(This column was originally published in the Stabroek News newspaper)

“Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors, aren't yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!"

Those were the words of the seasoned Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford, in reaction to the storm of controversy that has been created as a result of the choices made by Selections’ Chair Roger Harper and his Panel for the West Indies official squad of 15 plus four reserves to participate in the forthcoming ICC 2021 T20 World Cup. The 2021 ICC T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE from October 17 – November 13.

Further revelations from the most recent episodes of the West Indies World Cup Squad “selections fiasco,” would now suggest that the sharpened knives have since not only been drawn but that it is now only a matter of time before they are used to pierce the tenure of Roger Harper, Miles Bascome and Head Coach Phil Simmons as members of the West Indies Selections Panel with terminal effect!

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) was among the first to publicly question the Panel’s competence. Angered by the Selections Panel’s omission of Sherfayne Rutherford on the grounds of his not having met the established fitness criteria, the GCB suggested that Cricket West Indies (CWI) should advise the Caribbean cricket public regarding the standard and schedule for fitness tests for regional cricketers.

Stating that the Selections Panel has disappointed both Guyana and the Caribbean at large, while referring to its decisions as a “selection fiasco,” the GCB called for the Panel to be made accountable to all cricket institutions and stakeholders in the region and to justify its choices.
“Failure to do so, the GCB calls on CWI to dismiss the Selections Panel and to replace it with a more competent one which will represent the best interests of West Indies cricket!”
In addition to the GCB’s issued statement, several Caribbean Heads of States have also weighed in with their own criticisms of the selected squad. The respective Prime Ministers of Barbados and St Vincent, the Honorable Mia Mottley and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as well as Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, have all expressed their profound disappointment and disagreement with some of the Harper-led Selections Panel’s choices.

Further, the former West Indies fast bowling legendary great, Sir Andy Roberts, referred to the Selections Panel’s non-inclusion of Barbadian Jason Holder, within the final squad of fifteen and his relegation to the status of a mere reserve as “embarrassing!”

Holder holds the current ICC ranking as international cricket’s best all-rounder. He is also the Cricket West Indies’ only all formats, Tests, ODIs and T20s, contracted player.

Holder’s relegations as a reserve, the medical exemptions provided to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul, as well as the reported non-consideration of Odean Smith and Sherfayne Rutherford as a result of their respective failures to meet the established fitness criteria for West Indies selection. These are uppermost among the far too many highly questionable World Cup Squad decisions made by Harper and his Panel.

It can now arguably be said that never before in Caribbean cricket’s illustrious history has a selected West Indies squad caused such controversy. The very centre of which appears to be the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding the fitness standards that were applied to determine selection, or conversely non-selection, of certain players to the squad.

Where is the consistency between the medical exemptions granted to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul and the non-consideration of Smith and Rutherford for not having met the established fitness criteria? That is the very simple question now being asked of Harper and his Panel. Shouldn’t “what’s good for the goose, also be granted to the gander?”

Furthermore, as Sir Andy Roberts has also correctly reasoned as important a tournament as the T20 World Cup is, coupled with the fact that we are the reigning Champions seeking to defend our title, why are we even considering, let alone actually including players who are in need of medical exemptions?

The former West Indies opening batsman, Bryan Davis’ reaction to the fitness-related decisions of Harper and his Panel was even more damning.

“This is dangerous territory we’re entering and the precedent being set for future selectors by the disqualification of young promising players while giving past successful players a medical exemption is a sign of dishonesty in selection policy. One is either fit enough to take his place in the team or he’s not. Every international cricketer walking out on that field to represent WI must deserve his place on the team by his performances and by extension his fitness. Equal status for all.”

Harper himself has also attracted the ire of former West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace. The outspoken Wallace has highly criticized Harper’s self-admitted decision as Selection Chairman to leave the determination of Obed McCoy’s fitness readiness for the World Cup in the hands of Cricket West Indies’ Medical Committee.

