By Bryan Davis, Former West Indies Test cricketer
Shimron Hetmyer and Evin Lewis, two prolific West Indian cricketers, were left out of the tour to Sri Lanka last February by the West Indies (WI) selectors because they did not pass a fitness test. It was reported that both players failed to “attain the new minimum standard fitness requirements in recent fitness assessments,” according to a Cricket West Indies (CWI) release at the time.
I queried as to what exactly is the minimum standard fitness requirements and who sets these standards. I never found out the answers except that the tests were done by Ronald Rogers and Dr Oma Gulston of CWI.
I have no problem with cricketers working on their fitness for one cannot expect to play internationally without standing up to the rigours of the contest. My point at the time was that Lewis had just topped the batting averages for WI against Ireland and Hetmyer had scored a recent century against India. As far as I am concerned, they were fit to perform at the highest level in the game of cricket.
I got the impression that this fitness test, “the new minimum standard” would be applied consistently before all future WI tournaments. Therefore, I ask the question, whether this has been done by the two distinguished gentlemen before this tour of England which already has many disadvantages attached to it.
I’m no fitness expert and I understand it is difficult to judge if someone is fit just by appearances. However, I must ask CWI whether a fitness test was done for this squad and if so, did Rahkeem Cornwall pass the test? I assume he did or else he would have suffered the same fate as Hetmyer and Lewis last February!
Should I take it then that the 25 players are cricket fit apart from being free of the COVID–19?
A critical look at
WI touring team
This cricket series is going to be a serious challenge for the WI. As much as I want them to win, especially as we will be defending the Wisden trophy, that symbol of superiority between the two countries, which we hardly ever hold long enough these days to give it a shine.
The previous clash between the two countries took place in the Caribbean just over a year ago and the result went in favour of the home team. The natural assumption would be that WI would have at least a 50/50 chance in the three match Test series. On the other hand it seems more like the triumph of hope over experience.
Let’s have a critical look at our team; and while doing so let’s bear in mind that there are no robust, competitive games before the first Test and the other two Tests follow consecutively. No chance of regaining lost form or for a reserve to prove himself and force his way into the final eleven.
The batting is suspect. Two of our best batsmen, both left-handers, Darren Bravo and Hetmyer, have opted out of the tour for personal reasons in connection with the dangers of the pandemic circling the globe. Keemo Paul, the young Guyanese all-rounder, also refused the invitation to tour.
Kraigg Brathwaite has been having a run of low scores for two years and it reveals our lack of depth that he has not been replaced, even temporarily, to give him a breather to regain his confidence. His opening partner would most likely be the Jamaican, John Campbell, who has been an inconsistent performer.
Shai Hope, the best batsman in the team, should bat at three, at least I hope that he wouldn’t be sacrificed as an opener.
Responsibility will weigh heavily on the shoulders of all-rounders, skipper Jason Holder and Roston Chase plus wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, to be prolific with the bat. While all are capable, in England that extra ability needed to bat long, is lacking.
No match practice will also be a factor. Nothing like a match to build one’s confidence. While net practice is vital to improve skill, batting in a competitive game sharpens the mind, it involves running between the wickets, always seeking scoring opportunities. With bowlers, they don’t get hit for boundaries in the nets!
Our bowling lacks variety. These games take place in July when the pitches are hard and sound, unlike May when the effects of the winter and spring adds moisture content and aids movement. The team chosen would have been more applicable on the original tour dates of May.
There are five fast medium bowlers in Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Chemar Holder and left-armer Raymon Reifer, plus two off-break bowlers, Cornwall and Chase who are not really spinners. Holder J, Roach and Joseph carry a load of responsibility on their shoulders. I would have preferred to see a left arm spinner on the team for the sake of variation.
I don’t give much chance for WI. This tour will be a tough task!