The Clarence Hiles Column
Has Windies thrown Ireland a lifeline?
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Barely 24 hours after announcing a World Cup squad that omitted world-class all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard the West Indies Twenty20 team chased a mammoth 232 to win the second match and the series with South Africa in Johannesburg.
For those who watched this runs feast it was an awesome exhibition of power hitting and while Bravo and Pollard played minor parts in this tremendous victory their presence and contributions were significant.
Therefore it seems incredible that the West Indies selectors should omit two of their prize assets for this prestigious tournament, which has been good to the Caribbean down the years.
Although no official statement has been issued regarding the omissions it appears obvious that these two players are being ‘punished’ for their part in the aborted India tour two months ago. Bravo was captain and spokesman for the players when negotiations with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) broke down and the impasse that developed pushed WICB President David Cameron and West Indies Cricket Players Association (WIPA) CEO and President Wavell Hinds into the front line.
A lot has been said since and written since the unprecedented action by the players and while many people in the region were sympathetic to the players’ frustrations they did not support their actions. At the same time neither Cameron nor Hinds has come out of this debacle with much credit and many people will feel that Bravo and Pollard should not have been the only victims.
Worse still, to deprive the West Indies of two of their best players will be seen as self-destructive. Will Ireland be the first beneficiary as they face West Indies in the their opening World Cup game at Nelson in New Zealand on 14 February?
On the face of it they will certainly be better off not facing either Bravo or Pollard given their world-class pedigree in this form of cricket, but how much it will affect the result is pure speculation at this stage.
Manager Clive Lloyd’s team is still packed with talent and if their Twenty20 victory is an indication of form then Ireland are in for a daunting time. Some website experts have already earmarked the West Indies as a likely scalp for the emerging Ireland team against a seemingly Caribbean team in decline, but this is far from reality.
The West Indies may be struggling at test level, but their ODI and Twenty20 teams are capable of beating any team in the world. Player availability has plagued test team selections in recent times, but the big money players are back in the ranks for the World Cup, albeit with two notable exceptions.
And if we set the best two teams from each country alongside each other and picked the best eleven it is doubtful if an Ireland player would be selected. That’s the reality of playing at this level and while we want to see Ireland do well we should not get too far in front of ourselves in claiming we are on par and possibly better than established test teams packed with talent.
It is all about performance on the day and over the past eight years Ireland has produced some cracking results, but there have also been some severe thrashings. We enter the World Cup with nothing to lose, as we are not expected to beat the top teams.
The West Indies selectors have helped our cause by leaving out two of their top players, but with Gayle, Simmons, Samuels, Smith and Sammy in their ranks their hitting power remains explosive.
Perhaps if there is a weakness in both teams it is in their bowling attacks as neither has the firepower to threaten most teams so everything may come down to the batting.
For Ireland’s sake let’s hope Chris Gayle isn’t in one of those moods!
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