With the start of the 2016-17 West Indies Cricket Board Professional Cricket League (PCL) first-class Championship just three weeks away, an exercise in picking the Barbados Pride squad for the first round match against Leeward Islands Hurricanes at Warner Park in St. Kitts has provided a bit of intrigue.
Since the PCL was introduced in 2014, the process of a Player Draft where the teams for the six franchises are selected months in advance has led to a feeling in some quarters that trial matches can be a waste of time.
But that has not been the case as a few players have performed outstandingly at the right time and forced their way into sides.
As far as Barbados Pride are concerned, once all of the international and West Indies ‘A’ team players are available, it can be somewhat of a headache to determine who should be left out.
Let’s be realistic.
At the Draft on June 17, those chosen for Barbados Pride were Sulieman Benn, Carlos Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Kevin Stoute, Jomel Warrican; Kyle Corbin, Justin Greaves, Omar Phillips; Kissoondath Magram (Trinidad & Tobago) and Preston McSween (Grenada, Windward Islands).
Add the names of West Indies Test and One-Day International captain Jason Holder, Test vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich and Shai Hope, who like Carlos Brathwaite, Chase, Cummins and Warrican are all now in the United Arab Emirates for the three-Test series against Pakistan.
After that series, Holder, the two Brathwaites, Hope, Carter, Benn and Nurse will be heading to Zimbabwe with the West Indies team for a Tri-Nation One-Day International series in November.
Considering that Brooks and Roach, both now on tour of Sri Lanka with the West Indies ‘A’ team of which Brooks is the captain for the first-class matches, will be back for the start of the PCL Championship, along with Dowrich, Chase, Cummins and Warrican, it means that they automatically pick themselves barring injury or illness, therefore leaving only seven places open.
In looking at the other players who were chosen in the Draft, Corbin is currently injured and only experienced opener Phillips and medium-pace bowling all-rounder Greaves impressed enough in the just concluded trials of three matches to justify selection.
Phillips and seasoned all-rounder Kevin Stoute were named captains for the trials, and well-placed sources have revealed that Stoute has been appointed the interim Barbados Pride captain for both the four-day and Nagico Super50 Championships in the absence of Kraigg Brathwaite and Holder respectively.
The first-class Championship, now sponsored by Digicel Sports Max, runs from November 11 until April 18, with a significant break in January and February to accommodate the Nagico Super50.
A look at the fixtures shows that the international players will miss the first three rounds of first-class matches because of the tour to Zimbabwe.
The Barbados Pride selectors met yesterday and chose the squad for the match against the Leeward Islands Hurricanes. It is to be announced at a Press conference on Monday at Kensington Oval.
Having closely followed the trials and taking into consideration all of the factors listed above, at least four players who were not in the Draft are deserving of being picked based on performances in the trials, as well as the current BCA Elite division three-day Competition.
Those four are opener Anthony Alleyne, middle order batsman Aaron Jones, all-rounder Kenroy Williams, who bowls off-breaks and leg-spinner Nikolai Charles.
Left-hander Alleyne amassed the most runs (195) and also had the highest score (93), at an average of 32.50; Jones made 126 runs (ave: 25.20); Charles took the most wickets (19) at 12.95 runs each and was the only bowler with two five-wicket hauls, while Williams picked up the second most wickets (12) at 11.17 runs apiece.
Only Jones, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday, is yet to play at the first-class level although he represented Combined Campuses & Colleges (CCC) in four matches in the Nagico Super50 Tournament last season.
He is very talented and those who were fortunate like yours truly to see his high-quality, unbeaten 147, which spurred Massy United Insurance Wildey to a draw against current front-runners ICBL Empire at Bank Hall in Series 3 of the Elite division Championship in August can attest to his ability.
A former Barbados Under-19 team player, Jones is also a useful leg-spinner even though his bowling has been somewhat limited of late. Four seasons ago, he took the most wickets (19) in the Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship while representing Guardian General Barbados Youth.
The 23-year-old Alleyne, who represents Sagicor Life UWI, has played for CCC at the first-class level, turning out in nine matches between 2013 and 2014. A former Barbados and West Indies Under-19 team player, he was always regarded as the likely partner to Kraigg Brathwaite at the top for Barbados and still hopefully West Indies. This could be a big year for him.
Williams, 32, a stalwart at Brathwaite Construction/ Crane Resort St. Catherine, has had a chequered first-class career with 11 matches between 2004 and 2012, while Charles, who plays for CounterPoint Wanderers and who turned 30 on October 1, has had 13 first-class matches between 2009 and 2011.
Among the batsmen who should be in contention are the former Barbados captain and West Indies player Kirk Edwards of Wanderers and Shane Parris, the solid Home Improvement/Sierka Rentals Maple opener.
Likely squad: Kevin Stoute (captain), Omar Phillips, Anthony Alleyne, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Aaron Jones, Shane Dowrich, Kenroy Williams, Jomel Warrican, Kemar Roach, Miguel Cummins, Justin Greaves, Nikolai Charles.
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