Pacers Deliver on Lara's Gamble
Mon, Jun 30, '03
from Lawrence Romeo in JAMAICA
Just one week ago, the most famous Fidel in the Caribbean was the famous Castro, leader of the Cuban revolution. Now, Mr. Castro has company.
Making up for what he lacked in experience with energy, ebullience and ?lan, Fidel Edwards made a huge step towards adding his name to West Indies folklore -- and revolutionalise the way we view team selection in the Caribbean.
Joining a pace attack with three other bowlers that, including Fidel himself, had a sum total of nine test matches and 27 wickets between them, Edwards displayed leadership qualities more reminiscent of his more famous namesake in routing the Sri Lankans for a paltry 208.
His bowling was a revelation. Releasing the ball with a screwball action from somewhere near 10 O?clock, he mixed wonderful swing with surgical precision. He had all the Sri Lankan batsmen struggling to play him with any conviction. His eventual tally of five wickets for the cost of 36 runs represents the fifth time a bowler has taken a five wicket haul on debut at Sabina Park.
Amid all the euphoria of Edwards? dream debut, what is being lost is that if Lara had to convince the selectors to pick Edwards after getting a glimpse of him at a net practice, then it would seem that our First Class structure is not working as efficiently as it should.
Not that this type of selection is totally without precedent. Holding was the beneficiary of Lloyd?s hunch when he started, and more recently Lara who when he was sat down in mid pitch by Nixon McLean during a Carib Cup game, fast tracked him into the West Indies team where he promptly did nothing. That means Lara is 1 and 1 as far as hunches go. As one wag put it, this selection may create the situation where promising fast bowlers would not play First Class cricket for their respective territories, but instead strive to become net practice bowlers to the West Indies captain.
Another case in point is his fellow fast bowler Corey Collymore. Had it not been for his own personal drive and will to make it back after a debilitating back injury, we would not have seen the value of Collymore's swing bowling. Sources who have closely followed the West Indies and Collymore say that he has finally come to terms with his remodeled action. He hasn?t regained his former pace, but the upright seam, each way movement, an aggressive style, and lots of variety ensures that he sends down enough wicket-taking balls.
If there was any doubt that pigeonholing Collymore as a one day bowler was a shortsighted policy, Lara provided confirmation. ?I think it was a bit of a mishap that Corey wasn?t playing a lot of test cricket, because he is a test bowler.? Collymore?s returns of 5/66 in the first innings of the rain-ruined 1st test at Beausejour Stadium, followed up with a nine wicket haul in the second test in Jamaica punctuated that point precisely.
It was refreshing to see the 25-year-old Collymore assuming a leadership role in the fast bowling fraternity, ?I had spoken to the captain the night before the game and he was asking me if I was ready to lead the attack and I told him yes.? Collymore further said, ?what I do is kept the two guys (Taylor and Edwards) under my wing, we go to dinner every night, we speak about cricket, on mornings at 7 o?clock I get them in the pool, get the muscles nice and loose, so we?re always sticking together.?
Jermaine Taylor, the youngest of the West Indian pace quartet, came through a different route. He, unlike Edwards, at least had a full First Class season, and was actually in the current class at the Shell Cricket Academy when he was selected. Even though Taylor is still very raw, and currently lacks the bowling savvy of a Vasbert Drakes or even a Corey Collymore, he is young, bowls at good pace, and has one of the prettiest approaches to the wicket in West Indies cricket.
On Taylor, Lara?s assessment was summed up in one word, ?special!? and likened him to former West Indies fast bowler Winston Benjamin. However Lara was quick to add, ?saying special from me, is good, but he has got to understand that he has got to take it from there??
The West Indies now has to be more proactive in ensuring that players get the required amount of exposure and experience, so that when they get to Test level they will not be a hit or miss prospect. Lara has had to rely on the assessments of Edwards? YMPC club captain, and input from his Barbados captain, Courtney Browne on how he should be used. We seem to have gotten lucky with Taylor and Edwards, and certainly in Edwards? case, Lara should take all the credit for any success that Edwards reaps on behalf of the West Indies. However, gambling is no sure bet, and we have to look no further than at Nixon McLean?s career to realize this.
We should no longer depend on a captain?s hunch to find a match winning bowler. In the ensuing months, the West Indies think tank has to come up with a way to get cricketers in the WI playing more cricket, they should also consider getting more players exposed. With three months of no cricket being played until the Red Stripe one day competition slated for September, players like Edwards and Taylor have no testing opportunities that will help them to improve as bowlers.
Consider, it is debatable whether Edwards would have made a Barbados team had he not earned a shock selection. Consider also that talents like Ryan Nurse continue to find it difficult to be selected to their national teams, and in many cases, they are not sent to the West Indies ?B? team, so they are not looked at. One possible solution to this conundrum is to give the West Indian selectors the mandate and the authority to ?suggest? to the local selectors, the names of players that they would like to see perform at the First Class level, to see if they are ready for selection to the West Indies team.
Until we can find the will and the finances to set up a proper all-encompassing professional league that allows our players every chance of improvement and advancement, we will continue to have to select players in a hit or miss fashion.
And, like we've seen these past few days, that's not the best thing.