In sharp contrast to the farcical exercise last year, there was much more intrigue and purpose in picking players for the second West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Professional Cricket League (PCL) Draft yesterday.
And not surprisingly as proceedings unfolded at the Accra Beach Hotel here, Barbados dominated by landing seven players to represent other territories for the 2015-16 season, which embraces the first-class four-day and Nagico Super50 Championships.
After Barbadian all-rounder Raymon Reifer turned out to be only “foreigner” last season when he played for Guyana Franchise, although Guyanese Ramnaresh Sarwan was chosen by Trinidad & Tobago Red Force and then did not play for “strange” reasons, the WICB made its position very clear on this occasion.
It stated that the Player Draft “has been organised with the goal of achieving an equitable distribution of the available player talent in the Regional four-day and NAGICO Super50 tournaments”.
As a reminder, each Franchise had to contract a minimum of 15 players, as follows: ten players pre-selected from the Home Territory; five players drafted from the Player Pool with a minimum of two from outside the Home Territory; and each franchise can have one international player (i.e. non-eligible West Indian player) at its own cost.
Forget the very last one. That would hardly happen in this region.
Other information stated that the Draft was to be conducted over five rounds. Each franchise had to pick a player in each round with two minutes to select the player. Where a selection was not made within the stipulated time, the offending franchise would miss their turn and wait until all other franchises made their selection in that round before making its selection.
If you check the seven Barbadian players who were picked by other franchises –– Raymon Reifer, Ryan Hinds, Javon Searles (Guyana Franchise), Kirk Edwards (Jamaica Franchise), Kyle Hope (Trinidad & Tobago Red Force) and Kyle Mayers and Kevin McClean (Windward Islands Volcanoes) –– it again underlines the quality and depth of cricketers from this island.
This is no idle boast. The dominance of Barbados in regional first-class Championships is well documented and it is a pity that some of the truly talented players are unable to get regular picks.
Hinds and Edwards –– both with international experience –– must be very relieved that opportunities have been provided for them. Though the 34-year-old Hinds, a veteran of 121 first-class matches, is not expected to play for West Indies again (his last of 15 Tests was five years ago after making his debut in 2002), Edwards, with a good bush bath as the old people would say, should be able to earn a recall.
At the age of 30, he would have hardly thought that after scoring a century on his Test debut four years ago against India in a match-saving cause at Windsor Park in Dominica, he would be in the cold today, having played 17 matches. An aggregate of 986 runs including two centuries, at an average of 31.80, certainly needs building on.
Last season was a terrible one for Edwards. In four first-class matches, he scored just 59 runs with a highest of 24 and averaged 9.83, inevitably losing his place in the team for the last match.
It was a most humbling experience for the former national captain, who also had the honour of serving as a West Indies Test vice-captain.
Edwards probably cannot even wait for the next season to start, as he would surely want to prove that he is good enough to be playing at the highest level again.
Wavell Hinds, the chairman of the Jamaica Franchise selection panel put it in perspective when he said: “Kirk has been an outstanding batsman on the regional circuit in previous seasons. He has also had some success at the international level and still has the desire to play international cricket again.
“We believe we can offer him the environment and the opportunity to propel himself and put his hand up so that the West Indies selectors get a good look at him once again, so we think it turned out well for us to have secured a player like him.”
Of the other Barbadians who will be playing for other territories, Kyle Hope stands out in relation to being given a break to show his ability. As a prolific batsman for ESA Field Pickwick of which he is the captain, in major Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) domestic competitions, it must be frustrating that he has played only 12 first-class matches between 2010 when he made his debut and 2013.
Gus Logie, the Trinidad & Tobago Head coach noted that he has been following Hope’s career closely at all levels. That is commendable because it is no secret that some of the coaches and selectors of regional teams hardly know a lot about players in the region in relation to their club performances.
And what about Hayden Walsh Jr of Antigua and Grenadian Preston McSween, the two non-Barbadians picked for Barbados Pride?
Both have played in BCA domestic Competitions. Walsh, a 23-year-old leg-spinner and left-hand batsman, has represented LIME in the Elite three-day and Sagicor General Super Cup (50-over) Championships, while McSween, 19, a left-arm pacer, who bats right-handed, has turned out for Yorkshire in the Division 1 three-day as well as Sagicor General Twenty20 and Super Cup Championships.
Walsh has played 12 first-class matches while McSween, a former West Indies Under-19 team player, is yet to make his debut at that level.
Apart from the mandatory, protected ten players, Walsh and McSween have been joined by experienced opener Omar Phillips, all-rounder Kevin Stoute and pace bowling all-rounder Justin Greaves in completing the Barbados squad.
Chairman of the Barbados selection panel, Henderson Wallace, said he was happy with the choices of Walsh and McSween.
“All in all we are pretty satisfied with the way it has gone. We were able to target the non-Barbadian players that we wanted. We specifically wanted a wrist spinner and a left-arm seamer just to complement our attack and also to gain some much needed practice against that type of bowling as well,” Wallace said.
“Also we feel that the whole purpose of the draft is to facilitate the developmental process of West Indies cricket and these two players we have identified as part of the developmental process and we would hope that our structure in Barbados Pride would aid these players as well.”
Wallace understands diplomacy. Yet, on the surface, it is hard to see either Walsh or McSween finding a place in the strongest Barbados side on a regular basis.
All eyes would have been on the Leeward Islands Hurricanes after they finished rock bottom in the six-team four-day Tournament last season and failed to reach the knockout stage of the NAGICO Super50.
The fact that the Leewards have managed to embrace Guyanese Narsingh Deonarine, a former West Indies batting all-rounder, should help lift their very disappointing showing, not only last season but also in recent years.
One hopes that the WICB would also re-visit the fixturing in relation to breaks for the four-day Championship.
It should be a much more exciting season.
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. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.