(This column was originally published in the Stabroek News newspaper)

“Knives for Roger Harper and his hallucinating band of selectors, aren't yet drawn. But surely, they are being sharpened!"

Those were the words of the seasoned Jamaican cricket journalist Ray Ford, in reaction to the storm of controversy that has been created as a result of the choices made by Selections’ Chair Roger Harper and his Panel for the West Indies official squad of 15 plus four reserves to participate in the forthcoming ICC 2021 T20 World Cup. The 2021 ICC T20 World Cup will be held in the UAE from October 17 – November 13.

Further revelations from the most recent episodes of the West Indies World Cup Squad “selections fiasco,” would now suggest that the sharpened knives have since not only been drawn but that it is now only a matter of time before they are used to pierce the tenure of Roger Harper, Miles Bascome and Head Coach Phil Simmons as members of the West Indies Selections Panel with terminal effect!

The Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) was among the first to publicly question the Panel’s competence. Angered by the Selections Panel’s omission of Sherfayne Rutherford on the grounds of his not having met the established fitness criteria, the GCB suggested that Cricket West Indies (CWI) should advise the Caribbean cricket public regarding the standard and schedule for fitness tests for regional cricketers.

Stating that the Selections Panel has disappointed both Guyana and the Caribbean at large, while referring to its decisions as a “selection fiasco,” the GCB called for the Panel to be made accountable to all cricket institutions and stakeholders in the region and to justify its choices.
“Failure to do so, the GCB calls on CWI to dismiss the Selections Panel and to replace it with a more competent one which will represent the best interests of West Indies cricket!”
In addition to the GCB’s issued statement, several Caribbean Heads of States have also weighed in with their own criticisms of the selected squad. The respective Prime Ministers of Barbados and St Vincent, the Honorable Mia Mottley and Dr Ralph Gonsalves, as well as Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, have all expressed their profound disappointment and disagreement with some of the Harper-led Selections Panel’s choices.

Further, the former West Indies fast bowling legendary great, Sir Andy Roberts, referred to the Selections Panel’s non-inclusion of Barbadian Jason Holder, within the final squad of fifteen and his relegation to the status of a mere reserve as “embarrassing!”

Holder holds the current ICC ranking as international cricket’s best all-rounder. He is also the Cricket West Indies’ only all formats, Tests, ODIs and T20s, contracted player.

Holder’s relegations as a reserve, the medical exemptions provided to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul, as well as the reported non-consideration of Odean Smith and Sherfayne Rutherford as a result of their respective failures to meet the established fitness criteria for West Indies selection. These are uppermost among the far too many highly questionable World Cup Squad decisions made by Harper and his Panel.

It can now arguably be said that never before in Caribbean cricket’s illustrious history has a selected West Indies squad caused such controversy. The very centre of which appears to be the glaringly apparent inconsistencies surrounding the fitness standards that were applied to determine selection, or conversely non-selection, of certain players to the squad.

Where is the consistency between the medical exemptions granted to Chris Gayle and Ravi Rampaul and the non-consideration of Smith and Rutherford for not having met the established fitness criteria? That is the very simple question now being asked of Harper and his Panel. Shouldn’t “what’s good for the goose, also be granted to the gander?”

Furthermore, as Sir Andy Roberts has also correctly reasoned as important a tournament as the T20 World Cup is, coupled with the fact that we are the reigning Champions seeking to defend our title, why are we even considering, let alone actually including players who are in need of medical exemptions?

The former West Indies opening batsman, Bryan Davis’ reaction to the fitness-related decisions of Harper and his Panel was even more damning.

“This is dangerous territory we’re entering and the precedent being set for future selectors by the disqualification of young promising players while giving past successful players a medical exemption is a sign of dishonesty in selection policy. One is either fit enough to take his place in the team or he’s not. Every international cricketer walking out on that field to represent WI must deserve his place on the team by his performances and by extension his fitness. Equal status for all.”

Harper himself has also attracted the ire of former West Indies opening batsman Philo Wallace. The outspoken Wallace has highly criticized Harper’s self-admitted decision as Selection Chairman to leave the determination of Obed McCoy’s fitness readiness for the World Cup in the hands of Cricket West Indies’ Medical Committee.

As one of the designated death bowlers and hence a vital member of the West Indies’ World Cup bowling attack, McCoy has reportedly been suffering from recurring shin splints for some time now. His appearances in actual matches of late, including both those in the recent West Indies T2o Series against Australia and Pakistan as well as this year’s recently concluded CPL, can only be best described as having been sporadic.

