There is an old German proverb which states that a man trying to sell a blind horse always praises its feet.
A cacophony of noise has followed the West Indies selectors’ decision to axe batting all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. There have been claims by attorney-at-law Ralph Thorne that the players are being victimized. Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and West Indies fast-bowling great and commentator Michael Holding have been among the others who have also jumped to their defence.
Their sentiments are understandable, even forgivable, coming after the India fiasco of October, 2014, and the leading part played by Bravo, then captain of the West Indies One-Day International squad. Pollard, too, was reportedly a very vocal supporter of the abandonment of the tour at the time, and following his return to the region.
That blame for the aborted tour has also been laid at the feet of the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Players Association; and that only players seem to be being “punished” has been cited as evidence of victimization of the Trinidadian pair. It has apparently been overlooked by many that several players on that ill-fated tour are still in the mix and will be heading to the ICC World Cup next month.
Chairman of selectors Clive Lloyd has given an explanation why his panel has taken the decision to seek other options at this stage. He has stated that the West Indies are currently ranked eighth in One-Day International cricket; that the team has been languishing at the bottom of the international ladder with the current crop of players; and that neither Bravo nor Pollard has exceptional international records. He cannot be disputed on his assertions.
West Indies have underperformed and both players have had mediocre careers since entering the West Indies team; Bravo in 2004 and Pollard in 2007. Pollard’s last 15 ODI scores dating back to 2013 in Canberra, Australia, have been 22, 28, 0, 4, 0, 0, 3, 30, 0, 89, 26, 10, 2, 40 and 6, a total of 260 runs at an average just over 17. He has also taken six wickets.
Bravo has done noticeably better. His last 15 scores dating back to 2013 in Kanpur, India, have been 4, 12, 56 not out, 43 not out, 106, 35, 87 not out, 20, 27, 5, 6, 3 not out, 17, 10 and 0, a total of 431 runs at an average of 39. He has also taken 26 wickets.
Overall, the two average 25.26 and 25.20 respectively after 255 collective One-Day Internationals.
Lloyd’s suggestion is that after ten years, in the case of Bravo, and seven, in the case of Pollard, their overall poor records do not justify their being certainties for selection. His further suggestion is that there are other players in the region deserving of the opportunity given to Bravo in 2004 and Pollard in 2007 to make it at the international level.
Some have indicated that the likes of Darren Sammy, Andre Russell and Dwayne Smith possess similarly mediocre records but have been retained. In keeping with their train of thought, perhaps it could be facetiously asserted that these three, who were also part of the India debacle, have not been victimized.
It should be noted that unlike Bravo and Pollard, Smith has been repeatedly in and out of the West Indies team since his debut ten years ago with poor performances, not victimization, being the cause. Lloyd has cited Sammy as an important pillar of support for new ODI captain Jason Holder and has suggested that Russell, who has only played 38 ODIs since his 2011 debut, has the potential to be among the best in the world.
Of course, if the selectors have now determined to make changes and give others opportunities, they cannot drop the entire team. They have started with Pollard and Bravo, and, as Lloyd noted in his explanation for the changes, if Russell or any other player does not improve on their performances, further opportunities will be opened up for other regional players.
Truth be told, where our regional batsmen are concerned, only Chris Gayle would merit discussion if he were to be dropped from the ODI side. Our best ODI batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul was discarded in 2011 with 8,778 runs at an average of 41.60, 11 centuries and 59 fifties to his name, and there has hardly been a whimper about victimization of over-35s or an affirmation that this has been a three-year waste of a valuable resource.
One can argue the point of victimization from Bridgetown to Barrackpore. One may use the India disgrace and the possible $84 million debt to the Board of Control for Cricket in India as the foundation for the belief that the WICB, through the selectors, is exacting revenge on some of the protagonists of last October’s shame. One might be right; one might be wrong.
But when Lloyd stands before the world and says that Pollard and Bravo have not been exceptional cricketers, he makes that assertion from a position of strength. They stand damned by their own mediocre records. Some regional lovers of the game have become so accustomed to the now addictive taste of mediocrity and futility in this post-1995 period, that they seem eager to harness lame horses because of their seemingly pretty feet.