As one of the designated death bowlers and hence a vital member of the West Indies’ World Cup bowling attack, McCoy has reportedly been suffering from recurring shin splints for some time now. His appearances in actual matches of late, including both those in the recent West Indies T2o Series against Australia and Pakistan as well as this year’s recently concluded CPL, can only be best described as having been sporadic.

Harper having left the determination of McCoy’s fitness to the Medical Committee would, therefore, appear to be an abdication of his responsibilities as Selections Chair. Moreover, it also now means that in addition to already being the most aged of the 2021 T20 World Cup’s 16 participating teams, as well as arguably the most unfit, the West Indies could also well be the only squad containing an injury affected player even before the tournament’s commencement!

As a member of Cricket West Indies’ recently structured Committee to develop a new policy for the governance of the selection of West Indies teams, Wallace has also indicated that fitness was identified as the most basic fundamental requirement of its submitted recommendations. The Committee’s recommendations were subsequently wholly endorsed by Cricket West Indies’ Board of Directors. As such, in the light of the Word Cup selections decisions that have been made by Harper and Company, Wallace has suggested that the Committee’s recommendations are now seemingly being ignored.

“When does this current Panel’s tenure end?”

That was the question posed by Philo Wallace as one of the panellists on the recent September 14, 2021 broadcast of the highly popular Barbados-based Mason & Guest Programme. Mason & Guests is hosted weekly by the noted West Indies cricket Radio Commentator, Andrew Mason.

If Wallace’s question is not now surely a sign of knives not only having actually been drawn but also being pointed squarely in the direction of Roger Harper and his Cricket West Indies Selections Panel, then “the Pope isn’t Catholic!”

 

West Indies Women won the fifth and final CG Insurance One-Day International against South Africa Women on Sunday at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. After the full 100 overs, the match was tied – a run out off the last ball left South Africa on 192-7 off their 50 overs in reply to West Indies 192-5.

The match then went to the one-over eliminator and the home team scored 7-1 after the visitors made 6-0.

West Indies made their highest score of the series, thanks to a career-best knock from Rashada Williams – playing her fifth match.

The opening batter, top-scored with 78 not out off 138 balls as she batted through the innings. Then, off-spinner Sheneta Grimmond took a career-best 4-33 off her 10 overs in her sixth match, as South Africa slipped from 111-0 to 143-6 in the space of 13 overs.

“It was a great finish and I’m happy I played my part in today’s win. We really wanted to win, and we gave it all we had. The end was amazing with the run out off the last ball. We didn’t panic, we were focused, we kept our nerve in the ‘super over’ and it felt great to win,” said Grimmond, who was named CG Insurance Player-of-the-Match.

Match Summary: West Indies Women 192-5 off 50 overs (Rashada Williams 78 not out, Hayley Matthews 48; Nadine de Klerk 3-33) South Africa Women 192-7 off 50 overs (Lizelle Lee 61, Tazmin Brits 48, Mignon du Preez 46; Sheneta Grimmond 4-33, Qiana Joseph 2-29)

Former Barbadian-born Test batsman, Roland Butcher, does not believe the Cricket West Indies (CWI) panel of selectors deserves all the vitriol that it has received following its announcement of the West Indies T20 squad for the World Cup.

The decisions to include Chris Gayle, omit Jason Holder from the final 15, and the inclusion of veteran fast bowler Ravi Rampaul have been among those that have drawn criticism.  Others have called for the inclusion of players that put in strong performances in the recently concluded CPL, which includes the likes of Sherfane Rutherford and Odean Smith.

Butcher, who has himself sat on a selection panel for Barbados, has insisted some of the picks were understandable and insists that in fact, some players left themselves out of contention and does not see why the panel should bear that burden.

