Why the simple task of picking the best West Indies teams became impossibly complicated

By Colin Benjamin November 05, 2023

The year 1996 was a great year for sports. The cricket World Cup, Olympics Games, European football championships and Chicago Bulls produced a then NBA basketball record, winning 72 games that season.

Seeing all those 1996 sports events set off my path from sports fan to professionally in sports journalism and public relations.

I mention this to highlight that it’s 100 per cent clear to me that the modern “West Indies selection” trivialities are unique in global sports. It’s no longer a case where one can use the clichés; it's simply a case of selectors' opinion and Caribbean people can’t expect them to pick West Indies teams that attain full agreement.

 It’s very possible for myself and many astute sports fans to watch all teams in the NBA, English Premier League, other international cricket teams or at a FIFA World Cup and get a clear idea of the best starting XI or five.

 These teams still elicit media and fan discussion over player selection. However, it never descends to the current Windies selection malaise since the rise of T20 cricket leagues in 2009, where chosen teams never gets 90-100 per cent support from all stakeholders.

 As noted on another publication - https://m.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/127188/has-the-time-come-to-end-the-west-indies-experiment - observing CWI internally from 2019-2023 after previously in sports media from 2010-2019, fundamentally leads me to believe due to the modern dynamics of international cricket, unfortunately, despite who is in charge, the “Caribbean cricket” ecosystem cannot be fixed, whether the quasi-national “West Indies” construct is maintained or broken up voluntarily or by market forces.

 However, doing the simple global sports concept of “picking your best team” should not be hard for West Indies cricket to accomplish.

 

What are the best West Indies XIs?

 The reality is that selectors don’t objectively know and can’t currently select West Indies teams that will gain unanimous media and fan support. These suggested hypothetical XIs across might have been universally accepted if things were perfect but erudite West Indies observers know there is no chance of these teams ever taking the field.

 T20

 King, Hope, Pooran (wicketkeeper), Hetmyer, Powell (captain), Holder, Russell, Narine, Hosein, Joseph, McCoy

 Reserves: Rutherford, Allen, Shepherd, Drakes

 ODI

Lewis, Hope (captain/wicketkeeper), King, Pooran, Hetmyer, Mayers, Holder, Shepherd, Hosein, Joseph, McCoy

Reserves: Carty, Paul, Motie, Seales

TEST

K Braithwaite (Captain), T Chanderpaul, Bravo, Hope, Hetmyer, Pooran (wicketkeeper), Holder, Hosein, Joseph, Roach, Seales

 Reserves: King, Mayers, Cornwall, Gabriel, Da Silva

  

General selection problems:

 The role of “selectors” no longer works in the unique dynamics of the West Indies cricket multi-national construct. The former Ricky Skerritt administration's “selection review” task force implementation regrettably hasn’t been able to cure this problem.

 That review outside of the five Governance task force documents since 1992 was arguably the most consequential administrative document in recent CWI history.

 Caribbean cricket media and fans can attest to the complete trust breakdown in West Indies selection process since 2009 and why such a task force, that no cricket board globally had done before, was needed.

 Since 2009 West Indies have tried two “legends' Clive Lloyd & Desmond Haynes, a highly respected player, Roger Harper, and two players who didn’t succeed at the international level in Clyde Butts and Courtney Brown, for the polarizing role of chairman of selectors. None led to the improvement in West Indies results.

 Given the long-standing issue of insularity, currently having two selectors from Barbados in Desmond Haynes and Roland Butcher is unsustainable. Despite the gentleman’s potential good intentions - their presence is exasperating insularity feelings and bias in selection, whether real or perceived.

 Roger Harper lost his job after the West Indies were eliminated from the 2021 T20 World Cup group stage - however Desmond Haynes still remains despite selecting teams that failed to qualify for the 2022 T20 and ongoing 50 overs World Cups.

 A good example of this current case was when new white ball coach Darren Sammy, on appointment in May, saying he had in-depth conversations with Andre Russell, Sunil Narine, Evin Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer about playing for West Indies.

https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/wi-coach-daren-sammy-wants-to-get-andre-russell-suni-narine-shimron-hetmyer-back-1378679

 However, only Hetmyer has returned and selector Haynes said in his last public press conference in July, that Russell and Narine, who had just shown their quality in TKR’s run to CPL final, were not in his conversations.

 https://x.com/caribcricket/status/1686128090324320257?s=46

 This is basic deja’ vu. Many will recall a similar coach clash over players with selectors/administrators. During Phil Simmons’ first stint as coach he was comically suspended in 2015 for simply saying he wanted to select the best players.

 https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/phil-simmons-suspended-as-west-indies-coach-924039

 Also at domestic level there isn’t a clear alignment in picking teams for West Indies in mind, but rather for national interest to win the four-day and 50 over’s tournaments.

