windies move on to trinidad in excellent position
The Celkon Mobile Cup Tri-series moves to Trinidad and Tobago this weekend with the West Indies finding themselves in the unfamiliar position of two back-to-back victories in One-Day Internationals against teams ranked higher than they in the ICC ODI ratings – world champions India and Sri Lanka.
Leading the points table, they take on India on Friday and can expect a backlash from a team whose pride has been stung and who some believe, following their ICC Champions Trophy victory in England, would rather be somewhere in Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore, rather than be in the Caribbean for a tour where money is at the centre of it being played in the first place.
But India is a proud team and the West Indies will be faced with a stern examination on the weekend against the Virat Kohli-led side. The opportunity will also be presented for several in the West Indies line-up to enhance reputations or to dispel doubts of their place in international cricket.
Opening batsman Devon Smith has failed in three innings on his return to the West Indies team after a prolific domestic season for the Windward Islands. He will almost certainly be given another opportunity at the Queen’s Park Oval and questions will be raised, as they have been from Georgetown to Berbice, and beyond, why has Ramnaresh Sarwan, with a far superior record to Smith been so quickly discarded, while Smith has been retained?
Pakistan international Shahid Afridi, soon to arrive in the Caribbean, perhaps gave West Indies selectors food for thought just over 24 hours ago when he said senior players ought to be treated with greater tolerance.
Dropping match-winners, Afridi said, was not the way to go. Key players, he added, even when they lose form, should “stay with the team”. “Poor form doesn’t really reflect that a player is at the wrong side of his game,” he said. “Those players who are around with the team for years and are also match-winners should be kept with the team to boost their confidence. Teams are carrying their match-winners like David Warner [despite him being suspended]. You can’t be in form if you stay out of the team.”
But Sarwan, already the prodigal son, has once more been dumped and his future in the regional side could now be in doubt.
Smith’s international record is nothing to discuss around the coffee table as it inspires neither confidence nor expectations for the future.
Where expectations are concerned Barbados’ fast-bowling all-rounder Jason Holder could have the opportunity this weekend to again step into the spotlight in West Indies maroon. He is obviously favoured by regional selectors and his rise into the West Indies team has been swift while the likes of compatriot Fidel Edwards continues to fade rapidly and the Windward Islands’ Delorn Johnson and Jamaica’s Sheldon Cotterrell wait their turn, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Shannon Gabriel wait for further opportunities at the international one-day level.
Holder’s inclusion will depend on whether selectors stick with the pacy but unpredictable Tino Best or go for greater control even if a drop in fire.
Dwayne Bravo is expected to return as captain after missing the last game in Jamaica because of a slight injury. West Indies’ selectors gave an indication of their thinking for the future by overlooking the trio of Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin, all with previous experience of leading the West Indies, and handed the match captaincy to Kieron Pollard. The team victory would have given his confidence a great boost even if he has not hit any batting form in the series.
The main advance for the West Indies has been the continued improvement of Johnson Charles. With a miserable first-class average of 17, Charles has shown himself to be one for the big occasion and is now averaging 39 with the bat in ODIs and has also shown himself to be quite adept behind the stumps.
The coming weekend will give further opportunities for many in the two teams to take fresh guard, with the West Indies having the chance to make the greater gains.