“In terms of the selection, Jason holder really should have been selected, because he may not have done well of late but he is a proven player if we use him correctly.  I think Jason is someone you use to bowl four overs there and then, let him bat later on the game, and he is also a good fielder,” Butcher told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“In terms of the guys who didn’t make it, everyone is shouting and screaming that Rutherford should have made it.  People forget that Rutherford has played for the West Indies for some time and he has a poor average in actual fact,” he added

“…Roger Harper didn’t say it, but if you notice Rutherford for the last few years has not played for Guyana, except for the white ball competition, that is because he has refused to take a fitness test and that is obviously why he was not selected because he was dropped before, and the caseis obviously still the same.  Why are selectors being crucified for leaving him out, by his actions he has made himself unavailable for selection.”

Butcher also did not agree with the criticism of the bowling selection as he is confident that both Rampaul and Chase can contribute meaningfully to the team.

“Roston Chase upset the applecart because no one was looking for him to perform the way he did, by doing that he forced his way into the side.  In terms of Oshane Thomas and Rampaul, Fidel Edwards really caused them to have a problem because he was picked for the 15 matches but unfortunately got injured and was able to show his best,” he said.

  “In Rampaul’s case he is proven at the international level and I can see why they have gone for him in the current crop of fast bowlers and Thomas, we’ve seen his inconsistency, but Smith is one for the future.”

 

Legendary WI fast bowler Andy Roberts is convinced the Cricket West Indies panel of selectors made a grave error by omitting all-rounder Jason Holder from the final 15-man World Cup squad.

Despite being better known for his exploits in the red-ball format, Holder’s exclusion from the first-team squad and selection as a reserve for the tournament caused shock and dismay across the Caribbean, following the announcement of the final squad next week.

In international T20 cricket to date, Holder has managed 27 matches with an average of 16.75 in 18 innings, added to that he has claimed 22 wickets.  In the Indian Premier League last season, however, he put on several strong performances during his time with Sunrisers Hyderabad and also had a strong showing against Sri Lanka in the series of practice games.  He did, however, struggled against Pakistan and has also failed to make a telling impact in the CPL.  For Roberts, however, the player's proven quality should have been enough to see him added to the starting team.

“I was shocked because he is the best cricketer we have in the region, bar none,” Roberts told the Mason and Guest radio show.

“I’d pick him as one of the first choices for the World Cup, what is he doing in the reserves.  It embarrassing for us to see how we could treat our best cricketer. Jason Holder is our best cricketer," he added.

Holder has been consistently ranked as the top, or second-best Test cricket all-rounder for the last couple of years but has not displayed that kind of dominance over the shorter formats.

 

 

Michael Holding, the feared tear-away fast bowler turned respected cricket commentator has announced his retirement from the commentary booth.

Pace trio Andel Gordon, Johann Layne, and Isai Thorne bowled superbly to push the fifth Youth ODI down to the wire, despite West Indies surrendering the Royal London U19 series to England on Tuesday.

This was the second agonizing one-wicket defeat in the series, following a similar result on the second Youth ODI in Beckenham.

Left-arm quick Gordon, who claimed 3 for 37, stood out bowling with good pace and swing, highlighted by his dismissal of England opener William Luxton, clean bowled in the first over. He was well supported by his right-arm pace duo compatriots Layne, 3 for 40, and Isai Thorne, 2 for 40, as they kept West Indies in the contest by regularly taking wickets.

When Layne dismissed tail end batters Nathan Barnwell caught behind and Joshua Boyden comprehensively bowled in the space of two overs, West Indies were on the verge of pulling off a thrilling fightback win with England still needing 12 runs. However, George Bell, who had an unbeaten half-century of 60 from 115 balls, held his nerve alongside the number 11 batter Sonny Baker to take the home side over the line.

Earlier, Matthew Nandu (51) became the second West Indies batsman to score a half-century on tour alongside Teddy Bishop. His 57-run third-wicket partnership with Ackeem Auguste 32 had West Indies solidly placed at one stage on 101 for 2. But the innings never kicked on, with captain on the day Giovonte Depeiza (34) being the only other major contributor.

