Thursday, December 27, 2012

(A guest blog by Mikesiva) Winning the World T20 champs - a springboard?

As a long-suffering West Indies fan, who fondly remembers watching cricket during the dominant days of Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, etc, it was with unbridled joy that I watched them win the world T20 champs recently, beating home team and favourites Sri Lanka in the final. West Indies fans all over the world have asked themselves, at one stage or another, "Could this success in the 2012 world T20 champs be a springboard for further success?"

That question is being asked because many of us remember the days of the Lloyd-Richards era, when brutally fast bowlers such as Marshall, Roberts, Garner, Ambrose, Walsh and the elegant Holding, swept aside opposing batting line-ups with ease. We also remember attacking and entertaining batsmen such as Lloyd, Richards, Richardson, Greenidge and Haynes, counter-balanced by the Rock of Gibraltar, Larry Gomes. The hope is that the success of Darren Sammy's team in winning the 20-overs tournament could lead to a semi-revival of this entertaining Windies team. But how realistic are these expectations?

Let's look at the Windies XI that played in that final....

1) Johnson Charles - an explosive but inconsistent T20 batsman, who is in and out of the ODI side, and nowhere near the Test team.
2) Chris Gayle - an outstanding T20 batsman, a good ODI batsman, but in Tests he averages 40, making him good, but not great.
3) Marlon Samuels - inconsistent in Tests, too slow in T20s and ODis before 2012, has transformed himself this year in all three formats.
4) Dwayne Bravo - a very good allrounder in the T20 format, inconsistent in ODIs, and a far way from a recall to the Test team.
5) Kieran Pollard - destructive on his day in T20s, disappointing in ODIs aside from the occasional innings, and nowhere near the Test side.
6) Andre Russell - going backwards in all three formats.
7) Darren Sammy - very much a bits-and-pieces player, who can put in occasional good performances in a match, but too inconsistent.
8) Denesh Ramdin - a very good keeper, but doesn't do enough with the bat in all formats.
9) Sunil Narine - outstanding T20 spinner, a good ODI bowler, but a below-average Test bowler.
10) Ravi Rampaul - a very effective bowler in all formats, though his Test average is still frustratingly high.
11) Samuel Badree - a T20 specialist, leggie who doesn't spin the ball much, bowls wicket-to-wicket, you-miss-I-hit, who struggles at any cricket longer than a day.

While the above side looks like quite an imposing side in T20 cricket, capable of beating any side on its day, and deserving of its number two world ranking, it's easy to say that if this same side was fielded in a Test match, the opposition would be licking their lips at the chance of playing against them. So, it's quite understandable that the Test team is very different. This is the team that played in the last Test against Bangladesh:

1) Chris Gayle - frustratingly inconsistent at the top of the order, but still has a better Test average than any other opener.
2) Kieran Powell - showed good form against lower-ranked teams, but exposed against good teams.
3) Darren Bravo - has the talent to emulate his famous cousin, but is still young, and still struggling for consistency.
4) Marlon Samuels - finally beginning to live up to his potential as an outstanding batsman at this level.
5) Shiv Chanderpaul - one of the greatest batsmen of the modern era, who has often had to rescue this brittle batting lineup.
6) Denesh Ramdin - a very good gloveman, but too inconsistent with the bat to occupy the number six spot against higher-ranked teams.
7) Darren Sammy - still has a better bowling average than most WIndies bowlers, and can occasionally make runs, but not really a match-winner with either.
8) Veerasammy Permaul - the latest spinner to get into the side, but could turn out to be a decent option.
9) Sunil Narine - very disappointing in Tests, and could lose his place to either Permaul or Shane Shillingford in 2013.
10) Fidel Edwards - earned a recall due to injuries with Rampaul and Roach, but at over 30, has lost pace, and can only bully lower-ranked sides now.
11) Tino Best - ditto.

You can see why this side is ranked seventh in the Test rankings, and not likely to move up from that position any time soon. There is a vast difference in quality between the teams in the two different formats, ignoring the ODI format for now, where the Windies arguably have the worst of their three sides. But just looking back at the T20 and Test sides, one factor is immediately apparent, and that could be the reason for the success in one format, and its lack of movement in the other...the selection of the side.

