T20 World Cup preparations on course

Based on their performances in the first two games of their current three-game home series against Bangladesh, the West India team’s preparations for this year’s ICC T20 World Cup now look solidly on track. The near-complete identification of the 15-man squad that could potentially represent the West Indies at the forthcoming ICC T20 World Cup, hosted in Australia, definitely qualifies as one of the better mid-year events in Caribbean cricket in July.

In the first two completed games of the ongoing three-game series against Bangladesh, both played in Dominica, the West Indies performed most admirably. They bowled extremely well in the first T20 to limit Bangladesh to 105/8 in the 13 overs possible before rain returned and caused every further game to be abandoned. In the second round, their top-flight batsmen, most notably newly appointed vice-captain Rovman Powell, came to the fore for a 193/5 first-bat for 20 overs overall. That eventually proved 35 runs out of reach of the Bangladesh batsmen.

Powell’s 28 ball 61 shots, including 2 thunderous sixes and 6 fours, were an absolute delight to watch. Not only for his wonderful impact on the West Indies’ innings, but also for his obvious indication of his continued maturity and accepted responsibility as the crucial number five in the team’s batting order.

Powell’s skill on display is another indication that the potential 15-man squad for the 2022 West Indies World Cup may already have identified. Barring Kyle Mayers, Shamarh Brooks, Odean Smith and Kemo Paul, the remaining seven members of the XI, who played Bangladesh in the second T20, barring injuries or other unforeseen developments, should now be considered safe certainties seats on the plane bound for Australia.

Few would dare dispute the claims of Brandon King, Skipper Nicholas Pooran, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Akeal Hosein, Haydn Walsh and Obed McCoy of being on that flight. Add to that the rested Alzarri Joseph and the absent but hopefully returning Evin Lewis, Shimron Hetmeyer, Jason Holder and Fabian Allen, and twelve of the last fifteen would now have firmly identified.

Devon Thomas was impressively clean behind the stumps in the first, abandoned T20. Sufficient to justify his inclusion as backup wicket-keeper and thirteenth member of the squad.

That would leave only two spots available, seemingly contested between Mayers, Brooks, Smith and Paul. Since one of the spots is likely to go to a batsman and the other to a bowler, Mayers and Brooks are likely to contest the former, while either Smith or Paul would be the choices for the latter. The final decision as to the best choice for either position should come from the respective performances of the competitors during the remaining T20 matches of the West Indies before their departure from the World Cup.

Having the composition of the potential 15-man squad for the upcoming T20 World Cup finalized more or less months before the start of the tournament is one of the better developments to have taken place during this half-term period of Cricket West Indies in July (CWI) year 2022 After the undeniable horribilis annus that was 2021, West Indies cricket would have been hoping for a much improved 2022.

However, with six months already completed, even the most superficial half-year review would indicate that while some good has been achieved, there are also some notable shortcomings that can only be described as “bad”. There were others, too, who, unfortunately, can now even rightly be described as downright “ugly”!

Back-to-back West Indies Test Series victories against England and then Bangladesh, which has resulted in a current sixth place in the ICC Test Championships points standings, has definitely been one of the most positive developments of 2022. So has the fulfillment of their duties by the of Desmond Haynes-led selection panel.

Happily, the teams chosen so far by Haynes and his comrades have been almost entirely free of major controversial inclusions or omissions. Even more inviting were Haynes’ very logical explanations of the choices made from one series to the next.

CWI’s announcement of establishing an annual academy at the Antigua Coolidge Cricket Center was also wonderful good news and development. So does the subsequent, recent identification of the eighteen talented “Rising Stars” who will form the Academy’s first-ever student body.

CWI is yet to announce the appointed faculty for the Academy’s first year. It is hoped that some of the former West Indies greats, particularly available Antiguan legends such as Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Viv Richards and Sir Curtly Ambrose, will be involved in some way.

The need for greater involvement of its former legends in West Indian cricket is one of the easily identifiable areas of much-needed improvement that Caribbean cricket supporters would have hoped to witness this year. Instead, as Jamaica’s veteran Caribbean cricket journalist Ray Ford noted, CWI now appear to be wrongly going in the opposite direction, at least as far as its apparent priorities are concerned.

Ford has recently publicly expressed dissatisfaction that CWI, under its current leadership of Ricky Skerritt, is dead on the 94th from committing to represent the West Indies in Tests.

A very knowledgeable, widely respected Caribbean cricket journalist, Ford’s long-standing and ever-growing dissatisfaction with the way cricket has been and is administered in the West Indies led to his decision to throw his hat into the ring of contention for the Cricket West Indies presidency in elections scheduled for next year. The reasons for his later decision to do so were publicly set out in a Trinidad Daily Express .doc article published back on January 8, 2020.

If the CWI’s unjustly distorted current priorities can be classified as “bad”, then the globally televised images of the nearly empty stands during Antigua and St Lucia’s tests against Bangladesh should rightly be called downright ugly. Aside from the token invitation extended to a few dozen school children to participate in the first day of the St. Lucia Trials, CWI’s marketing promotions for both games left much to be desired.

Despite the reported presence of hundreds of cricket-loving British tourists in Antigua and St Lucia at the time of the tests, there appeared to be little or no promotional exposure for the matches, either in the form of purchased advertising or even freely available news reports, in the local Media of both island areas. The hotels where such tourists would have stayed were also reportedly not involved in promoting the games to their guests in any way.

Clearly, therefore, there is still work to be done for CWI as it continues its efforts to see a much-improved 2022 and avoid having this year labeled yet another horribilis annus. As CWI strives to make the necessary improvements, fans and supporters of the West Indies team, wherever they may be, will be hoping for a longer continuation of the positive results that have been achieved of late.

About the author:

Guyana-born, Toronto-based Tony McWatt is the Editor of WI Wickets and Wickets/Monthly Online Cricket Magazines, targeting Caribbean and Canadian readers respectively. He is also the only son of former Guyana and West Indies wicketkeeper batsman the late Clifford “Baby Boy” McWatt.

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