ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Selectors have ignored Chris Gayle’s wretched form and named him in a 15-man squad for next month’s Twenty20 World Cup, while recalling 36-year-old fast bowler Ravi Rampaul for his first international match in six years.
Test all-rounder Roston Chase was also called up for the first time on the back of his heavy scoring in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League but no place was found for impressive fast bowling all-rounder Romario Shepherd or the heavy-scoring Sherfane Rutherford in the Kieron Pollard-led unit.
The left-handed Gayle, who turns 42 later this month, is perhaps the greatest batsman to have graced the T20 format with 14 179 runs and 22 hundreds from 442 T20s.
However, his recent form has been abysmal, averaging 17 from 16 T20 Internationals this year, and recording a single half-century in the last five years.
Further, Gayle has struggled badly in the ongoing CPL, scraping 83 runs from five innings at an average of 16 for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, to follow up his labours in the Indian Premier League earlier this year when he averaged 25 from eight games for Punjab Kings.
However, chief selector Roger Harper defended Gayle’s inclusion, contending the Jamaican’s presence actually “brings value to the team”.
“When you look at stats in themselves, they can’t be looked at in isolation,” Harper said moments after the squad was announced on Thursday.
“Of course present form is important, of course performance is key but I think as well you look at the pedigree of the player, you look at what the player brings to the team.
“And in Chris Gayle’s case, all that was taken into consideration in terms of what he can offer the team and whether his being part of that squad would make it stronger, and I think the selection panel was happy to answer ‘yes’ to those questions, thus he’s been included in the squad.”
When pressed on why Gayle’s protracted run of poor form had not been the sole basis for his non-selection, Harper argued: “The selection panel, having taken everything into consideration, thinks Chris Gayle brings value to the team, and his presence will help to make the team a better team.”
Joining Gayle on the trip to United Arab Emirates and Oman for the October 17 to November 14 showpiece will be the resurgent Rampaul, who grabbed the attention of selectors by taking 17 wickets in the ongoing CPL for Trinbago Knight Riders.
Rampaul, whose previous 23 T20 Internationals have yielded 29 wickets, got the nod ahead of the effervescent 26-year-old Shepherd, who has snatched 14 wickets in the CPL and is a capable lower-order batsman with a first class hundred.
“Ravi Rampaul is a highly experienced bowler who performed well in the last CG Insurance Super50 Cup and the current Hero CPL to date,” Harper pointed out.
“He will boost the team’s wicket-taking options in the power-play and the middle phase and will provide another option for the death overs.”
He added: “Consideration was given to Romario and he just missed out on a spot.”
Chase’s surprise call-up was earned on the basis of his superb form in the current CPL where he is the leading run-scorer with 281 runs at an average of 70 and a strike-rate of 151.
He lashed three back-to-back half-centuries last week to underline his class, which was also put on display in last year’s CPL when he hit two fifties in aggregating 225 runs at an average of nearly 40.
“Roston Chase has shown that he is a very capable T20 player. He performed well in the CPL in 2020 and has been outstanding in the 2021 edition so far,” Harper stressed.
“He has shown the ability to knit the innings together while still scoring at a fast rate with a low dot-ball percentage. He will be an excellent foil for the explosive players in the team.”
However, Rutherford’s 201 runs at an average of 40 with three fifties in the CPL, have gone in vain as Harper said the player had been ruled out due to fitness issues.
“Rutherford finds himself in a little different situation for as well as he has been performing, he’s one of a number of players who do not meet our fitness criteria so who would not be eligible for selection,” the former West Indies off-spinner said.
Champion off-spinner Sunil Narine, who has not played for West Indies in two years, was another player who failed to meet Cricket West Indies’ fitness criteria, Harper confirmed. Narine has also shied away from international duties in recent times as a result of concerns over his bowling action. He has been cited multiple times for throwing.
Former Test captain Jason Holder is one of four reserves who will travel with the 15-man squad.
West Indies will do battle in Group 1 against England, South Africa and Australia, along with two yet-to-be determined qualifiers.
SQUAD – Kieron Pollard (Captain), Nicholas Pooran (Vice Captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Roston Chase, Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Obed McCoy, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh jr
RESERVES – Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein. (CMC)