‘Fitness just as big as performance’- Guyana Jaguars Lead Selector
By Akeem Greene
Cricket Guyana Inc. has come in for widespread criticism over the composition of the Guyana Jaguars squad and the omission of some players for next month’s Regional Super50 in Antigua.
Chairman of Selectors, Rayon Griffith, in an exclusive interview with News Room Sport on Thursday explained that performance is not the sole criteria for selection, and that fitness is also an extremely important aspect that they consider.
Over the last few days, fans and local cricket administrators have taken to mainstream and social media, questioning the selectors’ rationale for the inclusion/exclusion of certain players. The 15-man squad, led by Leon Johnson, was announced on Tuesday.
[The criteria] is based on performances, you have fitness tests involved and you have to [consider] potential players you can develop. Performances are big, but as I said, fitness just as [big as] performances,” Griffith said in a response to a question on the criteria for selection.
In February 2020, when Shimron Hetmyer and Evin Lewis were dropped from the West Indies One-Day International squad for the tour to Sri Lanka, Cricket West Indies Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams, said irrespective of how productive a player is regarding on-field performances, fitness must go hand-in-hand if they are to play international cricket.
The policy has also trickled down to regional cricket and in the past, it has been used as a consideration in the level of contracts players are awarded.
Adams, the former West Indies captain, further clarified the required minimum standard is that of 40 on the Yo-Yo test. The Yo-Yo test is a maximal aerobic endurance fitness test, involving running between markers placed 20 meters apart, at increasing speeds, until exhaustion.
News Room Sport was reliably informed by other sources that several players did not meet the required mark on the Yo-Yo test, and it was factored into their non-selection.
Griffith added, “I was a bit disappointed in some of the results I saw when it comes to the fitness test. I think they had enough time to get themselves in order; it is not just this year [they failed the test], it is a consistent thing that is happening and at some point I will have to put it to an end, so I really wanted to draw the line at this present time.”
“I have realised that some county boards and some members have their concerns of why players are not selected, but I will urge them and try and get the players fit before they come into our fitness test; they can also help these players.”
“Everyone wants to see their players in the team, but the question is how are you helping your players to understand what is international cricket and what we are trying to achieve. As a player, you always have to have discipline and the discipline is not when it comes close to the competition and trying to get fit, it is for them to always stay discipline so that they can entertain.”
COVID-19 affected most cricket activities in 2020, and on November 1, 2020, the government opted to allow sport activities to resume and gyms to open at 50% capacity.
However, since the shut down in March, the players were engaged in sessions via Zoom and some players, from their social media posts, were seen being innovative in their methods of staying fit.
The fitness test ahead of the current squad being selected was conducted on January 14, at the National Track and Field facility, Leonora.
“The players had enough time,” the former national cricketer said.
“It showed you that some of the players were putting in the work and they had some high scores, some in-between, and some low scores. If you are discipline and hungry enough, you would put in the work instead of waiting for when the competition gets close and then trying to get fit.”
Griffith, who was also the Assistant Coach of the Guyana Amazon Warriors at last year’s Caribbean Premier League, said that some players were unfit since then and it reflected in the losses suffered, and he expected that players would have learnt from such an outing.
The current West Indies Assistant coach further explained how they balance when players are high performing on the field, but do not reach the required standard.
“The main objective is to try and get to 40; you have to get to 40. But all might not get to 40 because at the end of the day you might not have a squad. But if you can show improvement on the previous fitness test that you did, show you have been putting in some work, it can then be rewarding of selection. But, when you come really unfit, it is not looking really good.”
News Room Sport further questioned the overlooking of players, who passed fitness tests and perform at high standards domestically.
Griffith responded: “It is a squad of 15 and you try to get that balance. You mentioned Antony Adams, but there is Gudakesh Motie who is playing that [left-arm spinner] role and there is [Chandrapaul] Hemraj as back up, and we already have two specialist right-arm off-spinners in [Kevin] Sinclair and Ramaal [ Lewis].”
He added, “My encouragement to them is just keep working, it is cricket and your chance can come at any time and when the opportunity comes you must be ready.”
There have been several changes to the Guyana Jaguars 2019 Super50 squad, which failed to make the semi-finals in Trinidad and Tobago.
Omitted are Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Jonathan Foo, Ronsford Beaton, Ronaldo Alimohamed, Clinton Pestano and Kemol Savory. Veerasammy Permaul and Raymon Reifer played in 2019, but are currently on West Indies duties in Bangladesh.
This year, recalls were given to Assad Fudadin, Trevon Griffith and Keon Joseph, while there are maiden Jaguars’ Super50 call-ups for Kevin Sinclair, Akshaya Persaud and Tevin Imlach – all three have played List A cricket before for other teams.
Guyana Jaguars 2021 squad: Chandrapaul Hemraj, Trevon Griffith, Christopher Barnwell, Leon Johnson (Captain), Shimron Hetmyer (Vice-captain), Assad Fudadin, Keon Joseph, Romario Shepherd, Kevin Sinclair, Ramaal Lewis, Nial Smith, Gudakesh Motie, Anthony Bramble, Akshaya Persaud and Tevin Imlach.
The Jaguars will depart Guyana on January 30 for Antigua, where the tournament would be held from February 7-27.