Puzzling choices

Tony Becca

26 Feb 1998

CRICKET: The 13 man squad announced by the West Indies selectors for the fourth Test against England starting at Bourda tomorrow suggests that the Windies attack will comprise three fast bowlers - certainly Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh and probably Nixon McLean and one spin bowler - obviously right-arm legspinner Dinanath Ramnarine.

Following the dry weather which, according to locals, stretches back to July last year, the promise of a dry pitch which could assist spin bowling and England's unimpressive performance against left-arm spinner Neil McGarrell and right-arm legspinner Mahendra Nagamootoo in the three day match against Guyana, the inclusion of a spin bowler would not be surprising. In fact, with the series locked at one one and three to go, that would be a sensible move.

The surprises however, are the inclusion of Ian Bishop, the non inclusion of either Franklyn Rose or, despite his lack of success against Jamaica in the recent President's Cup match, Mervyn Dillon, and the inclusion of middle order batsman Roland Holder.

The selection of Bishop ahead of Rose or Dillon is, in fact, more than surprising. After all the talk leading up to the appointment of Brian Lara as captain by Wes Hall, chairman of the selection committee, the talk which attempted to emphasise the need to build for the coming series against South Africa away and Australia at home, it appears a backward step.

Apart from being a backward step, unless he is still suffering, it seems strange that Dillon, who was included in the team for the first Test ahead of Bishop but was forced to pull out at the last minute because of an injury, is out and Bishop is in.

It also seems strange that Bishop, who has not been himself since his recurring back problems a few years ago, is in and Rose, the fast bowler who impressed so much against India a year ago and who did not play for Jamaica against England because of a request from the West Indies selectors, is out.

When Rose was not selected for the abandoned first Test and McLean, Dillon, and then Bishop were selected ahead of him, questions were asked right around the region. When Kenneth Benjamin was selected for the second and third Test matches, questions were again asked, and now that he is not even in the squad, and especially that Bishop is in, Guyanese are asking this question: what has Rose done why he is being treated in such a manner?

The feeling in Guyana, by the people who gathered at the Demerara Cricket Club yesterday to watch the press match and by former Guyana and West Indies players, is that someone does not like Rose, and it appears so.

The other surprise, especially after naming only six batsmen for the previous three Test matches and following the performance of James Adams in the second innings of the third Test and then against Trinidad and Tobago, is the inclusion of Holder, and then again the question is why.

Is it that he is being considered as one of the opening batsmen, or is it that the selectors are still to make up their minds what to do with Carl Hooper following his no show for the Guyana/England game after he was told, by the West Indies selectors, to play in the game?

If Holder is in the squad as cover for Hooper, nothing is wrong with that. If however, he is being considered as one of the opening batsmen, the question is why.

Although Jamaica, for whatever reason, batted him at number three against Trinidad and Tobago, the question is why not Leon Garrick - the young batsman who was on the fringe last year and who was then considered, by these same selectors, as the real thing and one destined to be the next great West Indies batsman.

It was once suggested that Holder should be used as an opening batsman, and there is no question that he is good enough to open and succeed doing so. Following the recall of Kenneth Benjamin however, and now Bishop instead of either Rose or Dillon, Holder as the opening batsman instead of one like Garrick, suggests that instead of building for tomorrow, the selectors are going backwards. Either that or new captain Lara simply wants to win now and therefore wants the players who he believes will help him do so. And what Lara wants, Lara gets.

If that is so, Holder instead of an untried young opening batsman is understandably. It is difficult however, to see Bishop helping the cause more than Rose.

If the selectors stand up, drop Hooper and play Holder, it will be an irony of the highest order. Guyana was the site of the second Test against England in 1994, Hooper pulled out on the eve of the game, and to many, including some of the selectors, Holder should have been the replacement.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 26 Feb1998 - 18:23