Just over a year and five months into his appointment as West Indies lead selector, the honeymoon period of The Right Honourable Desmond Haynes and his panel has ended.
On January 6, 2022, Cricket West Indies (CWI) named Haynes to take over the chairmanship as the replacement for Roger Harper, after his contract was not renewed. Since then, criticisms of Haynes’s selections have started to become more strident!
While the initial reaction to Haynes’ appointment was that mostly of optimism, there were some elements of doubt as to his suitability for the job.
Haynes is highly respected throughout the Caribbean for his legendary career as an opening batsman for the West Indies. He announced his entry into international cricket on his debut with a knock of 148 against Australia and scored a further 8500 ODI runs, including 17 centuries during his six-year career.
He also represented the West Indies in 116 Tests, scoring 7487 runs including 17 centuries. He spent the majority of his Test and ODI career as an opening-batting partner to the equally legendary Gordon Greenidge, his fellow Barbadian countryman. Together they formed one of the most successful opening partnerships in international cricket history.
Having also captained the West Indies in four Tests and been inducted into the ICC’s Hall Of Fame in June 2021, Haynes’ pedigree as lead selector, therefore, seemed to be beyond dispute. There was, however, still some prevailing sentiment at the time that he would have been much better suited as a replacement for the by-then-beleaguered West Indies head coach Phil Simmons.
However, despite his very impressive and indisputable knowledge and experience that he brought into the role, from the very outset there was some degree of controversy surrounding teams picked by the Haynes-led selection panel.
One of the panel’s earliest controversial decisions was the inclusion of Test seamer, Kemar Roach in the West Indies ODI squad to tour India just a month after Haynes took over. Regarded as one of the most successful Test seamers the West Indies has ever produced, Roach’s effectiveness in ODI matches has never matched up.
In his 92 ODI matches played for the West Indies before the 2022 India tour; Roach had taken 124 wickets at an average of 31.08 and an economy rate of over 5.00. By the time the tour’s three scheduled ODI matches were completed, he had added only one more victim to his overall tally.
Roach’s solitary wicket in the three-match series was captured at the cost of 122 runs from 20 overs bowled. To add insult to injury, Roach failed to complete his allocated 10 overs in any of the three matches played.
In the now approximately 17 plus months that have passed since that initial faux pas, almost every team selected by Haynes and his fellow selectors has included at least one controversial pick. From Yannic Cariah’s surprise inclusion in the West Indies 2022 T20 World Cup squad, through to the equally controversial selection of Roston Chase as the West Indies’ supposed frontline off-spinner for the Test tour to Australia which followed immediately after.
Further evidence of the growing void between the selection panel and the opinions of most Caribbean cricket fans and followers has been provided by the recently announced squads.
Firstly, they were the 15 chosen for the West Indies ‘A’ tour to Bangladesh. This was followed almost immediately after by the announced West Indies squad to participate in the final qualifier for the ICC ODI World Cup, to be held in India this coming November.
The announced squad for its ‘A’ team tour to Bangladesh was controversial for both its inclusions and omissions. Yannic Cariah, Keacy Carty, Anderson Phillip and Ramon Reifer were primary among the squad’s inclusions that raised eyebrows.
Even more questionable were the omissions of the very promising and talented West Indies Academy batsmen, Kevlon Anderson and Kevin Wickham, both of whom had demonstrated their immense potential during this year’s Four-Day Championships.
Cariah and Carty were “recurring themes” and so too was Roston Chase who has apparently become a “must pick.”
Mediocre would be a complimentary description for Chase’s well-documented inferior returns of late with both bat and ball. Yet, despite such failures, Chase has continued to win the favour of the selectors.
The puzzling decisions of the three-member panel has led to suggestions that its composition should be increased back to five members, as it used to be when the West Indies were a dominant force in international cricket.
Persons such as Eldine Baptiste, Jeffrey Dujon, Tony Gray and Lockhart Sebastian are some of those who could sit on an expanded selection panel. Leon Johnson, the recently retired, successful, multi-title winning Guyana Jaguars’ captain, has also been suggested as someone who would bring a much-needed youthful perspective.
According to the initial announcement of his appointment, Haynes’ tenure as lead selector is scheduled to last until June 2024. Between now and then, Haynes and his fellow selectors will have several major assignments.
India’s tour to the Caribbean, potentially the ICC ODI World Cup, assuming the West Indies can advance from the Zimbabwe qualifier; a tour to Afghanistan, England’s end-of-year white ball visit and a return to Australia next January-February.
By then, if the selection panel’s squad choices continue to be similarly controversial, the very same public criticism that was directed and eventually used to the demise of his predecessor Roger Harper will again become present. The now relatively quiet whispers of dissatisfaction over Haynes’ performance as lead selector could very well soon, long before next June, become a public uproar!
About The Writer: Guyana-born, Tony McWatt is the Publisher of both the WI Wickets and Wickets/monthly online cricket magazines that are respectively targeted toward Caribbean and Canadian readers. He is also the only son of the former Guyana and West Indies wicket-keeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.