Picking the West Indies squad to Zimbabwe By Imran Khan
Stabroek News
October 15, 2003

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The West Indies team will begin a two-Test and five- match One-Day International engagement with Zimbabwe from November 4 and the 16 man squad is generally unlikely to spring any surprises from the selectors who will sit down to select the team this week.

The Sir Viv Richards- chaired selection committee would not be too inclined to deviate from the formula that they have been fine tuning throughout the last home series against Australia and Sri Lanka. The squad is expected to have the usual eight batsmen and they should be captain Brian Lara, vice captain Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Marlon Samuels, Devon Smith and Daren Ganga.

No other batsman has used the opportunities in the Red Stripe Bowl to overwhelmingly cause the selectors to consider him ahead of these eight who have been identified as the current core.

If there are any surprises it can only be that of Ricardo Powell being drafted in to be given a second life in Test cricket, which some analysts suggest would be a wise decision.

But for the powerhouse Jamaican right hander to make the playing 11 would demand an injury to at least one, if not two, of the established batsmen.

And if he is surprisingly included at whose expense would it be? Given that Ganga has not done badly in the RSB, scoring 71 and 49not out, and Smith did not register a single half century the Grenadian could possibly lose his place.

I am not expecting any surprises though; Smith should go and Powell, the One-Day specialist, should take Ganga’s place for the shorter games.

With Carlton Baugh being identified as the heir to Ridley Jacobs, his place behind the sticks this tour would commence his international sojourn with the senior guys. Though he may not get into the Test squad, surely a few One-Day games should be coming his way, especially if the Windies take an early lead.

Whatever his luck, Baugh should be most keen on learning the ropes and sharpening his glovework which at times can slip a few rungs below what is acceptable. His concentration can sometimes go awry and watching Jacobs can only enhance his own performance.

Lara has already guaranteed places to Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards so they are shoo ins. The resurgent Corey Collymore has now established himself not singularly as a One-Day bowler but someone who can add more than spice to the Test attack. His hardworking attitude, swing and commitment to an off stump line is enough to guarantee that the Barbadian retains his place. Though not the fastest of the lot, Collymore is a certain starter when the West Indies play their first Test in Harare.

Omari Banks too should get himself his first overseas plane ticket given his match -winning innings when the West Indies pulled off a historic fourth innings victory over Australia in Antigua. The young effervescent and crafty off-spinner whose value is upped with his competent bat wielding is as useful as any of his contemporaries in the Caribbean.

Despite that strike of lightning, Merv Dillon, in the RSB, looks as though he has regained his yearning to bowl, and bowl well, and is also likely to keep his spot.

The experience of his 34 Tests and 123 wickets will count heavily in his favour, particularly with two rookie pacers onboard along with Collymore who has only played three Tests.

With those fifteen named there is one more slot to fill and if the selectors opt to continue with what they have had in the recent past it would go to another Bajan pacer in Vasbert Drakes.

Four names seem to be popping up in discussions which would give Vasbert some worry. Three of them are Trinidadians, while the other is a Jamaican fast bowler.

Dinanath Ramnarine, the leggie with 45 Test wickets and Dave Mohamed the left arm back-of-the-hand spinner, are the two slow bowlers who can edge themselves in. Daren Powell, the lean Jamaican quickie has been bowling with genuine pace and sharpness during the RSB, though he has not gotten a bagful of wickets to show. And reports out of Antigua are that youngster Ravi Rampaul was smoking, creating some excitement in the RSB’s Zone B.

Given that there are already two young, inexperienced pacers on tour who would demand much of the attention of both the head coach and the bowling coach, Rampaul is likely to have to wait a while longer. This would also be in the best interest of the young exciting prospect.

With a little more time to tighten up his action and enhance his armoury when he finally makes his debut, possibly in 2004, he can be a handful and a half for batsmen to handle. Ramnarine has ten wickets so far in the RSB and Mohamed has seven while Powell took eight.

Ramnarine is looking the sort of spinner he was when he was on top his game. The right armer has shed the extra pounds he had bulked on and looks sharp and ready to resume his international career. Mohamed has always been a confusing proposition for most regional batsmen. To see almost all the Jamaican batsmen bamboozled by his turn and variation was to watch a fine young spinner who needs the sort of fatherly guidance that a Brian Lara may be able to provide. Too often Mohamed is impatient and tries too many unnecessary and sometimes costly tricks which can diminish not only his figures but confidence as well.

He appears an improved bowler but for experience Ramnarine will get the edge.

Powell has discarded the acutely angular run-up which he struggled with earlier this year and is now back to the straight, steady approach.

The result for him has been two wickets in each of Jamaica’s RSB games and pace which sometimes bordered on hostility.

Powell still is lacking in his analysis of batsmen and situations and adapting to these quickly. He is another one of the young fast bowlers who a bowling coach can work wonders with.

So is it likely that any one of these three will unseat Drakes? If Ramnarine does not he can effectively call his international career quits. They all have good chances but if the selectors remain conservative Drakes’ run will continue.

Likely West Indies Squad
1. Brian Lara - Captain
2. Ramnaresh Sarwan - Vice Captain
3. Shivnarine Chanderpaul
4. Chris Gayle
5. Wavell Hinds
6. Marlon Samuels
7. Devon Smith
8. Daren Ganga
9. Ridley Jacobs
10. Carlton Baugh
11. Jerome Taylor
12. Corey Collymore
13. Merv Dillon
14. Omari Banks
15. Fidel Edwards
16. Vasbert Drakes
*Ganga is likely to be replaced by Ricardo Powell for the One Dayers while Edwards should give way for Ryan Hurley.