WI Cricket : The Missing Men

As the West Indies cricket team prepares to take on touring South Africa many a question can be and have been raised over team composition. The largest such difficulty has received sadly impressive media coverage.

Indeed, bitter contractual disputes lead sizeable contributors Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Chris Gayle to miss out on the first Test match and possibly more, among seven out-of-favour players this season. Yet, these are not the only potential internationals missing from international contention.

A squad of 22 players was named as likely contenders for the upcoming home series, and I shall take a look some of the outstanding players who did not make the squeeze. Furthermore, insight shall extend to observe the history and form of said players leading into the series.

Brian C. Lara
The former West Indies captain, Lara had his leadership role revoked for the second time in his career, this time as a result of a contractual clash involving Cable and Wireless and Digicel. Lara was freed for selection heading into the weekend of the 19th of March, but failed to issue a positive response to the West Indies Cricket Board.

As one of seven sidelined cricketers involved in the endorsements squabble, Lara suggested that his six compatriots also be considered for selection if he were to be. Such a response was met with action that may have surprised some, as the two time World record-holder was dropped from the West Indies team.

The move will undoubtedly hinder the contention of the West Indies team in the series, as Lara presents not only a formidable career record in Test cricket, but also a history of results against South Africa. In his career he averages 52.84, but upped that pace for his last meeting with the South Africans, scoring 531 runs at 66.37 as a visitor in South Africa in 2003. Among those runs were 3 centuries, including a brilliant 202.

Ramnaresh R. Sarwan
Formerly the vice-captain of the regional team, Sarwan lost his post heading into the 2004/05 VB Series. The change of thought process by the Board was seeming punishment for Sarwan, who was initially among a group of players who neglected to sign the playing contract for the series, on the basis of a disputed clause.

Now Sarwan once more finds himself in the wars, sacked due to his personal contract with Cable and Wireless and the WICB not wanting to enrage the new major sponsor, Digicel. With Sarwan goes a Test match average of 40.97 and a solid career average of 39.37 against the South Africans. The classy right-hander scored 392 runs at 49.00 the last time he faced the Africans.

Christopher H. Gayle
Powerfully built and posing a carefree attitude, there is no doubt about the destructive ability of Chris Gayle. His attractive yet devastating strokeplay, solid fielding and handy offspin bowling earned him the title of best ODI player in the world, according to the legendary Steve Waugh.

In 2004, Gayle began to come into his own in Test matches as well. Tipped to struggle against the moving ball, Gayle played superbly in England amidst the rubble for the West Indies. He scored 400 runs at an average of 50.00 and finished the series with a vintage hundred (105 off 87 balls) at the Oval. His last taste of South African bowling also featured some delightful strokeplay, as he scored a century in two of the three Tests he played in the series.

With scores of 88, 131 and 151 not out in his last 3 First Class innings, there is perhaps no West Indian player in better form currently than Chris Gayle.

Dwayne J. J. Bravo
Originally picked as a batting allrounder for the tour of England in 2004, Dwayne Bravo showed immense promise with the ball, taking 16 wickets in a series where his team used 12 bowlers and took just 57 wickets in total. He bowled intelligently and persistently and seemed a genuine bowling prospect for the struggling regional side.

Added to that, Bravo scored two half-centuries and a total of 220 runs at 27.50 in the 4 Tests. His useful allround is certainly not to be underestimated, though his First Class form of late leaves much to be desired, admittedly under the influence of injury.

Runako S. Morton
It is difficult to believe that a team can reach the final of a country’s domestic tournament and not feature any players in a pool of 22 considered for Test selection. Indeed, the Leeward Islands fought their way into the Carib Cup final against Jamaica without any reward from the selectors.

Runako Morton scored 564 runs in 17 innings this season, at an average of 33.18. He was not the best Leeward Islands batsmen, but his two centuries showed that he deserved at least some consideration for Test selection. Disciplinary problems have plagued Morton in the past, but a solid year or so of on- and off-field play has seen him back in contention in the minds of many.

A century in his last First Class game, the Carib Cup final, helped redeem his team from a despairing position.

Marlon S. Samuels
Not the greatest performer in his Test career to date, Marlon Samuels has but an average of 29.13 in Tests and has not yet justified his clear enormous talent. The right-hander expresses such clinical balance and timing that it is a wonder that success has not come at the top.

However, now he is perhaps in his finest form, stroking the ball beautifully in the middle order for Jamaica. Scores of 74, 76, 160, 58, 14 are his latest and there is no doubt that he is one of the form men heading into the series. Alas he shall watch at least the first Test from the bench, failing to secure a spot in the top 22 Digicel cricketers of the region.

Ridley D. Jacobs
In his final season of First Class cricket, Jacobs has not been granted the simple compliment of a Test match curtain call. However, this may be due to the public expression of the man not to play for the current West Indies team. Jacobs stated blatantly that West Indies cricket has come to feature too much politics to inspire his passion any longer.

Still, Jacobs’ season all but demanded selection to the training squad of 22. Some 816 runs at 62.76 and 4 centuries, as the runs flowed off his bat like no other domestic season. His final contribution to the First Class record books stands at 140 for the Leeward Islands against Jamaica, an innings that helped revive a wounded team.

Bring on the first Test match. The masses predict nothing more (or less) than South African ecstasy and unprecedented carnage inflicted upon the home side. A South African team that competed admirably with the clear second best team in the world (England), now does battle with a generally weak West Indies team made weaker with the loss of its few genuine stars.

Whether or not these players would manage to impact on the series for the regional side is out of my capabilities of prediction, but my knowledge of cricket would dictate that at least some consideration be granted to them.

I was always under the impression that the best players get picked for Test cricket, but I suppose that is why they pick the teams and we just criticize the lack the results.

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