The two teams will return to the same venue on Friday for the series finale. First ball is 10:30 am (5:30 Eastern Caribbean/4:30 am Jamaica).

 

 Cricket West Indies chief of selectors Roger Harper is hopeful the region will see the best of fast bowler Oshane Thomas following his selection to the T20 World Cup squad.

The 24-year-old pace bowler was once considered one of the hottest prospects in regional cricket after bursting on the scene with fiery spells for Caribbean Premier League (CPL) team Jamaica Tallawahs during the 2016 season.

However, despite going on to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the last two seasons and 17 T20 international matches for the West Indies, Thomas is yet to quite hit the heights his talent promised early on.

In-between indifferent spells of forms and fitness issues, the player has taken 19 wickets for the team.  Thomas has, however, looked lively in the CPL this season taking 4 wickets in six games.  The player’s rejuvenated look has been enough to attract the attention of the selectors and Harper hopes the decision pays rich dividends come next month.

“Oshane brings that sort of x-factor to the team, we know when Oshane is at his best he is a real force,” Harper told members of the media on Thursday.

“We haven’t seen him at his best for a while, but we saw him coming to that point in this tournament (CPL).  A lot of work has been done in the various T20 series, behind the scenes with Oshane,” he added.

“When he played, we didn’t see exactly what we were looking for, but now we see a bit of the Oshane that we know in this tournament (CPL) and will feel that if he keeps improving he will be the sort of bowler that could make a difference for us in the right condition.  Hsis extra pace, his extra bounce, and when he is on song he gets the ball to swing at that pace as well.  So, we think he could make a big difference in the team.”

 

 

In-form batsman Sherfane Rutherford and spinner Sunil Narine were among a few players not eligible for selection to the World Cup squad after failing fitness standards, chief of selectors Roger Harper has confirmed.

In the ongoing Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Rutherford has been one of the most outstanding players so far, scoring 201 runs in 7 matches, with an average of 40.20 and a strike rate of 136.73.  Speculation had linked the player with a late consideration for a space in the West Indies World Cup squad but, as it has for other players in the recent past, it turns out his fitness level was an issue. 

“As well as he has been performing he is one of a few players who did not meet our fitness criteria, so he was not eligible for selection,” Harper told members of the media, in explaining the player’s omission.

Narine, once the top-ranked spinner in the world, has recently shown versatility at the top of the order as a pinch-hitter and could have been a weapon for the team at the tournament. 

“Sunil Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this.  Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team but as I mentioned with Rutherford and some of the others Sunil also did not make our fitness standards,” Harper said.

Based on standards implemented by Cricket West Indies (CWI), in 2019, players must achieve a mark of 40 in the Yo-Yo Endurance Test unless given a medical exemption by the CWI medical committee.  Another player that has shown plenty of promise during the CPL campaign, but did also did not meet the fitness standards, was fast bowler Odean Smith.

West Indies chief of selector Roger Harper admits it was a difficult choice to relegate talented all-rounder Jason Holder to a reserve position, following the unveiling of the 15-member T20 World Cup squad on Thursday.

Many were left astonished after Holder, who has had a few standout stints in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and international T20 cricket in recent months, was only named among four reserve players.

“Leaving a player of the standard and quality of Jason out of our final 15 was a difficult decision and it provoked a lot of debate,” Harper told members of the media via an online press conference.

“When we look at the type of composition we wanted, considering the all-rounders that we had and the balance, he was unfortunate not to make it,” he added.

“It was a 15-man squad, everyone couldn’t make it, different things were taken into consideration and Jason just missed out, but with a player of his stature and quality it was a difficult decision and one we didn’t take lightly.”

In 10 matches and three series against Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka, Holder totalled 90 runs, had an average of 30, and claimed 9 wickets.  He, however, struggled in the team’s most recent series against Pakistan totalling just 2 runs and 4wickets in four matches.

