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Six Fast Bowlers In Chosen 13

by Tony Cozier

January 21 1998

AIMING to mix the present with the past as a guarantee for the future, the West Indies selectors have indulged in pace overkill for the first Test of the Cable & Wireless series.

They have chosen six fast bowlers in their 13. Three are over 30, have clocked up 31 years, 210 matches and 818 wickets in Tests between them. The other three are all 25 and under and collectively have had less than a couple of years, 12 Tests and 35 wickets.

Whether sentimentality finally overrides reality and conservatism supercedes courage will only be known in the choice of the two to be excluded on the morning of January 29.

The balance will be critical to success in this series and in the more demanding ones against South Africa and Australia to follow in the next 18 months.

The plain truth is that the young bucks, Franklyn Rose, Mervyn Dillon and the new giant, Nixon McLean, are fit, fast and raring to be let loose at the Englishmen.

They are the present and the future. Their revered elders, Courtney Walsh, at 35, and especially Curtly Ambrose, at 34, are wily campaigners nearing the end of their great days and Ian Bishop, 30, remains a conundrum. They are the present, too, but certainly not the future.

Brian Lara, who has taken over the captaincy at a time when West Indies cricket, at all levels, has suddenly plunged from the heights of excellence to the depth of ineptitude, provided an explanation of the policy at yesterday’s Press conference.

He spoke eloquently and he spoke sense. It was an impressive start to his tenure.

“We’ve got Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose who, it is fair to say, are in the twilight of their careers,” the new skipper said. “We need a lot of young fast bowlers around to learn from them and to learn from our coach, Malcolm Marshall.”

Roughly translated, that means the plan at present is for Walsh and Ambrose to both play along with two of the students, certainly Rose and probably Dillon. Bishop and McLean, the only newcomer in the 13, will then observe from the frustrating distance of the dressing room.

Only performances in the four matches this weekend can change that and Hall intimated that they would be properly monitored.

If they are and Ambrose’s form and match readiness are no better than they have been for the past two weeks, the bullet must be bitten.

Denying “vicious rumours” of his retirement yesterday, Ambrose said only he would know when it is time to call it quits. That time, he is bound to recognise, is when he, great bowler and match-winner that he has been for the West Indies, is blocking the way of someone now younger, stronger and more effective than he has become.

The scarcity of reserve talent at present secures the places 11 of those in the team thrashed in all three Tests in Pakistan late last year when manager Clive Lloyd and then captain Walsh complained of a lack of commitment and pride. They, and Lara, have a job rekindling both attributes.

Jimmy Adams, the left-handed middle-order batsman with a Test average of 57, returns after rehabiliation on the “A” tour of South Africa following a loss of confidence and there is not even the pretence of the inclusion of a spinner.

It is the strength of the fast bowling on which the future will depend, as it so often has for the West Indies. There is a chance, in the coming couple of months, to get ready.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:15