On numbers and experience, Barnwell and Hemraj were deserving of WI ODI nod
By Akeem Greene
West Indies will upkeep their contractual responsibilities in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Future Tours Programme when they visit Bangladesh later this month for three One-Day Internationals and two Tests.
Thirteen regular squad members are absent for varying reasons; 10 due to COVID-19 concerns, two for personal reason and one due to injury concerns.
Bangladesh, as of January 4, 2020, recorded 516,929 confirmed cases, and between December 22 and January 4, they had 14,746 cases. Overall, there have been 7,650 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
The pullout of the senior players naturally opened the door for those who would have been knocking via their creditable performances in Super50 and the Four-Day championship.
The current selection panel, which took over in October 2019, is chaired by Guyanese Roger Harper, and also includes Vincentian Miles Bascombe and Trinidadian Phil Simmons, who is also the Head Coach.
Courtney Browne, the former Chairman, adopted a policy of players having to produce over more than one season then at the A-team level before a senior team nod.
Back in May 2020, Harper had told News Room Sport, that the panel is keen on looking at players’ current form when selecting squads.
However, Veerasammy Permaul, who 50 wickets in the 2020 season, 14 more than the next best, Chemar Holder, was not a part of the 25 players, who went to England for the first Test series since the pandemic.
Yet again, the current form approach seems a bit blurred, since Kieran Powell, who scored 524 at an average of 58.22, inclusive of two centuries and two fifties, tops the charts, but was overlooked with Harper citing fitness issues.
All-rounder Christopher Barnwell would feel hard done since he was eighth on the leading run-scorers list – 351 runs at an average of 43.87 and strike rate 99.71, and saw players below him on those charts, some with little to no international experience, make the ODI squad.
Over the last three seasons, the 33-year-old has been by far, Guyana Jaguars’ most productive and consistent batsman in the 50-over format.
His aggregate since February 2018 is 873 runs at an average of 45.94 with seven half-centuries. His highest score during this period is 99*, striking in excess of 88.
Of the uncapped ODI players in this current squad, only Jamaica’s 33-year-old Andre McCarthy, who has accumulated 1,002 runs over the three seasons, has more runs than Barnwell, who has featured in six Twenty20 Internationals.
However, Barnwell, has a better average than McCarthy’s 43.73 and much better than Trinidadian Kjorn Ottley, who has 764 runs at 37.14.
Despite having more fifties, Barnwell does not have a century during the said period, unlike some of the other uncapped contenders.
In addition to Barnwell’s impressive record last season in the Four-Day format, his vast experience would have been handy in such a young and inexperienced team.
The big contention is with a vastly depleted squad, one of the most consistent performers still does not make the touring party.
Understandably, if it was a full-strength squad the chances become less for Barnwell, but his current non-selection brings into question the system of merit.
With international player Sunil Ambris being vice-captain and has kept in the past, and Joshua DaSilva more than likely taking up the role behind the stumps due to a high-performing Super50 in 2019, it begs the question why walk with a third wicketkeeper in Jahmar Hamilton?
In nine innings at the last Super50, Da Silva, who played for champions West Indies Emerging players, scored 310 runs, inclusive of one century and one fifty at an average of 44.28, and had 13 dismissals.
Hamilton, who captained Leeward Islands Hurricanes, also found his best form, after failures in the two previous editions. He made 241 runs in nine innings at 34.42, and had a best of 78* from 34 balls, which knocked out Trinidad and Tobago Red Force in the semi-final.
Solely on 2019 List A numbers, one can see some merit in him getting the nod over Anthony Bramble in the ODI squad, who without question should be in the Test squad, but the rationale with three wicketkeepers for three ODIs seems flawed.
Left-hander Chandrapaul Hemraj played the last of his six ODIs on the last tour to Bangladesh in 2018.
In the Super50, he has scored two centuries opening the batting over the last three tournaments. Over those tournaments, he averages 30.05, having accumulated 571 runs in 20 innings, one of which was an unbeaten 103* in October 2018.
In the last tournament he made 202 runs, of which he made an even hundred, but his strike rate, unlike the two previous seasons where it was in excess of 90, was 68.47.
His natural attacking instinct makes him a perfect foil for Ambris at the top. He also had over 300 runs in 10 innings in the Four-Day tournament last season.
Outside the box
Thinking outside of the box and to the future, this was also a perfect opportunity to blood the likes of Kevin Sinclair or Jayden Seales. Even if they didn’t get the chance to make a debut, being involved in such an environment would have only augured well for future development.
If we go on the ‘current form’ policy, both have certainly done enough to warrant a look-in in these circumstances.
Pacer Sheeno Berridge, who topped the charts with the ball at the last Super50, was also overlooked, again bringing into focus the merit of the ‘current form’ policy.
Some may argue as well for the inclusion of Jamaica Scorpions’ batsman Assad Fudadin, who made 345 runs, inclusive one century and two fifties at an average of 43.12, as a back-up opener, but at 35, age would be a factor the selectors might consider.
The Johnson ‘excuse’
Harper indicated that Guyana Jaguars five-time, title-winning captain, Leon Johnson, was considered to lead the West Indies Test team to tour Bangladesh, but the selection panel opted for Kraigg Brathwaite instead.
“That, of course, was a consideration, but the fact that we had Kraigg Brathwaite there, we decided to go with Kraigg,” Harper disclosed on the Barbados radio show, Mason and Guest.
But Johnson is not even part of the Test squad, and has not been since he last played in November 2016.
I seek to draw a parallel with a different system, which reaped success. Do you remember Australian George Bailey?
Bailey, 32, was one of the beneficiaries of Australia’s change of selectors in 2011-12, when the new chairman John Inverarity named him as the new T20 captain despite having never played an international match.
His tactical nous was viewed as a key asset by Inverarity, who was keen for Australia to push up the T20 rankings from their place at No.5.
His emergence as an international player led to him becoming a key ODI batsman for Australia and later making his Test debut. In a nutshell, I call it thinking outside of the box.
Brathwaite, who has played the most number of Tests (64) in the current squad, has captained the Test side on five occasions in Jason Holder’s absence between 2017-2019, losing all five matches.
He was replaced as Vice-captain by fellow countryman Roston Chase for the tour to New Zealand.
So instead of a progressive move or change in tactics, the selectors opted to take two step backwards and appoint someone with little success in the role at the international level.
Brathwaite was captain on the last tour to Bangladesh when West Indies lost the first Test by an innings and 184 runs and the second by 64 runs.
When the opener was removed from the role as Vice-captain, it was aimed at giving him more time to focus on his personal form.
Johnson scored 472 runs at 36.30 with a best of 189* in last Four-Day season, while Brathwaite, who batted 15 innings, one more than Johnson, made 468 at 33.42 with a best of 84*.
With the exception of Devon Smith, all the other leading batsmen above Johnson and some below would have made it to West Indies’ touring parties on the Test tours to England, New Zealand, and now Bangladesh.
In his two innings against Bangladesh, Johnson averages 53.50 and also has a highest Test score of 66 against the Asian unit.
In these special circumstances, it was a perfect opportunity to Test the depth of skill and leadership in the region.
West Indies Test Squad: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, John Campbell, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Kavem Hodge, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Shayne Moseley, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Raymon Reifer and Jomel Warrican.
West Indies ODI Squad: Jason Mohammed (captain), Sunil Ambris (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton, Chemar Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Andre McCarthy, Kjorn Ottley, Rovman Powell, Raymon Reifer and Hayden Walsh Jr.