The buck stops a the selectors Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
April 28, 2002

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So many things went wrong in West Indies’ second Test defeat by India, it would be easy to pass the buck.

The batsmen who failed to gather 182 runs on the final day for victory with eight wickets in hand, could be blamed for throwing the match away. One could highlight the inability of the key batsmen for not doing enough . Carl Hooper’s phenomenal scoring streak in the run-up to that crucial second innings, of 221, 149, 233 and 50 (batting with the tail), suggested he should have gotten more than 22, before losing his wicket to a shot, similar to one he had escaped with earlier in the innings.

The nervous unsettled state of double world record holder Brian Lara on that final day was unexpected and must have been a factor in him only adding seven runs to his overnight 40, when all West Indians were expecting the Prince of Port of Spain to lead the team to victory with his first Test century on home turf at the Queen’s Park Oval.

Of the other batsmen, Ramnaresh Sarwan is continuing to cause exasperation with his abrupt dismissals after doing all the hard work to build a foundation. He nevertheless did well in the circumstances, which proved beyond the abilities of Junior Murray and Stuart Williams, drafted into the team to make the batting stronger.

It could also be said that had the bowlers done better, especially in the first innings, the batsmen would not have had to score as much as 313 for victory. The inconsistent returns from Mervyn Dillon and company are not enough these days to win matches that count for West Indies.

The loss could also have been influenced by the continued ineptitude of the umpires from this elite panel appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC). There is no doubt the brunt of bad decisions were borne by the home team and one can only speculate that had eventual first innings century maker Sachin Tendulkar not been reprieved twice before he reached 35, or had the in-form Shiv Chanderpaul, not been adjudged lbw for nought when he should have been not out, the outcome could have been different.

One must not forget though, that the boot could have also been on India’s foot had the West Indies selectors started this campaign with a better choice of players, in the first instance.

The players usually are the first ones taken to task whenever a team suffers a loss.

But a player should not be blamed entirely for not doing more than he is capable of.

The officials who select him should be mainly responsible for teams falling short of expectations in such circumstances.

In this case the West Indies selection panel has once again found itself in an embarrassing situation following the results at Bourda and Queen’s Park Oval.

Close encounters are indicative of the strength of teams involved in competition and so far there seems little to choose between West Indies and India.

The difference between winning and losing usually hinges on important factors like captaincy skills, playing conditions and team selection. And from all indications the team put on show in Trinidad and Tobago was a huge factor.

The WI panel’s seeming addiction to chopping and changing resulted in the axing of reliable wicketkeeper/batsman Ridley Jacobs, and the recall of another opening batsman and the use of an almost entirely new bowling lineup, as opposed to the attack which lost to Pakistan in Sharjah.

Now the selectors are beginning to understand why it is important to examine all factors instead of relying on bare statistics of players when teams are selected.

Wicketkeeper Junior Murray might have scored more than 600 runs in the Busta Cup but his weakness of playing across the line regardless, is still very evident. The upshot was that he managed three runs in three innings, and notched up his 15th and 16th lbw decisions in 20-odd Tests.

Stuart Williams, Chris Gayle’s opening partner did not get more than 70 runs in his three innings mainly due to his longstanding inability to use his feet. And it is important to note that the opposition is merely India, a team in the lower rungs of the international ratings ladder, playing away from the sub-continent, in unfamiliar West Indian conditions. And it wasn’t bowling from Australia nor South Africa, or even Pakistan, England or Sri Lanka.

Similarly the majority of the bowlers, handpicked solely on Busta figures, without apparent regard for the qualities necessary for success at Test level, were found wanting.

One can only hope that the esteemed selection panel members do not find themselves wanting for the remainder of the series, even though they have now made their job more difficult.

The buck cannot go any further.