What the people say about:
The composition of the West Indies squad for the World Cup next month

by Michael DaSilva
Stabroek News
April 21, 1999

David Erskine - public servant: "Basically, the squad named is a reasonable one, but I think there should have been a place for opening batsman Phillo Wallace even though he performed below par in South Africa. If one is to take a serious look at that [South African] tour, everyone failed including star batsman Brian Lara. If I were a selector, I would have brought in Wallace instead of Stuart Williams to open the batting. Wallace is needed especially in the first 15 overs when the West Indies would need someone who can get the ball over the top and score freely. Basically, most bowlers have more fear for Wallace than Williams. I am a bit sceptical about Nehemiah Perry's selection, since Carl Hooper always used to contain batsmen with his leg-breaks. I also thought the selectors would have gone for variety and included Neil McGarrell instead of Perry. McGarrell is a fine left-arm off-break bowler who does wonders with the ball, but failed in South Africa. Look at the situation West Indies faced when Lara gave McGarrell the ball. The South Africans only needed a few runs to win and McGarrell, making his one day debut away from home with a predominantly South African crowd behind their team, just could not rise to the occasion. Any other bowler might have been treated the same way as the South Africans treated McGarrell during the `happy hour' period."

Dexter VanCooten - private sector employee: "The composition is not a bad one but I think there are a few errors especially with the non-selection of Neil McGarrell who is one of the best one day all rounders in the Caribbean. Courtney Walsh should not have been in the squad, not that he is not one of finest fast bowlers in the world, but he is a test player first and foremost. Test cricket and one day internationals [ODIs] are very different, in Test cricket a team can have six to seven front line batsmen and the tail-enders do not have to be batsmen, but ODIs are different. In one day cricket, everyone must know to bat and to a lesser extent bowl. Walsh cannot bat and his fielding is no better but he is a very good five-day bowler. McGarrell can bat, he fields in any position and is one of the best left-arm off-break bowlers in the Caribbean. Clayton Lambert's omission is also a cause for concern. He is capable of giving his team 50 to 60 runs from the first 15 overs in one day games, he is a fine fielder and history would prove that he is a very good one day bowler as well. In my 15, I would have taken out Stuart Williams and Walsh and replaced them with Lambert and McGarrell. In that way I would have had three front line bowlers in Curtley Ambrose, Reon King and Mervyn Dillon; two seam bowlers, Hendy Bryan and Phil Simmons; and five slow bowlers, Keith Athurton, Carl Hooper, Jimmy Adams, Neil McGarrell and to a lesser extent Shivnarine Chanderpaul. In such a line-up, the team would have 11 players who can bat, bowl and field. I am pleased with the inclusion of Sir Vivian Richards in West Indies' management team and I sincerely hope that in the near future, Rohan Kanhai would get on board as a batting coach. Kanhai is one of the greatest West Indian batsman of all time."

Gary Nascimento - overseas-based Guyanese/former GCC first division cricket captain: "I cannot see the sense in selecting Stuart Williams and Nehemiah Perry and leaving out Neil McGarrell and Adrian Griffith from such a tournament. McGarrell did well in South Africa taking into account that all the West Indian slow bowlers were punished by the South African batsmen. McGarrell is also an excellent fielder and can give a good account of himself with the bat. As for Griffith, he should have been selected in front of Williams and McGarrell for Perry. Griffith is needed to open the batting since he can give any team a good start during the first 15 overs. Apart from being a technical player who pushes the ball around and get the singles which are needed in any type of cricket, he can also put it over the top during those opening overs. He would be dearly missed in England next month. The selectors have to realise that the wickets in England assist the bowlers since they are not as hard as those wickets found in the West Indies. The bowlers get the ball to move around a lot on the English wickets."

Trevor Wharton - cricket umpire: "The squad for the World Cup is not a bad one, but I think Clayton Lambert should have been included instead of Stuart Williams. Lambert is excellent in the field and this would have been an asset to the West Indies. Neil McGarrell also should have been included instead of Perry. His left-arm off-break bowling would have added variety to the bowling attack. He is no rabbit with the bat and his fielding is way above that of most of the other West Indian players. Walsh's inclusion, to me, is the selectors way of giving him a send off for the valuable service he has given to the West Indies over the years. When you look at it, Walsh is exceptional with the ball, but does not have a throwing arm, so any ball going to him can be considered two runs if not three. He is even worse with the bat. If West Indies need say 15 runs to win the match and Walsh is the last man in, the team can consider the game lost. In the final analysis, my comments or anyone else's cannot change things now, so I would advise all the people of the Caribbean to do as David Rudder said in his West Indies anthem 'Rally Round the West Indies'."