Harper having left the determination of McCoy’s fitness to the Medical Committee would, therefore, appear to be an abdication of his responsibilities as Selections Chair. Moreover, it also now means that in addition to already being the most aged of the 2021 T20 World Cup’s 16 participating teams, as well as arguably the most unfit, the West Indies could also well be the only squad containing an injury affected player even before the tournament’s commencement!

As a member of Cricket West Indies’ recently structured Committee to develop a new policy for the governance of the selection of West Indies teams, Wallace has also indicated that fitness was identified as the most basic fundamental requirement of its submitted recommendations. The Committee’s recommendations were subsequently wholly endorsed by Cricket West Indies’ Board of Directors. As such, in the light of the Word Cup selections decisions that have been made by Harper and Company, Wallace has suggested that the Committee’s recommendations are now seemingly being ignored.

“When does this current Panel’s tenure end?”

That was the question posed by Philo Wallace as one of the panellists on the recent September 14, 2021 broadcast of the highly popular Barbados-based Mason & Guest Programme. Mason & Guests is hosted weekly by the noted West Indies cricket Radio Commentator, Andrew Mason.

If Wallace’s question is not now surely a sign of knives not only having actually been drawn but also being pointed squarely in the direction of Roger Harper and his Cricket West Indies Selections Panel, then “the Pope isn’t Catholic!”

 

 Cricket West Indies chief of selectors Roger Harper is hopeful the region will see the best of fast bowler Oshane Thomas following his selection to the T20 World Cup squad.

The 24-year-old pace bowler was once considered one of the hottest prospects in regional cricket after bursting on the scene with fiery spells for Caribbean Premier League (CPL) team Jamaica Tallawahs during the 2016 season.

However, despite going on to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the last two seasons and 17 T20 international matches for the West Indies, Thomas is yet to quite hit the heights his talent promised early on.

In-between indifferent spells of forms and fitness issues, the player has taken 19 wickets for the team.  Thomas has, however, looked lively in the CPL this season taking 4 wickets in six games.  The player’s rejuvenated look has been enough to attract the attention of the selectors and Harper hopes the decision pays rich dividends come next month.

“Oshane brings that sort of x-factor to the team, we know when Oshane is at his best he is a real force,” Harper told members of the media on Thursday.

“We haven’t seen him at his best for a while, but we saw him coming to that point in this tournament (CPL).  A lot of work has been done in the various T20 series, behind the scenes with Oshane,” he added.

“When he played, we didn’t see exactly what we were looking for, but now we see a bit of the Oshane that we know in this tournament (CPL) and will feel that if he keeps improving he will be the sort of bowler that could make a difference for us in the right condition.  Hsis extra pace, his extra bounce, and when he is on song he gets the ball to swing at that pace as well.  So, we think he could make a big difference in the team.”

 

 

In-form batsman Sherfane Rutherford and spinner Sunil Narine were among a few players not eligible for selection to the World Cup squad after failing fitness standards, chief of selectors Roger Harper has confirmed.

In the ongoing Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Rutherford has been one of the most outstanding players so far, scoring 201 runs in 7 matches, with an average of 40.20 and a strike rate of 136.73.  Speculation had linked the player with a late consideration for a space in the West Indies World Cup squad but, as it has for other players in the recent past, it turns out his fitness level was an issue. 

“As well as he has been performing he is one of a few players who did not meet our fitness criteria, so he was not eligible for selection,” Harper told members of the media, in explaining the player’s omission.

Narine, once the top-ranked spinner in the world, has recently shown versatility at the top of the order as a pinch-hitter and could have been a weapon for the team at the tournament. 

“Sunil Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this.  Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team but as I mentioned with Rutherford and some of the others Sunil also did not make our fitness standards,” Harper said.

Based on standards implemented by Cricket West Indies (CWI), in 2019, players must achieve a mark of 40 in the Yo-Yo Endurance Test unless given a medical exemption by the CWI medical committee.  Another player that has shown plenty of promise during the CPL campaign, but did also did not meet the fitness standards, was fast bowler Odean Smith.

West Indies chief of selector Roger Harper admits it was a difficult choice to relegate talented all-rounder Jason Holder to a reserve position, following the unveiling of the 15-member T20 World Cup squad on Thursday.

Many were left astonished after Holder, who has had a few standout stints in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and international T20 cricket in recent months, was only named among four reserve players.

“Leaving a player of the standard and quality of Jason out of our final 15 was a difficult decision and it provoked a lot of debate,” Harper told members of the media via an online press conference.

“When we look at the type of composition we wanted, considering the all-rounders that we had and the balance, he was unfortunate not to make it,” he added.

“It was a 15-man squad, everyone couldn’t make it, different things were taken into consideration and Jason just missed out, but with a player of his stature and quality it was a difficult decision and one we didn’t take lightly.”