 

Lizelle Lee produced another match-winning performance as South Africa Women earned a comfortable victory in the opening match of the CG Insurance One-Day International Series. The powerful opener top-scored with a purposeful 91 not out as the Proteas easily reached 157-2 off 39.3 overs. This was in reply to West Indies 153 off 46.4 overs.

Lee’s innings earned her the CG Insurance Player of the Match award following up on her CG Insurance Player of the Series award in the recent T20 Internationals. The experienced opener made her 21st half-century at this level and laid the perfect platform for the run-chase as she faced 127 balls and hit 10 fours and a six. She added 88 in 22 overs with Laura Wolvaardt who again looked in good touch before she was bowled by Anisa Mohammed for 35, which came off 65 deliveries.

The West Indies had one other success when Sune Luus was trapped leg-before wicket to left-arm spinner Qiana Joseph without scoring.

In the first half of the match, West Indies found the going challenging. Left-hander Kycia Knight top-scored with 39 off 78 balls, but was run out by a superb throw from Mignon duPreez at deep square leg.

Deandra Dottin, looked set for a significant score as she raced to 38 off 36 balls, but was well caught at long-off by duPreez, which gave leg-spinner Dane van Niekerk her first wicket. The South Africa skipper ended with 2-23 off her 10 overs to put pressure on the West Indies middle and lower order.

 The two teams will return to the same venue on Friday for the second match of the five-match rubber. First ball is 10 am (9 am Jamaica Time).

Bowler Isai Thorne claimed a three-for on debut, while Andel Gordon and McKenny Clarke took two each but the Windies U-19s found few answers to their English counterparts in a 166 runs loss in the first match of the Rising Stars U19 ODI tour of England.

After winning the toss and choosing to field, England posted 289-9 in their allotted 50 overs. The total was built around half-centuries by captain Jacob Bethell (69), James Rew (59) and wicket-keeper Alex Horton (53).

Bethell and Rew added 87 for the third wicket before the partnership was broken by the 16-year-old Thomas, who bowled with good pace throughout his 10-over spell. He later returned to get the wicket of Horton, who played a late cameo which included four fours and a six, as England scored 85 runs in the last 10 overs.

In reply, the West Indies total of 123 had its main contributions from openers Anderson Amurdan (33) and Matthew Nandu (21) who gave the West Indies a 46 run opening stand in the initial 10 over power play. Amurdan faced 47 balls and hit five boundaries, while left-hander Nandu faced 28 balls and hit two fours. But led by a five-wicket haul from off-spinner Tom Prest (6-2-18-5), who was well supported by the leg-spin of Rehan Ahmed (3-22) and left-arm orthodox Fateh Singh (1-28), they combined effectively to bowl out the visitors in the 30th over.

Legendary West Indies wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon believes the Test team will be forced to continue its search for an opening batsman as the current selections have not produced a great many positive results to date.

Since the team's successful tour of Bangladesh in February three players, John Campbell, Shai Hope, and Kieran Powell have been paired at the top of the innings with West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite.

To date, the pairing with the Brathwaite has not bred much success.  Campbell has averaged 18.5 in eight innings, Powell 14.57 in seven innings, and Hope 15 in the one match played so far.  The results have often left the team well short of a solid start that has not been a feature of its play in recent times.

“I still think we need to find another opener, we are still looking for an opener and one more top-class batsman in the middle,” Dujon told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Right now we are not getting the results, we need good open partnerships and we have not been getting that,” he added.

Dujon believes that so far, the openers paired with Brathwaite have been plagued by shortcomings with playing the new ball.

“I just don’t get the feeling that he is playing down the right line, as an opening batsman playing a moving ball, I don’t think he gets down the wicket far enough,” he said of Powell.

Having only recently returned to the team, Hope has also been tried in the position.  While he certainly believes that Hope should have a spot in the team, Dujon is convinced it is not at the top of the innings.

“He’s a very good player but he is not an opener.  His style of play to open the batting in limited over cricket is fine.  He should be in this batting line-up but somewhere around four or so.”

