In scrutinising the 15-member West Indies Test squad for the two-match series in Bangladesh next month, the omission of fast bowler Chemar Holder is puzzling.
Having impressed in his debut Test – the last of the just concluded two-Test tour to New Zealand with West Indies losing both matches – it was widely expected that the 22-year-old Barbadian would be in the team for the series against Bangladesh.
But he only found favour with the selectors for the three-match One-Day International series, which precedes the Tests.
Despite the “pretty” talk from chief selector Roger Harper that his panel picked “horses for courses” in light of spin friendly conditions, Holder’s exclusion is mind-boggling.
With captain and fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder among ten players who declined the opportunity to tour either for the Tests or ODIs because of “COVID-19 related concerns” and another two for “personal reasons”, it is even more baffling to omit Chemar Holder.
There are three specialist fast bowlers – veteran Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph – plus left-arm medium-pace all-rounder, Raymon Reifer.
Also included are three left-arm spinners in Veerasammy Permaul, Jomel Warrican and uncapped all-rounder Kavem Hodge, along with off-spinning all-rounder, Rahkeem Cornwall.
Apart from Dominican Hodge, there are three other uncapped players in opening batsman Shayne Moseley, fellow Barbadian, all-rounder Kyle Mayers, who bowls medium-pace and Jamaican batsman Nkrumah Bonner, who can bowl leg-spin.
“We have picked a bowling attack which is more suited to the conditions which we are likely to come up against so it is a matter of horses for courses,” Harper was quoted as saying.
“I think Chemar Holder bowled pretty well in his first outing at the Test level, and his omission has nothing to do with his ability or performance but the fact that we’re touring Bangladesh and we think that spin will play a big part.
“So, we wanted to make sure we were very equipped in that area.
“We picked a team based on conditions that we’re likely to face, the bowling attack was picked on the conditions we’re likely to face and it is unfortunate that Chemar missed out.
“However, it is not an indication of what we think about his ability and his performance in his first Test. Come the international competitions in the West Indies, we might look at things very differently.”
In a total of 460 all out off 114 overs at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, Chemar Holder took two for 110 off 26 overs as New Zealand won by an innings and 12 runs.
He should have retained his place in the squad for Bangladesh. Playing in different conditions can only help him to gain experience, especially with his promise and enthusiasm.
With all due respect to what Harper has said, one wonders how detailed the selectors took into consideration the history of performances by West Indies bowlers in Bangladesh since the first tour in 2002.
Pace bowling was responsible for West Indies winning both Tests in 2002 – by an innings and 310 runs in Dhaka and by seven wickets in Chattogram – under the captaincy of Ridley Jacobs.
There were four pacers in Jermaine Lawson, Daren Powell, Pedro Collins and Vasbert Drakes, who combined to haul in all 40 wickets.
Left-armer Collins took 12 wickets (ave: 14.50), Lawson 11 (ave: 12.27), Drakes 11 (ave: 14.09) and Powell six (ave: 22.83).
The same team played in both Tests – Jacobs, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Daren Ganga, Drakes, Powell, Collins and Lawson.
From a batting perspective, Jacobs scored 150 runs (ave: 150.00); Sarwan 149 (ave: 49.66); Samuels 137 (ave: 68.50); Gayle 126 (ave: 42.00); Hinds 115 (ave: 38.33) and Ganga 103 (ave: 51.50).
While there was mixed success by West Indies fast bowlers on three subsequent tours to Bangladesh, as figures in this column show, pace also dominated in 2012 when West Indies won both Tests, grabbing 29 wickets.
In 2011, in another two-Test series, West Indies won 1-0 with Daren Sammy as captain. The first Test in Chittagong was drawn before a 229-run triumph in Dhaka.
Those who played were Sammy, Kraigg Brathwaite, Lendl Simmons, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Kieran Powell, Carlton Baugh, Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach.
So the bowling attack comprised pacers Fidel Edwards, Roach and Rampaul, medium-pacer Sammy, leg-spinner Bishoo and off-spinner Samuels, better known for his batting.
Bishoo was the most successful with 11 wickets (ave: 21.18). Fidel Edwards took eight (ave: 30.50); Samuels, five (ave: 38.60); Sammy, four (ave: 28.25); Rampaul, two (ave: 34.00); and Roach, one (ave: 101.00).
In the batting, Kirk Edwards scored 252 runs (ave: 84.00; 1 century); Bravo 233 (ave: 77.66; 1 century); and Chanderpaul 126 (ave: 63.00).
One year later, Sammy was again the skipper as West Indies triumphed by 77 runs in Mirpur, Dhaka, with that match long remembered for Kieran Powell scoring 117 and 110, and by 10 wickets in Khulna.
Playing in the series were Sammy, Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Denesh Ramdin, Veerasammy Permaul, Sunil Narine, Tino Best, Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards.
The bowlers used were pacers Best, Edwards and Rampaul, medium-pacer Sammy, left-arm spinner Permaul and off-spinner Narine.
Best was the most successful with 12 wickets (ave: 14.33).
Permaul took eight (ave: 31.62), Edwards, seven (ave: 26.42; 1 match); Rampaul, five (ave: 30.00; 1 match); Sammy, five (ave: 37.80) and Narine, three (ave: 114.33).
Batting, Chanderpaul amassed 354 runs (ave: 354.00; 2 centuries); Samuels 277 (ave: 92.33; 1 century); Powell 249 (ave: 83.00; 2 centuries); Bravo 217 (ave: 72.33; 1 century) and Ramdin 162 (ave: 81.00; 1 century).
On the last tour in 2018, Bangladesh won both Tests – by 64 runs at Chattogram and by an innings and 184 runs in Mirpur, Dhaka, their biggest winning margin in Tests.
Bangladesh spinners took all 40 wickets, becoming the first team to achieve that feat by spin in a two-match Test series.
Jason Holder was ruled out of the tour with a shoulder injury and fellow Barbadian, opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, replaced him as the Test captain, as is the case again for the forthcoming series.
West Indies featured Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Shai Hope, Sunil Ambris, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shane Dowrich, Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican, Shannon Gabriel and Shermon Lewis.
The bowling comprised three pacers in Roach, Gabriel and Lewis, left-arm spinner Warrican, leg-spinner Bishoo and off-spinners Chase and Brathwaite.
Warrican took eight wickets (ave: 24.50); Bishoo, seven (ave: 27.85); Gabriel, five (ave: 18.80); Chase, four (ave; 42.75); Roach, three (ave: 45.00); Brathwaite, two (ave: 38.00); and Lewis, one (ave: 69.00).
Hetmyer scored 222 runs (ave: 55.50) and Dowrich 108 (ave: 36.00).
In relation to the squads for the imminent tour, apart from Jason Holder and white-ball captain Kieron Pollard, the other players who made themselves unavailable due to COVID-19 related concerns were Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, while Shane Dowrich and Fabian Allen cited personal reasons.
Since the original announcement, there has been one change to the ODI squad with Barbadian pacer Keon Harding replacing Guyanese fast bowling all-rounder Romario Shepherd, who returned a positive COVID-19 test.
Test – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, John Campbell, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Kavem Hodge, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Shayne Moseley, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Raymon Reifer, Jomel Warrican.
ODI – Jason Mohammed (captain), Sunil Ambris (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Andre McCarthy, Kjorn Ottley, Rovman Powell, Raymon Reifer, Hayden Walsh jr.
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).
Email: [email protected]