In 10 matches and three series against Pakistan, South Africa, and Sri Lanka, Holder totalled 90 runs, had an average of 30, and claimed 9 wickets.  He, however, struggled in the team’s most recent series against Pakistan totalling just 2 runs and 4wickets in four matches.

 

West Indies chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has admitted that much better performances were expected from the team’s senior batsman after a sub-par showing against South Africa in the recently concluded T20 series.

Despite starting the series in strong fashion, the West Indies were beaten eventually beaten 3-2 after failing to successfully chase a target of close to 170 in three of five matches.

Fabian Allen had the team’s highest average with 67 in four matches, followed by Evin Lewis with 35.60 in five and Andre Fletcher 32.50 from two matches.  However, there will have been major concerns about some of the team’s seasoned batting stars who struggled to find a way into the series.

Veteran batsman Chris Gayle played four games and averaged just 18.66, with a high score of 32.  Andre Russell averaged 15.50, also in five games, with a high score of 25, team captain Pollard had a high score of 51, but also struggled, managing to average just 22 in five matches.

A few of the team's younger, but seasoned T20 players also struggled, with Shimron Hetmyer averaging 19 and Nicholas Pooran 17.75.

The panel of selectors has come under pressure in some quarters for picking the veteran’s trio of Gayle, Fidel Edwards, and Darren Bravo.  However, while Edwards picked up two wickets in two matches and Bravo was the leading wicket-taker with 10, the spotlight has continued to shine on Gayle’s struggles.

“Certainly, Bravo was the leading wicket-taker and Fidel played a couple of games and started to get into stride in the second game.  But from a batting perspective we expect quite a bit more from the senior guys,” Harper told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Maybe we just got carried away with the manner and the method that we used to win that first game from a batting perspective and just thought that we could continue in the same vein and found ourselves in a hole in the middle overs because South Africa adjusted their approach.”

 

CWI chairman of selectors, Roger Harper, has defended the selection of young fast bowler Jayden Seales, despite the player’s lack of experience at the regional level.

With strike bowler Shannon Gabriel out of the upcoming series against South Africa, due to injury, the 19-year-old Seales made it into the final 13-man squad on the back of an impressive performance in the recent West Indies Best vs Best practice match.

The young fast bowler took five wickets overall, including a three-wicket burst that saw him remove the top order of West Indies Best B in the second innings. 

With only one first class match under his belt, however, some have objected to the young bowler being picked ahead of those with a lot more experience.  Harper has insisted, however, that the player’s performance in the practice match was enough to show the selectors plenty of what they were looking for.

“I saw a young bowler play in games where Test players and the best of our regional first class players were playing and he performed exceedingly well, better than a number of players that have been playing first class cricket over a number of years,” Harper told members of the media.

“The match was not classified as a first class match but those matches were played by the best of our regional first class players and he did exceedingly well.  So, I like to think that if he can perform well in those games against those players, he had the potential to transfer that to Test games,” he added.

The series against South Africa will get underway at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in St Lucia, on Thursday.

 

Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors, Roger Harper, believes it is an absolute necessity for players to get used to the idea of having to perform at the very top of their games in order to secure top-class retainer contracts.

The omission of the likes of Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shamarh Brooks, Shane Dowrich, Sheldon Cottrell, Rovman Powell, and Oshane Thomas from the international retainer contracts lists, for the upcoming year, has rubbed a few supporters the wrong way.  Particularly, based on the fact that fewer contracts were handed out this year.

However, according to Harper, some players did not meet the minimum criteria for selection or simply did not display the quality need.

“We have to accept that these are performance-based contracts.  So, the contracts are awarded based on performance during the evaluation period, as well as the selection panel must feel that the players must play a major role or form the nucleus of the team going forward,” Harper told members of the media on Thursday.

“The players who were not awarded contracts their performances over the period did not meet the necessary criteria as well as you had new players who came to fore and performed, so they were offered contracts,” he added.

“Going forward as a culture, if we want to see our team progress, if we want to see our team compete with the best in the world.  We have to be more conscious of the fact that we have to earn our stripes and we have to perform consistently.  I think our retainer contracts are given on that basis.”

In addition to playing at least 50 percent of the games during the evaluation period, to be considered, batsmen must average at least 30 in Test and ODI cricket.  For T20Is players the player’s batting average and strike rate combined must be a minimum 150.

 

Cricket West Indies (CWI) chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has admitted that there is some concern over the form of batsman Shimron Hetmyer after the player failed to secure a retainer contract.

The 24-year-old explosive batsman has been previously heralded as one of West Indies cricket’s brightest prospects but has not been at his best in recent seasons.

Hetmyer has not played a Test for the regional team since 2019, against Afghanistan, and has not played in a One Day International since January of last year, against Ireland.  In addition to that, the player has twice failed fitness tests during the period.