Trinidad have dominated the domestic T20 competition, and the selectors have finally paid attention to their dominance, and picked a side that reflects this domination - in the final, six of the 11 players were Trinidadian. It almost seemed as if the selectors didn't want to have too many Trinis in the side, and resisted picking Badree for as long as possibly, until the poor performance of his options meant that they could no longer ignore the clamour for Badree any longer.

However, even though Jamaica have dominated the domestic four-day tournament, they can only get two picks in the Test eleven - Gayle and Samuels. Quite a few players who have underperformed in the domestic competition still found themselves picked for the Test side, such as Kirk Edwards and Kraigg Brathwaite, and they unsurprisingly failed and are no longer in the reckoning. Jamaica won every single match they played in the four-day tournament, and Jamaican names dominate the leading runscoring and wicket-taking tables: ... tournament ... tournament

Now, the selectors need to follow the principle that worked for the T20 side - give more opportunities to players from teams who have done well in the domestic four-day competition. But a lot of Jamaicans are still being overlooked for the Test team for the five-day game, and for the A team for the four-day game. I am not expecting these Jamaican players to walk into the Test team, but I believe that the following players should either be playing for the Test side or to be given an extended run in the A team:

1) Donovan Pagon - A team
2) Tamar Lambert - A team
3) Brendan Nash - Test team
4) Dave Bernard - allrounder in A team
5) Nikita Miller - A team
6) Odean Brown - A team
7) Andrew Richardson - A team

As things stand, the only one of the above players who's been called up to the A team has been Pagon. Instead, the selectors have inexplicably picked players who failed in the domestic competition, such as Raj Chandrika (Guyana), Kyle Corbin (CCC/Barbados), Nelon Pascal (Windwards) and Devon Thomas (Leewards), and they unsurprisingly failed to impress at home against a weak Bangladesh A team (with the possible exception of Pascal). But given that Andre Russell dominated with bat and ball in that series a year ago, it tells you a lot about the quality of the opposition: ... ype=series

Otis Gibson and the WI selectors need to stop fast-tracking players on the basis of potential (such as Devon Thomas), and start picking players for the A team only if they perform well in the domestic four-day competition. Until they do that, then they will not be picking the best team possible, and developing such players for the Test team of the future. If Jamaica win again this upcoming season, then I hope to see more Jamaicans in the A team. If another team wins the domestic four-day competition, then I expect to see more players from that team in the A team.

Until that happens, then I don't see the World T20 success acting as a springboard for the Test team....


A cricketing Buddha said...

Interesting piece - like all the smaller nations, the Windies will continue to struggle outside of the T20 game as revenue, crowds and promotion are all centred around the shortest game. Look at my own NZ side who so rarely play more than two tests in a series - why would tier one nations waste time and resources on anything more against a second tier "minnow"?

I agree that the T20 and yet sides should look very different though know little of the domestic competitions to comment. It's disappointing Nash is not given another go, but the most disheartening is the efforts of Darren Bravo - if the WI lineup to score heavily he needs to step up and lead them at the top. Shiv could them build through the middle and tail. If Samuels can continue his form from 2012 he may be able to pull the side forward on his own back, with the bat at least.

I like Roach but there seems to be little to back him up in the current test squad and so he is left to do donkey work instead of being utilised as an out and out strike bowler - the West Indies, like any international side, are most effective when they have a trio of quicks plus a spinner who can all challenge the batsmen.

I doubt the T20 success will be a springboard but it doesn't stop me living in hope - it's they way I've followed the Windies for the best part of the last 15 years...

mikesiva said...

Well said, Buddha, I totally agree with everything you've said above. Roach is the only WI pacer averaging under 30 right now - Sammy, Rampaul, Fidel and Best all average over 30, and that quartet are all around 30 years old too, so their best days are behind them.

greyblazer said...

I'm not sure I agree about Ravi. At present he is bowling at his best. He had a bad start in OZ. Since then he has steadily improved.