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The Best Of Strokes: Of Picks And Pitches

The Nation

January 28 1998

PROFESSOR Hilary Beckles thinks the West Indies selectors are on a ‘cautious alert’ and has selected a team which does not have many changes.

But, how cautious can you be in selecting virtually the same team which went under 3-0 to Pakistan at the end of last year?

No West Indian wants to lose a Test match, and least of all against England. Nevertheless, at least two of the batting positions should have been filled by new and younger players, in Leon Garrick and Floyd Reifer, while Ricky Hoyte may have been a ready substitute for David Williams behind the stumps.

The selectors obviously did not select this quad with a specific final eleven in mind, hence the inclusion of six fast bowlers.

One can safely assume that all the batsmen (Campbell, Williams, Lara, Chanderpaul, Hooper and Adams) will play, leaving two fast bowlers on the bench.

Maybe there was oversight on the part of the selectors.

And, once again the selectors are really ‘flirting’ with the use of a spinner. If Rawl Lewis could not command a slot in this squad, then the hope of a spinner in West Indies cricket is rather a remote one.

Frankly, my choice, which may sound alarming to some, would be Winston Reid of Barbados, whose accuracy, control, economy and strike rate is second to none in the region.

Reid’s record so far in the 1998 President’s Cup is extremely impressive. He took four wickets in Jamaica, nine for 99 against the Leewards, and five for 102 in the first innings against Guyana.

I am particularly happy that Brian Lara will have the services of former captain Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose at his disposal. Their experience and match-winning ability offer decisive tactical options to the new captain.

While the West Indies may be looking to win this series, spearheaded by their bowlers, the potentially strong batting line-up of Lara, Chanderpaul, Hooper and Campbell could have afforded the opportunity of a new batting recruit in either Garrick or Reifer.

All in all, the first Test selections do not carry the stamp of a new beginning, which I thought was so desperately needed at this stage in West Indies cricket.

In the words of a popular calypsonian: “What are we waiting for?”

Notwithstanding the team selections for this important series, one has to give considerable attention to the type of pitches we will encounter around the Caribbean at this time.

Perhaps the only predictable pitch - flat and batting oriented will be in Guyana.

In fact, I will not be surprised if the impact of the pitches in this series turns out to be the decisive difference.

Sabina Park has been recently relaid and may not be a reliable surface for good competitive cricket.

In Trinidad, the Queen’s Park Oval, too, has its share of problems.

England will not forget being bowled out for 45 at that venue in 1994, while the Australians in 1995 could only ask the West Indies to make just over 100 to win after Curtly Ambrose had destroyed their batting.

Last year, India’s opening batsman Navjot Sidhu made a double century at Queen’s Park on a pitch which had changed drastically.

What therefore, should West Indies bowlers in particular expect this time around, judging from the previous years of inconsistencies?

And, the Antigua Recreation Ground, where Brian Lara broke the world record with his 375, was of a major concern for the Sri Lankans in the short two-Test series of 1997.

Here in Barbados, we have heard repeated comments to the effect that the pitch at Kensington has gotten slower and slower over the last few years.

What will be the impact of the pitches on this current series against England? Your guess is as good as mine.

Good luck to Brian Lara, Mike Atherton and all the players.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:18