Darwinism Must Apply To Gayle
Thu, Feb 3, '05
Without saying it, most of the more knowledgeable writers, commentators and followers of West Indies cricket treat too many of our current crop of players as untouchables when it comes to selecting and changing the team.
It's about time we get honest with ourselves, put insularity aside and call for Darwinism in West Indies Cricket. Without such a system where only the most productive, the strongest, and the most consistent survive on the senior team, we will have resigned ourselves to sheer mediocrity.
Based on productivity, there should only be three automatic selections on the West Indies side at this time. Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan have done enough over the last three series to justify their status as automatic picks.
It is unfortunate that Chris Gayle, Courtney Browne, Ian Bradshaw, Pedro Collins and Ricardo Powell are now being treated as virtual untouchables. This approach should be challenged and not allowed to perpetuate in the mindset of the West Indies cricket community.
The hiring of Bennett King, and the new powers that have been given to him when it comes to the selection of the team, offered some hope that the selection process would be merit-based and more akin to the successful Australian approach of holding the players fully accountable for what they do out in the middle.
Unfortunately, for him to do nothing about Chris Gayle?s poor performance throughout the recently concluded VB series does not auger well for the future. Gayle was simply not getting the job done with the bat. The one time he passed 50 was nowhere near acceptable for a senior opener on a test team. We had a reserve opener on the tour and he should be used to pressure Gayle to improve his game.
Additionally, the extra value Gayle normally adds to the team with his bowling was lost after he injured his shoulder in the first match. To insist on having Gayle open the innings suggests that King is bent on maintaining the status quo. My understanding of King?s hiring is that he is being paid top dollars to turn West Indies cricket around for the better ? not to accept mediocrity. Indeed, his pronouncement immediately after his hiring that potential would not be enough to secure a place on the team seems to have been discarded in a hurry.
The question that the selectors must ask of each player is: what have you done for us lately? West Indies cricket cannot be treated as a typical third world government job where a worker stays on as long as he wishes by just doing enough to satisfy the bare essentials. Yes, we will forever remain grateful to Browne and Bradshaw for their efforts in helping us to lift the ICC trophy last September, but this by no means qualifies them to be automatic picks on the team. The above question must be asked of them after each game.
As an example, if Baugh or Sanford is in better form, then they should be given a chance in the interest of the team. Pedro Collins is showing signs that he could become a very effective left arm bowler for us. But until he can average 3-4 wickets each game and until he is able to stay fit for an extended period of time, he cannot be deemed a staple on the West Indies team.
In as much as we hate the idea of chopping and changing the West Indies team, our status at this time leaves us with no choice. Therefore, despite my personal friendship with Xavier Marshall, I had no issue with him being dropped after the first VB game after he failed to perform. In fact, it was a welcome move. But we should not have limited this practice to him alone.
Ricardo Powell, despite his many failures to live up to expectations, was given three opportunities to reinforce his mediocrity at the expense of batsmen who were picked ahead of him for the tour. Dwayne Bravo, despite his excellent fielding, had three opportunities to show that he is really nothing more than a poor tailender with the bat.
Darwinism dictates that the mediocre players must be pushed out by others who are performing ahead of them at the time. Whether these replacement players will perform excellently for any period of time is something we cannot worry about at this juncture. We simply have to do what it takes to add some respect to our cricket at this time.
Whereas it is desirable to have a nucleus of players on any team to ensure continuity, this is a luxury that only successful and great teams can afford. We are in a rebuilding stage at this time. In order for us to climb to the next level, we must have natural competition built into the process by which anyone makes and stays on the team.
This competition, however, must not be compromised or tainted by insularity or any form of politics. Only the strongest of the fittest should survive on the final 11.
* John Pinnock is a sports agent. He operates the J&P Sports Marketing company, based in Baltimore, U.S.A.