Batting problems are a worry for WI selectors

By Tony Cozier
Stabroek News
November 11, 1999

THE composition of the fast bowling attack, specifically the future status of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, would have been the central point of discussion when the West Indies selectors met here on Tuesday to pick their team for the imminent tour of New Zealand.

The "A" team for two four-day representative matches and three one-dayers against the touring India "A" team in Trinidad and Guyana later this month and early next was chosen at the same time.

Mike Findlay and his panel of Joey Carew, Joel Garner and captain Brian Lara (reappointed Tuesday) instituted a policy of phasing out Ambrose and Walsh by alternating the two great, but aging, stalwarts in the recent round of one-day internationals. They were used, Findlay said, "to provide the guidance and nurturing to the younger fast bowlers".

The strategy will probably, and logically, be continued, at least for the series of two Tests and five one-day internationals in New Zealand and the home series next March against Zimbabwe, also of two Tests.

It would then be reassessed for the subsequent tougher challenge of three home Tests against Pakistan. For two valid reasons, Ambrose is likely to be the one omitted when the 15 for New Zealand are announced.

Walsh, with 423 Test wickets, is only 12 away from passing India's Kapil Dev as the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket history. He will justifiably be given every opportunity to achieve the goal before he takes his final bow after a celebrated career that started in 1984 and has already counted 110 Tests.

At 369 wickets, Ambrose is not far short of the 400 mark only previously achieved by Kapil, Walsh and the New Zealander, Sir Ricard Hadlee. But he had to miss the recent Red Stripe Bowl with an arm injury sustained in the Champions Trophy in Sharjah last month that doctors advised would require six weeks rest.

Ambrose's active cricket in the five months since last summer's World Cup in England has amounted to 24 overs in Sharjah. At the age of 36, he would find it difficult to regain match fitness for the two Tests in New Zealand, December 16-20 and December 26-30.

His absence would open a place for one of the several potential replacements who have been given their chances in the past two years.

Seven have been chosen at one time or another - Franklyn Rose, Merv Dillon, Nixon McLean, Patterson Thompson, Reon King, Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore - but none has yet secured a settled place.

Only Thompson has drifted out of contention in the interim. Rose, the most effective swinger of all and, therefore, the best for New Zealand conditions, has returned to fitness and favour after losing both on the tour of South Africa so that the opportunity is there for him and the others to seize the moment and convince the selectors they can get by without Ambrose and, eventually, without Walsh as well.

In this area, the selectors have options.

In batting, they are more limited. Only Lara has played all 11 Tests of the most recent series against South Africa and Australia and, now that Carl Hooper has departed, the dearth of competent, experienced Test batsmen is more keenly felt.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul remains critical in the middle order although, like Lara, his recent form and attitude are of concern. Sherwin Campbell and Jimmy Adams, both dogged fighters, have regained positions temporarily lost.

Seeking answers, the selectors turned to raw Jamaican youth for the one-day series over the past couple of months.

Wavell Hinds, the most senior of the three, and Ricardo Powell and Chris Gayle, still wet behind the ears at this elevated level, did not let them down.

More challenging tests, in every sense of the word, lie ahead - for them and for West Indies cricket. A possible 15 for New Zealand would be: Brian Lara (captain), Sherwin Campbell, Adrian Griffith, Wavell Hinds, Dave Joseph or Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams, Ricardo Powell, Ridley Jacobs, Nehemiah Perry, Franklyn Rose, Reon King, Merv Dillon, Pedro Collins or Corey Collymore (if fit), Courtney Walsh.

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