 To highlight two quotes from Daren Ganga who called out this issue in Trinidad & Tobago via a public Facebook post a few months ago:

 “Please focus on using retainer contracts to develop and reward younger cricketers and stop using for senior players who are underperforming and have non contention to play for West Indies.”

 “West Indies cricket is declining and our national selectors are directly contributing to the further demise of the game.”

 https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02ZNSqZ9WLosMX5bunaKvdfcXHHBRo3JLSLwF6xeyS5cwwLgxMRab3K2EfPZsxGjz9l&id=100028246136315

 Copying the English system:

 Since the rise of T20s in 2009 and the decline in domestic standards since the PCL revamp in 2014, West Indies selectors have erred more on the side of conservative selections. They have never truly been innovative in picking players away from statistical performances in a poor domestic system or picking players for Test cricket based on international limited overs form like other nations have attempted.

 That factor has led to the current predicament of having only two all-format players, Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph. The West Indies talent pool isn’t big enough to allow further continuing of this systematic selection faux pas.

 The English strategy of empowering the coach to be a selector with scouts around nations assisting should be implemented. Under Director of Cricket Rob Key in April 2021, the ECB made the role of selector redundant for 19 months, overseeing a period where the much-hyped “Bazball” Test cricket was implemented and England winning the 2022 T20 World Cup.

 Afterwards, despite success Luke Wright was appointed selector in November 2022,

https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/england-cricket-ed-smith-s-tenure-ends-as-national-selector-as-role-is-made-redundant-1260049

 https://www.espncricinfo.com/story/luke-wright-named-as-england-men-s-new-selector-1345988

 That approach seems perfect for the West Indies, where the coach would have sole selection authority like a football manager with support of the captain and Caribbean-wide scouting network support system. Then Desmond Haynes and any of the “legends” can be used in a more productive role, rather than the outdated and impossible West Indies context job of “selector”.

  

Colin Benjamin was a Cricket West Indies communications officer from 2019-2023. He has covered West Indies cricket for more than a decade for other global and Caribbean publications.

Related items

  • Britney Cooper to lead T&T at Super50 and T20 Blaze Britney Cooper to lead T&T at Super50 and T20 Blaze

    Britney Cooper will lead the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force women’s cricket team for the upcoming CG United Women’s Super50 Cup and T20 Blaze set to take place in St Kitts from March 1-26.

    The 14-member squad, coached by Gibran Mohammed with Merissa Aguilleira as assistant coach, also includes West Indies spinner Karishma Ramharack, who will serve as vice-captain.

    With four regulars (Anisa Mohammed, Shakera Selman, and the Knight twins, Kycia and Kyshona) in the West Indies Women’s squad over the past decade announcing their retirements last month, CWI will be hoping that the two regional women’s tournaments can unearth worthy replacements.

    The T&T squad includes six players that were part the victorious T&T Under-19 team that won the 2022 Rising Star Regional Under-19 tournament in Trinidad and Tobago last year.

    Among them are Shalini Samaroo, Shunelle Sawh, Djenaba Joseph, Kd Jazz Mitchell, Samara Ramnath, and Brianna Harricharan.

    Ramnath, 16, and Harricharan 15, are the youngest players in the squad.

    T&T will open their campaign against the Windward Islands on March 4.

    T&T SQUAD: Britney Cooper (captain), Karishma Ramharack (vice-captain), Shunelle Sawh (wk), Samara Ramnath, Djenaba Joseph, Lee Ann Kirby, Kirbyina Alexander, Caneisha Isaac, Brianna Harricharan, Kd Jazz Mitchell, Selene O’Neil, Shanice Pascall, Shalini Samaroo, Steffi Soogrim. Gibran Mohammed (coach); Merissa Aguilleira (assistant coach); Marjorie Thomas (manager).

     

  • ‘Slightly mad’ if England spin duo did not get county chances – Brendon McCullum ‘Slightly mad’ if England spin duo did not get county chances – Brendon McCullum

    Brendon McCullum admitted it would be “slightly mad” if the progress Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir have made on England’s tour of India was stymied by a lack of opportunities at county level.

    The spinning duo were uncapped at the start of the trip and held modest first-class records, albeit from small sample sizes, but Hartley is the series’ leading wicket-taker with 20 dismissals in four Tests and Bashir took a maiden professional five-for in Ranchi.