The batsman missed out on the team’s tour of Sri Lanka in February of last year and then missed out on early selection for the squad this year, after failing another following the arrival of the Sri Lankans to tour the Caribbean.  Hetmyer subsequently passed a follow-up test.

“I still think Shimron is the type of player that has the ability to be a world-class player in every format going forward,” Harper told members of the media via an online video chat on Thursday.

“Naturally, when you have that sort of potential, we want to see it reach the kind of level that he is capable of reaching.  So, yes, we are concerned.  Yes, we will continue to work with Shimron and yes we will try to give the short of focus that we think is required for him to maximise his potential.”

Despite losing out on his regional contract, Hetmyer, however, retains a franchise contract.

 

Cricket West Indies has awarded first-time international retainer contracts to Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Akeal Hosein and Kyle Mayers while newly-appointed Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite and Darren Bravo received International contracts for red-ball and white-ball cricket, respectively.

A total of 18 players have been offered contracts for the upcoming 2021-22 season which runs from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.

Meanwhile, Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks and Shane Dowrich are among several who have lost their retainer contracts. Also losing their contracts were Sunil Ambris, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd and Oshane Thomas.

“Contracts offered for the 2021-22 period sees 18 players being retained, a decrease of four from last year. Jason Holder is the only player to retain his all-format contract due to his strong Test and T20I performances during the evaluation period,” CWI Lead Selector Roger Harper confirmed.

“There are several new players offered red-ball contracts earned by their strong performances during the last period. A number of players were not retained because they did not meet the minimum requirements.”

CWI Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams was pleased for the players who were retained.

“I am happy for all the players who have been offered retainer contracts for the upcoming period. Especially pleasing was the number of players who were awarded first-time contracts in recognition of their performances during the period under review,” he said.

“I know that the 11 players who have lost their international retainers will be striving and fighting hard to get back into the teams and earn their central contracts back next year.  These players, along with our T20 specialists, will ensure that we have genuine competition for places that will push everyone to attain higher standards of performance.”

The evaluation period for the 2021-22 contracts covered performances and statistics from April 1, 2020, to April 1, 2021 (this was also supported by statistics from the previous 2019-2020 evaluation period). This allows for all players to be appraised immediately after the evaluation period and provides a notice period before new contracts on July 1, 2021.

Below are the players who have been awarded retainer contracts.

All-Format Contracts: Jason Holder.

Red Ball Contracts: Kraigg Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner*, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva*, Shannon Gabriel, Kyle Mayers* and Kemar Roach.

White Ball Contracts: Kieron Pollard, Fabien Allen, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein*, Evin Lewis, Alzarri Joseph, Nicholas Pooran and Hayden Walsh Jr.

*Players offered contracts for the first time in 2021-2022

Players who are no longer receiving international retainer contracts are:

All Format Contracts: Roston Chase.

Red Ball Contracts: Shamarh Brooks and Shane Dowrich.

White Ball Contracts: Sunil Ambris, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Keemo Paul, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd and Oshane Thomas.

 All players who are no longer on International retainer contracts are offered an A* grade Regional Franchise Contract for the following year.

West Indies chief of selectors, Roger Harper, has revealed that the panel remains in the dark regarding the future of spinner Sunil Narine who remains unavailable for selection.

The 32-year-old Narine is widely regarded as one of the best spinners in the world but has not appeared for the West Indies since 2019.  In total, Narine has played 6 Test matches, where he claimed 21 wickets, 65 One Day Internationals, where he has claimed 92 wickets, and 51 T20 Internationals where he has taken 52.

The player has, however, throughout his career been plagued by questions surrounding his bowling action.  In 2015, Narine was suspended from bowling in international cricket, after his action was deemed to be illegal.  He was reported during the ODI series against Sri Lanka.  He was cleared a year later after doing remedial work on his action.  Narine was reported again during the 2018 Pakistan Super League but was cleared soon after.  Again, in October 2020, the spinner was reported by on-field umpires for his bowling action in the 2020 Indian Premier League, which was cleared by IPL Suspect Bowling Action Committee in September.

According to Harper, at this point, the bowler does not seem comfortable enough with his technique to return to international cricket.

“Sunil Narine has indicated to us that he is not yet ready for the international scene,”
 Harper told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“He was still in the process of fine-tuning his action.  He had some issues with that so he is in the process of fine-tuning it,” he added.

“So, when he makes himself available and thinks that he is ready for international cricket, we will then have to make a determination at that point.”

He might no longer by the captain of the West Indies but Jason Holder still has a lot to contribute to the success of the team going forward.

Opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite has replaced Jason Holder as West Indies Test captain, Cricket West Indies confirmed tonight.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.