Windies hampered by lack of quality players

Stabroek News
May 7, 2001

AS unpalatable as it is, Carl Hooper spoke the undeniable truth on Friday.

Asked whether there would be changes in the West Indies team in the back-to-back one-day internationals in Grenada over the weekend, he replied: "We'd like to rotate but I don't think we have the quality players to do that. We have to have the best eleven players on the field."

It is a situation that has clearly confounded the selectors, of whom Hooper is the most recent, in their choice of teams for the abbreviated game over the past year or so.

As of yesterday's match, they had used 26 players in the 20 one-day internationals since the 2000 West Indies season. Included in the shuffling have been 16 different pairs of opening batsmen and 10 separate new ball bowlers.

Often, selections have been baffling, not least for the present series.

Kerry Jeremy was sent home prior to the Carlton Series in Australia presumably because it was felt that his medium-pace bowling was not up to it, in spite of his youth and the benefit he would have gained from the experience.

Yet he was recalled and played in the Cable & Wireless opener at Sabina Park where Hooper was prepared to offer him only five unimpressive overs. He has not been seen in the two subsequent matches, not even given the chance at the ARG in his native Antigua, but has remained in the squad. He must be as confused as everyone else.

Nixon McLean was dropped after the first two Tests specifically because of his inability to maintain reasonable control of length and line, the very attributes demanded of the limited-overs game. But back he came for the one-day series.

It was hardly surprising that he sent down the same long hops and half-volleys that cost him his Test place. The upshot was 25 runs off his first two overs that gave the South African innings an instant kick-start towards it winning target.

Then there is the story of Leon Garrick.

The little opener was rushed into the side for the final Test the night before the match and then retained for the one-day internationals. He was ready for neither and by yesterday was watching from the dressing room.

The questions the selectors will understandably respond with is, if not Jeremy and if not McLean then who?

The answer was provided by Hooper on Friday. The West Indies simply do have enough quality players at present, more specifically bowlers.

Reon King, Franklyn Rose, Corey Collymore, Colin Stuart and Marlon Black are all fast bowlers used in the past year in whom the selectors appear to have lost faith.

Merv Dillon has settled into the Test team over the past couple of series but his inconsistency has again surfaced in the one-day game to such an extent that Hooper has been unable to use him for his alloted 10 overs in any of the three matches here.

It means that the only one Hooper can feel confident won't offer up rubbish is the rejuvenated Cameron Cuffy, now 31 and seven years after he first wore the West Indian maroon.

So while Shaun Pollock can say with certain conviction that at least eight of his players will be in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, no West Indian, Hooper and Brian Lara not necessarily excluded, can be sure he'll be there, given the recent juggling.

What is needed now is more settled selection. No player can establish himself if he can't be of his role in the team.

Wavell Hinds goes from match to match not knowing where he will bat, if he plays at all. Marlon Samuels finds himself at No.3 one day, No.6 the other. Ricardo Powell seems unsure just how he should play when there is only one way he can.

All are young and inexperienced and can't master the game at the highest level overnight. They undeniably have talent and will get better the more they play. But they have to be assured of their roles.

Such security alone won't suddenly make the West Indies World Cup favourites. There are other areas, namely batting, bowling and fielding, that need urgent attention. But it would establish continuity that is essential in developing any team.