Abdul Saphie - self-employed: "The composition of the West Indies squad is not a bad one, but I would have loved to see Clayton Lambert included as an opener. He did well last year against England but failed like everyone else in South Africa against the home team. Why play Stuart Williams and have him batting at number six in the first place. He failed as an opening batsman and did even worse at number six so why are the selectors insisting on selecting him at all. To my mind Courtney Walsh should not have been included, but the generous selectors probably want to honour him for his heroic performances over the years. Omitting Neil McGarrell from the squad is a slap in every West Indian's face. He did well in South Africa under the constraints faced by the other team members and on returning home he is left in the wilderness. Personally I rate McGarrell as a far better all-rounder than Nehemiah Perry who was chosen. But one has to remember that McGarrell is a Guyanese."

Birchmore Philadelphia - trades unionist: "The 15-man squad named by the selectors is a good one, but I must admit that at first I was not comfortable with Phil Simmons's selection based on his performance recently. However, Simmons has come on a lot during this current one day series versus Australia and I hope he would continue to do good in England. At first I was expecting to hear Neil McGarrell being named in the squad since McGarrell is a fine one day player who performs in every department. All in all the squad is a good one and should give a very good account of themselves."

Resurgent Windies in with World Cup chance

By Tony Cozier

The West Indies are gradually putting the pieces back together that were so scattered by their trauma in South Africa.

Inspired by the restored brilliance of Brian Lara, the prodigal son of a captain, they have refound much of the self-confidence shattered by the drubbing by Hansie Cronje's team and the verbal anger of their own Board and public.

To have held Australia 2-2 in the Test series that immediately followed the chastening 5-0 whitewash was a timely and thoroughly unexpected tonic. It has been reflected in the subsequent series of one-day internationals that are being used, by both teams, as a prelude to the World Cup and now stand at two wins each.

To have ventured such a prediction just six weeks ago would have been to warrant an appointment with Dr. Rudi Webster. West Indies cricket was in such a state of shock and chaos in the aftermath of the South African experience that the Board placed Lara on a two-match probation as captain and touched its lowest point with the 51 all-out and defeat by 312 runs in the first Test. The transformation has been nothing short of miraculous. It has prompted hope, indeed optimistic expectation, that the World Cup can be regained after all these years. That, too, is a position to have merited Dr. Webster's attention until just recently.

Yet, until the South African experience, the West Indies had shown encouraging form in the abbreviated form of the game.

They had reached the final of the Champions Trophy in Sharjah in December, 1997, where they were beaten by England, a loss they avenged with a 4-1 triumph in the series in the Caribbean four months later. In the Wills International Cup in Bangladesh, the so-called mini-World Cup, even without their two premier bowlers, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, they convincingly defeated Pakistan and India on the way to the final, only to lose to South Africa.

A day later, captain Lara and vice-captain Carl Hooper were defying manager Clive Lloyd's instructions and heading to London for the players' notorious stand-off with the Board, the repercussions of which were apparent in the troubles that so swiftly followed.

Lloyd commented at the time that a strong team spirit had developed in Bangladesh. It rapidly eroded in South Africa and its regeneration has been largely responsible for the turnaround in fortunes.

At their best, the West Indies are still as dangerous as anyone, as the Australians have been. Lara, Hooper and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are batsmen who have won matches with one brilliant innings, Ambrose and Walsh remain, even in their mid-30s, two of the meanest bowlers in the game. The last time they were in Australia, two seasons ago, the West Indies advanced to the finals of the CUB series, Australia did not. The two decisive victories featured separate hundreds by Lara and Hooper in one, a devastating 90 by Lara in the other.

Hundreds by Chanderpaul, 150 off 136 balls, and Hooper ensured the West Indies won at least one match in South Africa.

What has hurt the West Indies most since their heyday of the late 1970s and 1980s, when they won the first two World Cups, a string of Benson & Hedges Cups in Australia and up to 70 per cent of their matches, is the lack of effective support players and their disregard for fielding. They have no Michael Bevan like Australia or Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener like South Africa who they can confidently turn to if their top-order batsmen fail. They are without a specialist batsman who can bowl half-dozen steady overs in a squeeze, as so many of the Australians and South Africans can. And their fielding in South Africa was an embarrassment for a team that had set such standards of excellence, especially compared to their dazzling opponents. Chanderpaul and Keith Arthurton were the rare exceptions to the general sloppiness that cost dearly.

