More madness seems to be afflicting West Indies cricket. And the powers that be apparently have little or no control in reading the riot act.
Already having to make three changes to the original squad for the ICC World Twenty20 Championship in India starting on Tuesday, the West Indies are now expected to add a fourth withdrawal to the list based on solid information reaching this columnist over the past few days.
Don’t hold your breath. Lendl Simmons, the 31-year-old batsman and one of nine over-30s in Darren Sammy’s squad, has been a no-show at the highly publicised West Indies camp in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) because of an injury, reportedly to his back.
By sheer co-incidence, once confirmed, he will join fellow Trinidadians Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Darren Bravo in missing the sixth edition of the March 8 to April 3 Tournament for contrasting reasons.
Pollard, Narine, Simmons and Darren Bravo have a combined 125 T20 Internationals between them with Pollard (45), Narine and Simmons (34 each) and Bravo (12).
All four were members of the champion West Indies team under the captaincy of all-rounder Sammy in the 2012 Tournament in Sri Lanka, but only Simmons and Narine played in the 2014 edition in Bangladesh.
That’s a lot of experience to miss out at a World Cup but there is no doubt their replacements would be anxious to prove a point.
And as the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) remains very busy today and tomorrow in Kingston, Jamaica with its first quarterly Board meeting of the year involving the directors only, followed by the 18th annual general meeting, which embraces the directors and shareholders, who are entitled to question the directors on their stewardship, one wonders if it is going to be another case of showmanship without any tough decisions taken.
Let’s put things in perspective. Just over a month ago, January 29th to be precise, the WICB confirmed a 15-man squad, which had been widely reported by media in the Caribbean, for the Tournament. The squad included 11 members of the Championship-winning team from four years ago.
It read: Darren Sammy (captain), Samuel Badree, Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor.
Missing from 2012 were Dwayne Smith, Johnson Charles, Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards.
The release stated that the squad “will assemble in the United Arab Emirates for a camp from February 22 to March 6”.
“They will then travel to Kolkata on March 7 ahead of the tournament,” the release added.
On February 12, the WICB said Pollard and Narine had pulled out. Pollard, the big-hitting batting all-rounder, cited a lack of sufficient progress in his rehabilitative work on an injured knee, which he sustained last December, while off-spinner Narine reckoned he had not made enough progress in the rehabilitative work on his bowling action.
Of significance was the fact that Narine had been picked though being banned from bowling in International cricket.
Pollard was replaced by Carlos Brathwaite, the burly Barbados fast bowling all-rounder, while a replacement for Narine was to be named, according to the WICB.
Before the WICB could name the replacement, however, there was word that Ashley Nurse, the Barbados off-spinner had been picked.
Now, bear in mind that Pollard had not played any form of cricket since last November, when a knee injury abruptly ended his Ram Slam T20 Challenge campaign and ruled him out of the Big Bash League. Both Pollard and Narine had last turned out for West Indies on November 11, against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
On February 14, in light of potential strike action by members of the squad over fees for the Tournament, under the headline: WORLD TWENTY20 SQUAD, the WICB reported that it was “in receipt of 12 signed contracts from players who were selected for the upcoming 2016 ICC World Twenty20 Tournament. Those players who were originally named in the 15-man squad include: Sulieman Benn, Jason Holder, Andre Fletcher, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Samuel Badree, Lendl Simmons, Jerome Taylor, Andre Russell, Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin, Chris Gayle.
“Following the withdrawal of Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard, selectors have named Ashley Nurse and Carlos Brathwaite respectively, to replace them,” the WICB said.
“Middle-order batsman, Darren Bravo, has since written to the selectors to say, “indeed I’m very grateful and humbled for the opportunity to represent the West Indies cricket team at the World Cup. However, I’m of the firm belief that I have a very big part to play in the resurgence of West Indies cricket in the longer formats of the game and I will like the opportunity to play in our Professional Cricket League (PCL) because it will put me in good stead and will allow me to achieve those goals that I have aligned myself for the year 2016 and beyond,” the WICB said.
“The selectors will name Bravo’s replacement shortly,” the release added.
By the next day, as Barbados Pride were swiftly wrapping up victory by an innings and 56 runs over Windward Islands Volcanoes on the fourth and final morning of their sixth round match at Kensington Oval, there were whispers that Johnson Charles, the attacking Windward Islands batsman was to replace Bravo.
Indeed, I wrote the story for the BCA website the very same day under the headline: BREAKING NEWS: “Charles to replace Darren Bravo in West Indies squad for ICC World T20”
As the sun was setting later that day, Charles, his Windwards team-mate Andre Fletcher and Carlos Brathwaite were heading to Trinidad to have their visas sorted out.
Yet, it took the WICB virtually another week, to be precise, it was not before midday on February 20, to announce Charles’ call-up, while again repeating the full squad.
Then we assumed that it was smooth sailing and the next focus would be on the camp in the UAE. With some members of the team taking part in the inaugural Pakistan Super League in Dubai, including Simmons, who represented Karachi Kings, the remainder of the squad left the Caribbean.
Lo and behold, well-placed sources revealed to me over the past few days that Simmons in fact returned from Dubai to Trinidad to see a specialist about his injury after playing his last match for Karachi Kings on February 20 against eventual champions Islamabad United, including the likes of Russell, Badree and Dwayne Smith.
According to the sources, Simmons was told by a specialist doctor in Port-of-Spain that he was not fit enough to play in the World Cup. And as the selectors were busy today debating his replacement, the Board was apparently too busy with its agenda items to issue a release.
Mind you, Clive Lloyd, the chairman of selectors, is in the UAE and another selector, Eldine Baptiste is in South Africa with the West Indies Women’s team. And just for the record, yet another selector, Courtney Browne, is to leave his native Barbados on Thursday for India to be with the West Indies Women’s team at the ICC World Women’s T20 Championship. The other members of the selection panel are Jamaican Courtney Walsh and West Indies Head coach, Phil Simmons, who is the uncle of Lendl Simmons.
Meantime, the WICB must get to the bottom of Bravo’s failure to play in the PCL first-class Championship since their own release on February 14, as two rounds of matches have been contested in the interim.
Instead, he has been playing domestic cricket in Trinidad and scored 75 in a six-wicket win for defending champions Queen’s Park Cricket Club against Powergen in the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board 50-over Premiership Tournament last weekend.
Perhaps Bravo is waiting for the ninth and penultimate round match against Barbados Pride at Couva, starting March 11, to express himself.
It also mind-boggling that star batsman Chris Gayle joined the camp in the UAE late and the WICB has remained silent. Call it a matter of convenient public relations.
We have not heard anything officially about players who were missing from the camp in the UAE and by extension from warm-up matches. The focus has been on clips with interviews by Tom, Dick and Harry. The only missing interviews are those from WICB president Dave Cameron and the top office personnel. Lol.
Bottom line is that the WICB is “soft” when it comes to vital issues relating to some of its international players.
Hopefully, we will get a few meaningful statements coming out of the WICB meeting this weekend. Are you holding your breath?
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 three-and-a-half 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: Keithfholder@gmail.com