WORLD CUP: Harper preferred Paul over Brathwaite

- Backs West Indies to go all the way

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By Akeem Greene

Former West Indies player and Head Coach, Roger Harper, has given the Caribbean side a vote of confidence to win the Cricket World Cup after 40 years.

However, he stated the missing key element in what he described as a “competitive squad” is all-rounder Keemo Paul, whom he would have selected ahead of Carlos Brathwaite.

The mega event starts Thursday in England and Wales, and the Caribbean side will begin their campaign in the format that mirrors that of 1992, on Friday (May 31) against Pakistan. The format means each of the 10 teams play each other once, with the top four progressing to the semi-finals.

Roger Harper

Interestingly, Pakistan won the event when it last used this format, which also happens to be the first time coloured clothing was attired by teams for a World Cup.

“A very competitive squad. It is a squad with a lot of attacking players with both bat and ball and we have experience and youth; we have a squad that is built in good conditions to be able to put really big totals on the board,” Harper related to News Room Sport in a recent interview.

He added, “My only concern is if you get a typical English summer and the ball is moving a lot, whether we have the players to be able to cope with those conditions to put up a holding innings together and be able to put good put totals on the board.”

“West Indies are capable of beating any team on the day and I think if the conditions are right and if we get a good summer in England I expect them to go very far and I think they can win the tournament, but the conditions have to be right.”

In dissecting the team, the lanky former off-spinner was frank about the spinning depth, or lack thereof in the West Indies squad.

“Certainly we don’t have a match-wining spinner, but the spinners that they have in [Ashley] Nurse and [Fabian] Allen will have to play their part and compliment the pacers. You have a good fast-bowling attack, who once they can remain fit, they should be fairly penetrative.”

Carlos Brathwaite is bowled (Getty Images)

Keemo over Carlos

For Harper, a man who played 105 ODIs between 1983-96 then coached the Caribbean side from 2000 to 2003 during a period of transition, his major contention is the omission of Paul from the squad. He firmly believes all-rounder Paul would have been a better pick ahead of Brathwaite.

“The selection in question would have been Carlos Brathwaite and that is the spot that could have been Keemo Paul’s, and they will have to find someone to bowl at the death. Keemo is a young man and his turn will come again, he has to keep working.”

Interestingly, barring injury during the England Test series, Paul would have been in West Indies ODI squad for the five matches and the T20I. He has only played 11 ODIs since making a debut in the qualifiers in 2018, but has showcased all the ingredients to be the man for the death bowling job.

He is street smart and has a good disguise on his slower balls, and can deliver the yorker to good effect. His ODI economy rate is under six and his 5-15, albeit in a T20I, shows there is quality in wicket-taking ability.

Most recently, those skills were showcased during the Indian Premier League for Delphi Capitals where he managed to get a Man-of-the-Match award.

On the other hand, Brathwaite, since making his debut in 2011, has played 33 matches and taken 31 wickets with a best of 5-27. With the bat he averages 14.40 with just one half-century.

The 56-year-old Harper further expressed that the blossoming batting talent Shimron Hetmyer will have a key role to play, and he simply needs to find ways to be selective in his stroke-making.

Squad: Jason Holder (c), Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Ashley Nurse, Fabian Allen, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope (wk), Oshane Thomas, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Evin Lewis.

Preliminary Round Schedule

May 31: West Indies vs Pakistan – Nottingham

June 6: Australia vs West Indies – Nottingham

June 10: South Africa vs West Indies – Southampton

June 14: England vs West Indies – Southampton

June 17: West Indies vs Bangladesh – Taunton

June 22: West Indies vs New Zealand – Manchester (8:30 am EC Time)

June 27: West Indies vs India – Manchester

July 1: Sri Lanka vs West Indies – Chester-le-Street

July 4: Afghanistan vs West Indies – Leeds

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