It prompted the West Indies Board to engage the specialist fielding and throwing coach, Australian Julian Fountain, to work with the team during the current season and at the World Cup. His effect has been immediately apparent.

In four one-day internationals against the Australians so far, there have been five run outs, as many as there were in seven matches in South Africa in the one-day internationals. Three have been direct hits to finish off scampering batsmen. Sliding saves, never a part of the West Indian game, have been astounding their followers and several throwing arms have added power and accuracy. The selectors went through a long process of trial and error before settling on their World Cup 15, picking 28 players in the 26 matches leading up to the tournament. They chopped and changed their opening pair, used three different wicket-keepers and included eight different fast bowlers. After all that, they were clearly still not satisfied as they included two new names in the squad, the seam bowler Hendy Bryan and the off-spinner Nehemiah Perry. They also recalled Sherwin Campbell, the opener who was not in their provisional list of 19 and who had last played one-day cricket in Pakistan in October, 1997.

There was also a recall for Walsh who, it seemed, had gone into voluntary retirement from the shortened game when he opted out of the home series against England last year, commenting that it was a game for young men.

The selectors were understandably seduced by his vast experience and success in English county cricket and by the fact that the tournament is in May and June when pitches usually favour seam bowling of which he is a past master.

Such considerations nullified Walsh's deficiencies in the field, especially his weak throwing, and with the bat. It is ironic that such negatives outweighed the positives in 1992 when he was omitted from the 15 for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand for fear that there would be no hiding place for him on the oversized ground in Australia. Now, seven years later at the age of 36, he is back.

Walsh's perennial partner Ambrose, at 35, is only a year younger than Walsh and had also been slowed in the field by the passing years. But the two are the only West Indians to have taken over 200 wickets in one-day internationals and among the few whose economy rate is under four runs an over - Ambrose at 3.54 and Walsh at 3.87. They were statistics that compelled their selections. In other areas, experience and all-round versatility, critical in the limited-overs game, were priorities that favoured three other seasoned campaigners, Jimmy Adams, Arthurton and Phil Simmons. All have played in previous World Cups, the left-handed Adams and Arthurton in 1996 and Simmons in 1987 and 1992. They are batsmen with solid records, sharp in the field and steady bowlers in differing styles.

Adams has also kept wicket efficiently and Simmons has the recommendation of an impressive record with Leicestershire in county cricket. Above all, both are strong team players, an essential factor in the restoration of spirit and confidence.

Ambrose and Walsh are supported by three younger fast bowlers, Bryan, Merv Dillon and Reon King, and the spinner, Perry.

Bryan was the only unexpected selection. The powerful Barbadian generates movement off the seam at a deceptively lively pace from a good, strong action. He is a hard-hitting closing-overs batsman and a deep fielder with a fast, accurate throw. He made an immediate impression with a return of four wickets, including the Waugh brothers and Bevan, for 26 from his 10 overs on debut and quickly handled the pressure of international competition.

Dillon and King have already shown their worth in more than a dozen one-day internationals. Perry's batting ability and sharpness in the field supplement his tidy off-spin but, with Hooper capable of doing his job with the ball, an additional batsman might have been more useful. As it is, there are no new batsmen. Campbell regained his opening spot alongside Chanderpaul with Stuart Williams an alternative but preferred primarily for the middle order. Placed at No.3 as a concession to Lara's concern over his lingering wrist injury, Adams has accentuated his versatility with refreshing aggression.

Whatever the combination, Lara's contribution often determines the final total - and his contribution depends heavily on his mood of the moment. For the moment, it appears focused.

The West Indies were being quoted at 14-1 for the Cup by London bookmakers following the South African debacle. The odds have progressively slipped to 8-1. South Africa, Australia and Pakistan justify their favoured status with their recent consistency but one of the attractions of limited-overs cricket is its unpredictability - and no team is more unpredictable than the West Indies.

Entering the 1983 World Cup final as overwhelming and justifable favourites, they stumbled at the last hurdle and were beaten by outsiders India. In the 1996 tournament, they lost to the unfancied part-timers of Kenya who bowled them out for 93 in the preliminary round - yet they immediately followed that with successive victories over Australia and, in the quarter-final, South Africa - and were a boundary away from reaching the final.

If few expect them to reach that far this time, few will be bold enough to bank on it.