    But Lancashire signing Australia star Nathan Lyon this summer places a question mark over how much game time Hartley will get and Bashir is second choice at Somerset to Jack Leach, who will have surgery on a knee injury which ended his tour early and allowed the rookies to shine on the international stage.

    While McCullum acknowledged Lancashire and Somerset have their own interests to consider, England’s head coach hopes Hartley, 24, and Bashir, 20, will not fade away in the months ahead.

    “We’ve got to keep trying to get cricket into them,” McCullum said. “Whatever opportunity we can we’ll try and give it to them because there’s two guys there more than good enough for international cricket.

    “They’re tough characters. We’ve seen both of them have big hearts. It doesn’t get any harder than it is right now and they’ve both stood up and performed so we’ve just to keep giving both of them chances.

    “It will be a slight frustration of ours if they weren’t given opportunities at county level. There’s a very real possibility that might be the case.

    “But without wanting to dictate to counties because they have their own agendas, when you see performances like we have out of those two bowlers throughout the series, I think you’d be slightly mad if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”

    England losing by five wickets in Ranchi leaves them 3-1 down with just the final Test in Dharamshala, starting Thursday week, with McCullum suffering the first series defeat of his reign.

    There have been just four wins in their last 11 Tests but McCullum is convinced England are a superior team than the one he inherited in May 2022, which had triumphed just once in their previous 17 matches.

    “We weren’t quite good enough when it mattered – or India were better, to be honest, than us being not quite good enough,” McCullum said.

    “We’ve lost this series and we didn’t win the Ashes (last year) but we’re a better cricket team than we were 18 months ago and we’ve got opportunity in the next 18 months to do some pretty special s***.

    “Time on the tools, experience and just keep chiselling away at any of those rough edges which creep up every now and then, which is natural, and we’ll get there eventually.”

    McCullum confirmed Jonny Bairstow will play in his 100th Test next week, despite not reaching 40 in the series, but there is scrutiny over seamer Ollie Robinson following a disappointing return to action.

    Robinson registered an important fifty in his first competitive appearance since July last year but while pace has never been his biggest asset, he struggled to reach 80mph on the speed gun and sent down six no-balls – taking his career tally to 77, which is one more than his haul of wickets in 20 Tests.

    His drop of Dhruv Jurel was a key moment, allowing India to move to within 46 of England’s total after the first innings, while Robinson was not called upon to bowl as the hosts chased 192 to win by five wickets on Monday.

    McCullum explained Robinson, who has an impressive Test average of 22.92, felt a twinge in his back, which he has struggled with in the past.

    “Everything he did leading into the Test match suggested we’d see not just the Ollie Robinson we’d seen previously but a better version of it,” McCullum added.

    “He’s not just as disappointed as everyone else, he’s the most disappointed out of everyone. It’s just sport right? You have great expectations and sometimes you’re not quite able to deliver.”

  • Unbeaten Windward Islands Volcanoes enjoy 16.6-point lead after round three Unbeaten Windward Islands Volcanoes enjoy 16.6-point lead after round three

    Three dominant wins in the first three rounds have the Windward Islands Volcanoes holding a comfortable lead atop the points table of the 2024 West Indies Championship as the teams gear up for the season’s resumption after a week off.

    The Volcanoes have racked up an impressive 62.2 points (36 match points and 26.2 bonus points) courtesy of a pair of nine-wicket wins over the Jamaica Scorpions and the Barbados Pride in the first two rounds followed by an eight-wicket win over the Combined Campuses and Colleges in round three.

    The Leeward Islands Hurricanes sit second with 45.6 points (24 match points and 21.6 bonus points) after two wins and a draw in their first three outings.

    The Barbados Pride are third with 43.6 points (24 match points and 19.8 bonus points) after also recording a pair of wins and a draw in their first three games.

    The Jamaica Scorpions, who finished at the foot of the table last season, have a win and two losses but sit fourth on the table with 29.6 points mainly due to getting 17.6 bonus points.

    The Trinidad and Tobago Red Force (27.6 points), defending champions Guyana Harpy Eagles (26.4), West Indies Academy (24) and the Combined Campuses and Colleges (14.6) round out the rest of the table after three rounds.

    Action resumes with the start of round four on Wednesday, March 13 with the Red Force taking on the Volcanoes at the Queen’s Park Oval, CCC facing the Leewards at the Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Ground in St. Augustine, the Scorpions hosting West Indies Academy at Sabina Park and the Harpy Eagles facing the Pride at Coolidge.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.