Former West Indies fast bowler Tony Gray has slammed the exclusion of off-spinning all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall from the opening Test in Antigua and believes the subsequent lack of another impact bowler was one of the reasons behind the home side’s heavy defeat last Sunday.
West Indies left out Cornwall from the final XI and included seamer Miguel Cummins after fast bowling all-rounder Keemo Paul was ruled out with injury. However, Cummins proved woefully ineffective, sending down 20 lacklustre overs in the match without taking a wicket, as West Indies slid to a crushing 318-run defeat inside four days.
Gray, who played five Tests and 25 one-dayers for West Indies between 1986 and 1991, said Cornwall offered a great alternative, especially with his height and past success against batsmen from the subcontinent.
“We have to look first at the selection of the team. If we’re picking Rahkeem Cornwall [in the squad] with the history that he has behind him – doing well in regional cricket, very good bowling average and we know that he can bat, and also doing well on the A-team tours – you have to pick him [in the final XI] in that sort of situation,” Gray told the Mason and Guest radio programme on Tuesday.
“You don’t have a Michael Holding or a late Malcolm Marshall to have in your bowling unit. You have two strike bowlers in Shannon Gabriel and [Kemar] Roach who performed tremendously well in that game but when you don’t have an additional impact bowler, what you’re doing is putting pressure on the whole team and it’s going to have a domino effect in different ways.
“[Roston] Chase had to bowl a lot of overs, he’s had to use up concentration levels to get wickets because he’s there mainly as a batsman.”
Chase, a part-time off-spinner, sent down 54 overs in the match and with the pitch at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground flattening out into a good batting track, the unpractised off-spin of John Campbell and Kraigg Brathwaite was also required for 13 overs combined during India’s second innings of 343 for seven declared.
The 56-year-old Gray, a former chairman of selectors in Trinidad and Tobago, argued that if a fourth seamer had been necessary, the place should have gone to uncapped Barbadian Chemar Holder who picked up 15 wickets in the three-match four-day “Test” series against India A earlier this month.
“When you don’t have Cummins bowling enough overs and not impacting where penetration is concerned, you’re going to have a problem with the team and Roach and Shannon Gabriel will have to bowl more overs in that regard,” Gray pointed out.
“I think we should have gone with at least Cornwall but if we had to go with an additional fast bowler, I think that Chemar Holder should have played. The way West Indies cricket has gone we’ve got to think outside of the box and not be stereotypical in your selections.
“As somebody who has done well against India A recently, I saw him at the Queen’s Park Oval and I was very impressed with him.
“We needed an impact bowler in addition to the two other bowlers because when we did so well against England [earlier this year], we had Alzarri Joseph and what you also had was a captain (Jason Holder) who ran in. So what you had were four impact bowlers in that series and hence the reason the result was the way it was.”
With West Indies trailing 1-0 in the two-match series and needing a positive result in the Sabina Park Test starting Friday in Kingston in order to level the series, Gray said Cornwall needed to be handed his debut while out-of-form left-hander Darren Bravo had to be dropped.
“You always have to look at the pitch but Cornwall has to come in because … a lot of those guys would not have faced a guy who is six [feet], five-and-a-half [inches], bowling at a high action – he’s a different type of off-break bowler,” explained Gray.
“He’s the tallest off-break bowler in the world at the moment so we have to play him.”
He added: “Somebody has to come in for Bravo because I don’t think he’s confident at all. I don’t think he’s there. I would give him a rest.”
Gray contended his fellow Trinidadian had not been managed well in the lead-up to the series.
“We cannot have Bravo practising at home and there are A-team games [ongoing]. He’s struggling and he didn’t play in the A-team games,” Gray maintained.
“That’s foolishness, absolute nonsense. We have to put these guys in situations where they will improve.” (CMC)