 

 

Jamaica Tallawahs earned their second victory of the 2021 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) with a six-wicket victory over the Barbados Royals.

The Royals won the toss and opted to bat, with Azam Khan’s fluent 50 off just 30 balls taking them to 151 for 8. 

However, the Jamaica Tallawahs were able to chase the target in 17.4 overs through the sublime batting of Kennar Lewis, his innings of 89 the highest score of the tournament so far, supported by the graceful play of Sharmarh Brooks, who hit 47 not out off 26 balls. 

Barbados Royals had found themselves in early trouble, losing key batsmen Shai Hope and Kyle Mayers in successive balls in the Powerplay to Fidel Edwards, who was making his first appearance in this year’s Hero CPL. 
A recovery mission was led by Azam and Phillips; the pair putting on a partnership of 71 runs off 51 balls to build a foundation for the innings. Joshua Bishop then struck 18 off 8 balls at the back end of the innings to take his side to a respectable total. 

Migael Pretorius was the standout bowler for the Tallawahs, taking four wickets, while Rovman Powell led by example with three excellent catches in the field.  

Tallawahs response was led by Lewis, who powered the innings despite his team losing early wickets to the spin of Joshua Bishop, including captain Powell, who was dismissed by a superb piece of fielding as Jason Holder held on to his shot with one hand at long-off.  

Barbados Royals will count themselves unlucky as star bowler Mohammad Amir had to leave the field injured during the second innings. The win takes the Jamaica Tallawahs up to second in the Hero CPL standings.

 

Heavy rains forced the abandonment of the first CG Insurance T20 International between the West Indies Women and South Africa Women at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground.

Batting first Marizanne Kapp top-scored with 36 as the visitors put 135 for three on the board.  In pursuit, the Windies Women were off to a tough start, after losing Deandra Dottin to injury and Hayley Matthews for 8 before the rain intervened.  Despite not playing the full encounter West Indies stand-in captain Anisa Mohammed took positives from the encounter.

"I’m really happy with the way the girls bowled today. I think we had them good up until the 18th over but with wickets in hand, we expected them to come hard at us. Having said that I still believe that 135 was a good total for us to chase unfortunately the rain had other plans. We now have a day to refocus and fine-tune carrying through the consistency until the end of 20 overs,” Mohammed told CWI Media.

The second and third CG Insurance T20Is take place at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground on Thursday, September 02, and Saturday, September 04 respectively. The five CG Insurance ODIs will be played from September 7 to 19, with the first three matches being played at the Coolidge Cricket Ground (CCG) and the last two at the SVRCG.

Trinbago Knight Riders moved up to second in the 2021 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) table with a 27-run victory over the Saint Lucia Kings. 

The Kings won the toss and opted to field first and for the first half of the TKR innings, they had full control of the game. However, a late salvo from Kieron Pollard and Tim Seifert helped the Knight Riders to post a challenging total. 

In reply, Andre Fletcher played a fine lone hand for the Kings, but the team never got going as a disciplined Trinbago bowling attack kept a firm stranglehold on proceedings throughout.

The Knight Riders opened their innings with the familiar pair of Lendl Simmons and Sunil Narine and they put on a partnership of 23 from 18 balls before Wahab Riaz trapped the former plumb in front. 

It took the introduction of Tim Seifert for the Knight Riders innings to gain impetus after Tion Webster, Narine and Colin Munro had all fallen in consecutive overs.

Along with Kieron Pollard the pair put on 78 runs from 44 balls to help post a competitive total.

Just like the TKR innings, the Kings struggled to find any momentum in the first half of their reply amidst some exceptional and parsimonious bowling from Sunil Narine and Akeal Hosein that left them needing an unlikely 82 runs from 36 balls.

Despite Andre Fletcher’s unbeaten 81 from 55 balls, three wickets by the tournament’s top wicket-taker Ravi Rampaul ensured no one was able to stick with him to chase down the TKR total.

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