Despite the badly rain-hit Barbados Pride practice matches, there were a few inspiring performances which must lead to at least three players making their first-class debuts in the opening round of the Digicel four-day Championship against Trinidad & Tobago Red Force at Kensington Oval next Thursday.
It will be a pink ball match, starting at 3 p.m.
Having followed the warm-up matches closely, I recently took the opportunity on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation to pick a likely 13-man squad. I named four uncapped players – opening batsman Shayne Moseley, middle-order batsman Aaron Jones, fast bowler Shakeem Clarke and all-rounder Shamar Springer.
Moseley and Clarke both represent CounterPoint Wanderers, Jones is captain of Massy United Insurance Wildey and Springer plays for Carlton.
All four looked the part in the practice matches, apart from telling performances in Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) domestic competitions.
As a reminder, the Player Draft for the 2017-18 Cricket West Indies (CWI) Professional Cricket League (PCL) Championship was conducted since July 7 at the Jamaica Pegasus in Kingston. The Barbados Pride squad of 15 showed Anthony Alleyne, Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Kemar Roach, Shamar Springer, Kevin Stoute, Kenroy Williams, Hayden Walsh jr, Akeal Hosein, Mario Rampersaud, Omar Phillips and Leniko Boucher.
Since then, experienced fast bowler Roach has been recalled to the West Indies Test team. He, along with six other members of what would really be a very powerful Barbados side – fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder, opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, batsmen Shai Hope and Shane Dowrich, who are also both wicket-keepers, batting all-rounder Roston Chase, who bowls off-spin and pacer Miguel Cummins – are missing because of the current two-Test tour of Zimbabwe, to be followed by a tour to New Zealand.
There are two other Barbadians on the tour to Zimbabwe but they represent other franchise teams – batsman Kyle Hope (Trinidad & Tobago Red Force) and all-rounder Raymon Reifer (Guyana Jaguars).
Batsman Brooks is captaining the West Indies ‘A’ team in the current series against Sri Lanka ‘A’ in the Caribbean, which means he will miss the first two Barbados Pride matches.
And fast bowler Chemar Holder, who played a key role in the West Indies Under-19 team winning the ICC Youth World Cup in Bangladesh last year, is out of contention. He is now in Australia on a 10-week stint at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide.
The presence of two veterans with international experience in the Barbados practice matches – fast bowler Tino Best and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, who are both aged 36 – would understandably lead to questions about their selection.
But if the selectors – chairman Henderson Wallace, Sherlon Greaves, Henderson Broomes and Emmerson Trotman, the Barbados Pride head coach – are intent on giving opportunities to young, talented players, it should not be a difficult task in picking the squad.
Now, on the very first day of a scheduled three-day pink ball practice match at Kensington Oval on September 26, the 23-year-old Moseley hit a solid half-century in an otherwise disappointing batting display by Mario Rampersaud’s X1 against Kenroy Williams’ X1.
Left-hander Moseley scored 89 in 252 minutes off 157 balls with 11 fours in a total of 177 all out in 62.5 overs.
A Barbados Under-19 team player in 2012 under the captaincy of Shai Hope, Moseley made headlines on consecutive weekends last month. On September 3, he scored a century (101), which was instrumental in Wanderers beating Crane Resort St. Catherine by 93 runs in the Final of the BCA Super Cup (50-over) Championship at Lucas Street to capture their first ever one-day title.
He was only the fourth player to score a century in the Final of the Competition, which was in its 46th year.
Moseley then slammed a career-best, unbeaten 232 off Massy Stores Spartan at Dayrells Road in a drawn Series 4 match in the Elite division three-day Championship on September 9.
It was his maiden century at this level. All told, he batted for 351 minutes, faced 251 balls and struck 32 fours and six sixes.
And the double-century was the 16th in the last 37 years of the top league Championship.
Moseley currently boasts of the most runs (429), at an average of 61.29, in the Elite division this season.
He has come good at the right time and will no doubt partner another left-hander in Alleyne at the top.
Moseley has cricketing blood. One of his uncles, Hallam Moseley, was a hard-working fast bowler, who played for Empire in the 1960s and early 1970s, as well as for Barbados in the then Shell Shield first-class Championship before turning out for Somerset in the English County Championship.
The other openers in contention would have been the experienced Phillips, who is captain of St. Catherine, Rashidi Boucher, the Spartan skipper and Leniko Boucher of Sagicor Life UWI.
Injury sidelined Phillips for the practice matches and also the last couple of Elite division matches, while Rashidi Boucher, like Phillips with first-class experience, has had a relatively good season in the Elite division with 406 runs (ave: 40.60).
Leniko Boucher, however, for all of his talent, has struggled in the practice matches as well in the Elite division, scoring just 109 runs (ave: 15.57) in the latter.
Jones, who celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday, impressed with a commanding 63 on the opening day of the second practice match at Bayfield. He batted for 164 minutes, faced 103 balls and hit nine fours.
He showed good early form in the Elite division, scoring a century (131) off Wanderers in the first round and 81 against St. Catherine in his next innings – both at SJPP.
Last season, he was in the Barbados Pride Draft squad but his disappointment of not gaining a play must now turn to joy with a debut against Trinidad & Tobago.
Clarke, 22, looked the part in the practice matches with good pace and accuracy. He took two for 24 in the first game and three for 26 in the second.
He also had a taste of English conditions this season. Representing Sefton Park in the Liverpool and District First division competition, he took 57 wickets at 13.35 runs apiece. Thirty-three of his victims were bowled, 18 caught and six leg before wicket.
Clarke is the son of the late, tearaway Barbados and West Indies fast bowler, Sylvester Clarke, who also played in the English County Championship for Surrey.
At 6 feet, 3 inches and weighing roughly 190 pounds, there are expectations among locals that he can go on to emulate the exploits of his father. Truth is, the more I see him running in to bowl, there are a couple mannerisms which remind me of his father. For example, his approach to the crease and the way he turns to walk back to his mark.
“I feel pressured at times knowing that people want me to perform like my father but I want to be an even better cricketer than he was,” Shakeem told me in an interview in January last year.
“People tell me that I walk and look like my Daddy and there are expectations of me bowling very fast like him, but I have to work on my strength and then I can consider myself a very fast bowler.”
Springer, a solid middle order batsman and medium-pace bowler, was one of the heroes of the champion West Indies Under-19 team in Bangladesh last year when he became famous for his “chest roll”.
He displayed a cool head and good shot selection in scoring an unbeaten 77 in the second practice match. He batted for 209 minutes, faced 142 balls and struck three fours and one six.
The others tipped to be selected are batsman Carter, who can also bowl medium-pace or off-spin, all-rounders Stoute, Williams, Greaves and Ashley Nurse, wicket-keeper/batsman Rampersaud, left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican and leg-spinner Walsh, who is an Antiguan.
Stoute bowls medium-pace, Greaves is a seamer and Nurse and Williams are off-spinners.
Well-placed sources have pointed out that Stoute will lead the team in the first two matches before being replaced as captain by Brooks.
Likely squad: Kevin Stoute (captain), Anthony Alleyne, Shayne Moseley, Aaron Jones, Jonathan Carter, Kenroy Williams, Justin Greaves, Mario Rampersaud, Ashley Nurse, Jomel Warrican, Shakeem Clarke, Shamar Springer, Hayden Walsh Jr.
(Editor’s note: This column was written before the Barbados Pride squad was announced this evening).
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-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