T20 World Cup performances embarrassing to West Indies’ selectors

By Tony McWatt and Reds Perreira November 01, 2021

Prior to the start of the 2021 ICC T20 World Cup, Cricket West Indies’ Facebook Page had labelled the West Indies team’s campaign to regain its title as the tournament’s reigning champions “Mission Maroon!” With two defeats and just one win, a highly squeaky last over three-run win over Bangladesh, the West Indies team’s Mission Maroon has for all intents and purposes become Mission Improbable, if not altogether impossible.

The first three matches played by the West Indies have also been a major source of embarrassment to its Selectors both at home and at the actual tournament itself.

Having accumulated just two points after its first three matches, the West Indies still has a mathematical chance of emerging as one of the two Group A teams that will progress to the tournament’s semi-final matches. In order to do so, the West Indies will have to win both of its remaining matches against Sri Lanka and Australia by very sizeable margins so as to ensure it has a better run rate than any of the other likely semi-final spot contenders. Sri Lanka, in its very close loss to South Africa, has indicated that it will not in any way be an easy pushover!

Mission Improbable indeed, made even more so by the far superior performances to date from the likes of England, Australia, and even South Africa. Punctuated as they have been by much healthier run rates than that of the West Indies.

The chances of the West Indies now progressing beyond the Super 6 and into the semi-finals now, therefore, seems highly unlikely. What has become far more of a very tangible reality is the embarrassment that has been caused to the West Indies Selectors, Chairman Roger Harper and his Panel, by the substandard performances to date from the very players whose selections to the squad were so highly controversial. Messrs Gayle and Rampaul in particular, have to date done absolutely nothing to justify the Selectors’ expressed faith in their respective abilities to perform with merit during the World Cup.

Chris Gayle had celebrated his 42nd birthday on September 21, just weeks before the World Cup’s commencement. With his legendary skills as T20 cricket’s greatest ever batsman clearly in decline, as evidenced by repeated paltry scores in his most recent matches, Gayle’s inclusion in the West Indies 15 member World Cup Squad was discussed and debated throughout the entire Caribbean.

The West Indies Selectors, as well as the team’s Coach, Captain and Vice-Captain who had all publicly voiced their respective outstanding support for Gayle’s inclusion would therefore have been hoping for him to have effectively silenced all his critics with some superlative batting performances in his World Cup appearances. His scores to date: 13, 12 and 4 in the three matches he’s played, can now only be regarded as a source of colossal embarrassment to all concerned.

Much the same can also be said of Ravi Rampaul’s World Cup performances to date, the associated embarrassment factor for which has only been slightly less than Gayle’s. Rampaul was controversially selected to the West Indies World Cup Squad based on his 2021 Caribbean Premier League bowling. Rampaul’s World Cup performances to date have, however, confirmed the substantial gap between the batting skills of the West Indies’ opponents by comparison to those he would have encountered at this year’s CPL.

Rampaul has to date taken 2 wickets at an average of 30.50 from his 9 overs bowled to date. His economy rate within those 9 overs has been a relatively unimpressive 6.77. Yet in their infinite and now obvious lack of wisdom, Messrs Harper and Co, chose him at 36 to be one of the West Indies bowling attack’s supposed leaders.

As controversial as the West Indies’ Selectors final squad inclusion of both Gayle and Rampaul may have been, it was far less so than their non-inclusion of the ICC’s number one ranked Test all-rounder Jason Holder. To add further insult to injury, the Selectors’ also found it necessary to include Holder among the squad’s four travelling reserves.

As fate would have it, Obed McCoy’s subsequent failure to recover fully from the shin splints he had suffered prior to the tournament, yet another source of embarrassment for the Selectors, eventually resulted in Holder replacing him on the squad just prior to the West Indies’ match against Bangladesh. An opportunity that Holder fully grasped with both of his very large hands.

Included in the West Indies final XI for October 29 encounter, Holder struck two much-needed boundaries in a breezy cameo innings of 15 made off of just five balls which helped the West Indies to reach its eventual 20 over a total of 142-7. His economical bowling, which yielded 1/22-4, then helped restrict Bangladesh to 138/5-20 to give the West Indies its much-needed victory by just three runs.

Holder’s height also proved crucial in his boundary-catching dismissal of Bangladesh’s top scorer Liton Das. Attempting to hit a six off the last delivery of Dwayne Bravo’s fourth and final over, the nineteenth of the innings, Das must have thought that he’d successfully cleared the boundary only to see, in absolute dismay, the ball being plucked out of the air by Holder’s extended hands.

Holder’s outstanding performances with the bat, ball, and in the field during the Bangladesh encounter would have been an additional source of embarrassment to the Roger Harper led Selection Panel. It would also have undermined whatever level of joy they must have been feeling by the reported extension of their tenure by an additional two months. Scheduled to have ended this very month, the West Indies Selectors’ term of Office has again, reportedly, recently been extended to the end of December.

As if to be consistent with the highly controversial decisions prior to the World Cup’s commencement, some of the West Indies final XI choices made for the matches played to date have been equally bizarre. Selected to the squad based on his outstanding CPL 2021 performances and has been the West Indies’ most outstanding batsman, with the only recorded half-century in either of the team’s two official warm-up matches, Roston Chase, was somehow not included in the final XI for the West Indies’ opening match encounter against England.

Despite the West Indies having been bowled out for 55 by England, the Selectors still opted not to include Chase in the XI for its second match against South Africa. They chose instead to replace the injured McCoy a bowler with Hayden Walsh a leg-spinner.

Having been so repeatedly embarrassed the West Indies’ Selectors, both at home and at the actual World Cup, will be hoping that their choices, particularly those of Gayle and Rampaul, will be vindicated by their outstanding performances in the remaining two matches and by also by the team’s progression into the semi-finals.

If and when the latter fails to become a reality, however, Mission Maroon will have effectively become “marooned!”

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