Ever since the West Indies 15-man squad for the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series against India on the sub-continent was announced on Tuesday night, the inevitable critiques followed with the Clive Lloyd-chaired selection committee being hammered for including only one specialist spinner.
That spinner is Sunil Narine, regarded globally as one of the best in the one-day version and arguably the best in Twenty20. Why only one main spinner on pitches which are expected to be slow and also turn, was the general question?
For the critics, it appeared somewhat bizarre that the team would be packed with as many as nine players who bowl either fast or medium with only batting all-rounder Marlon Samuels to support Narine in the spin department with his off-breaks.
The main pacers are Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul, Jason Holder, Andre Russell and the recalled Jerome Taylor with captain Dwayne Bravo, his predecessor Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith all medium-pacers – Dwayne Bravo, Smith and Pollard being classed as batting all-rounders.
And if you care to be ridiculous, add batsman Lendl Simmons to the medium-pace category to underline the length but not necessarily depth of the fast to medium stuff.
The squad is completed by specialist batsmen Darren Bravo and Leon Johnson and wicket-keeper/batsman Denesh Ramdin.
But is criticism of picking only one specialist spinner justified without considering that the selection panel of Lloyd and fellow former internationals Courtney Walsh, Eldine Baptiste and Courtney Browne, who is the only survivor of the previous committee, must be thinking of the bigger picture with the ICC World Cup to be played in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29 where the conditions will be different to those in India?
In cases like this, emotion tends to run high without in-depth analysis. After the series in India, West Indies will have another five-match ODI rubber against South Africa in South Africa in January to further put in shape the squad for the World Cup.
It would also be wise for the critics to review the last couple ODI series, which West Indies played against India in India and determine what impact the spinners had in comparison with pacers.
To this end, going back to 2011 when they played in the World Cup, West Indies lost by 80 runs at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk in Chennai.
The West Indies side for that match comprised in batting order: Devon Smith, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kieron Pollard, Devon Thomas, Darren Sammy (captain), Andre Russell, Sulieman Benn, Devendra Bishoo and Ravi Rampaul.
India made 268 for four off 49.1 overs and West Indies were bowled out for 188 in 43 overs after being 154 for two in the 31st over with Smith hitting the topscore of 81 off 97 balls including seven fours and one six.
So let’s check the West Indies bowling, in order, for that match in which left-armer Benn and leg-spinner Bishoo were the specialist spinners: Rampaul 10-0-51-5, Benn 4-0-32-0, Russell 9.1-1-46-2, Sammy 6-0-35-1, Bishoo 10-0-48-1, Pollard 10-0-49-1.
Now on to the following two series, comprising five and three matches respectively. In 2011, West Indies lost 4-1 and were beaten 2-1 in 2013.
In 2011, the bowling stats showed in order of economy rate (matches played also in brackets): Lendl Simmons 5-0-22-0 (ER: 4.40; 5 matches); Sunil Narine 26-1-121-3 (ER: 4.65; 3 matches); Marlon Samuels 47-1-240-2 (ER: 5.10; 5 matches); Anthony Martin 16-1-82-3 (ER: 5.12; 2 matches); Kemar Roach 48-0-274-9 (ER: 5.70; 5 matches); Andre Russell 34.1-1-208-3 (ER: 6.08; 5 matches); Darren Sammy 21.5-1-135-1 (ER: 6.18; 5 matches); Ravi Rampaul 27.5-2-185-6 (ER: 6.64; 3 matches); Kieron Pollard 18-0-128-2 (ER: 7.11; 5 matches).
Last year the West Indies bowling stats were: Narine 30-4-128-2 (ER: 4.26; 3 matches); Simmons 7-0-36-0 (ER: 5.14; 3 matches); Rampaul 28-1-154-7 (ER: 5.50; 3 matches), Veerasammy Permaul 14.1-0-86-1 (ER: 6.07; 2 matches); Dwayne Bravo 20.2-0-131-1 (ER: 6.44; 3 matches); Jason Holder 24-0-158-3 (ER: 6.58; 3 matches); Narsingh Deonarine 2-0-15-0 (ER: 7.50; 1 match); Sammy 6-0-47-1 (ER: 7.83; 3 matches).
Based on the above statistics, it can be argued that Narine was consistently the most effective bowler from an economy perspective as the one who conceded less than five runs an over in both series and medium-pacer Simmons wasn’t that bad, even with his limited bowling.
Rampaul was the leading wicket-taker with 13 scalps and the other figures are crystal clear to analyse.
In the 2011 series, Samuels, with his off-breaks, bowled the most overs among the spinners and along with Narine and leg-spinner Martin, accounted for 89 of the 243.5 overs sent down.
On the 2013 tour, 131.3 overs were bowled, of which 46.1 came from the spinners – Narine, left-armer Permaul and off-spinner Deonarine.
Whether or not the selectors took any serious note of such statistics in picking the latest squad is debatable but there is no question that they are looking at the bigger picture of shaping the squad for the World Cup.
It is pity, however, that the manner in which the squad was announced on Tuesday did not allow for the media to pose questions to Lloyd.
For all of the “pretty” Press conference, which the WICB held in Barbados last week Thursday, they yet again fell short with their latest public relations exercise on Tuesday. What is the purpose of the Manager of Marketing & Communications giving so-called “breaking news” to a radio station without a single word on the WICB website about the team at that time, and then not being able to answer vital questions?
A couple hours later an official release was sent by email with the source being a WICB Senior Communications Officer. Is this really and truly the low to which the WICB has sunk with its PR and to such an extent that the release was not carried by major regional newspapers the next day? Shame!
Again, WICB president Dave Cameron must realise that this method of releasing a West Indies squad is totally unacceptable. There is nothing wrong with scoops but one does not expect the WICB to be treating Media houses the way it was done last Tuesday. Are WICB releases supposed to be “scoops” anyway? It is setting a dangerous precedent and an apology is needed from Mr Cameron and those responsible for the boo-boo on Tuesday.
The announcement this afternoon of the 14-man West Indies ‘A’ squad to tour Sri Lanka from October 1 to November 5, was in keeping with protocol. Perhaps the senior communications officer should remind his boss of the way it is to be done.
As this column indicated a couple weeks ago, some of the players who were part of the West Indies squad for the recent two-Test series against Bangladesh in the Caribbean, which West Indies swept, are in the “A” team. They are opener Kraigg Brathwaite, middle order batsmen Kirk Edwards and Jermaine Blackwood, fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and off-spinner Shane Shillingford.
Captain Carlos Brathwaite, the big fast bowling all-rounder, is one of four Barbadians in the squad. The others are Kraigg Brathwaite, Edwards and pacer Miguel Cummins.
The full “A” squad (with territories): Carlos Brathwaite (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Miguel Cummins, Kirk Edwards (Barbados), Sunil Ambris (St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Windward Islands), Andre Fletcher (Grenada, Windward Islands), Shane Shillingford (Dominica, Windward Islands), Jermaine Blackwood, Sheldon Cottrell, Nikita Miller, Chadwick Walton (Jamaica), Devendra Bishoo, Assad Fudadin (Guyana), Shannon Gabriel (Trinidad & Tobago).
So there is a lot of cricket to look forward to over the next few months, with the ODI series in India to be followed by three Tests there as well, then the tour to South Africa comprising five ODIs and three Tests, along with the “A” squad in Sri Lanka and the regional first-class championship, which is scheduled to begin November 14, followed by the NAGICO Super50 in January.
Cricket is really too sweet!
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.