 33-year-old St Lucian Johnson Charles is one of those whose World Cup squad inclusion has created some degree of fervent debate among Caribbean cricket fans, particularly on social media. Charles has, however, continued to justify his selection and defy his critics with his ongoing outstanding performances at this year’s CPL.

With 342 runs scored from 8 innings batted for an average of 48.85 and an impressive strike rate of 135.17, Charles has to date established himself as the tournament’s most outstanding batsman by far. So much so, that should he continue in his current vein until the end of this year’s CPL his seat on the flight to Australia could very well be as Evin Lewis preferred opening batting partner. As opposed to his initial designation as the squad’s backup wicket-keeper batsman.

Charles’ ongoing 2022 CPL performances have been fully supportive of his World Cup squad inclusions. Those of others by contrast may have already left Haynes and his fellow selectors scratching their individual and collective heads, while also providing them with sufficient reasons for second-guessing some if not all their controversial choices.

Having been controversially excluded from the squad, Fabian Allen, the dynamic three-dimensional left-arm spinner, power-hitting, world-class fielding all-rounder sent Haynes and Co, the very poignant message of a 35-ball half-century that included three sixes and an exact number of fours, followed by outstanding bowling returns of 1/20-4 in the Jamaica Tallawahs’ September 17 match against the Trinidad & Tobago Knight Riders.

Allen’s performance, coming as it did just a few days after the West Indies squad’s announcement, would have served to reinforce the significant numbers of expressed views that his inclusion would have made far more sense than that of Raymon Reifer. As a medium-pace batting allrounder, Reifer is very much the same type of player as Kyle Mayers, vice-captain Rovman Powell and even Jason Holder. As a left-arm seamer, his inclusion has also left the squad with no less than three such bowlers with the front liners Obed McCoy and Sheldon Cottrell being the other two. Had he been chosen instead of Reifer, Allen’s inclusion would have given the squad the much better balance of a second left-arm spinner, belligerent hard-hitting lower-order batsman, as well as a fielder whose outstanding catching and run-saving capabilities would be assets to any squad.

The recovering from injury, thirty-three years old ageing Cottrell is another whose inclusion Haynes and Co must now be second guessing. In the three matches he has so far played at this year’s CPL, Cottrell has yet to produce any performances that can in any way be deemed as supportive of the merits of his World Cup squad inclusion.

2/73-8 overs bowled at an economy rate of 9.12 are not the type of statistics that are squad inclusion supportive in any way shape or form. Furthermore, and by contrast, the continuing power-play wicket-taking performances of Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Obed McCoy for their respective franchises have made a mockery of Haynes’ explanation for Cottrell’s inclusion, which was “he’s been taking wickets for us up front!”

The two major issues with Haynes’ advanced rationale are that firstly, Cottrell’s actual wicket-taking production for the West Indies has been somewhat unspectacular for the better part of the last two years! 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 0, 0, 2, 0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 2, 2, 1 and 1 are the numbers of wickets he’s taken in each of the last twenty T20I he’s played for the West Indies.

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