St John’s – Lead West Indies selector stoutly defended the squad choices for the ICC Twenty20 World Cup later this year in Australia.
He was grilled about the surprise inclusion of the uncapped Yannic Cariah, who he deemed a potential wildcard, opener Johnson Charles, who has not played for the regional side in six years, and left-handed opener Evin Lewis, who has not turned out for West Indies since the last T20 World Cup last November in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
As for the omission of several other players who have been performing well, the Most Honourable Desmond Haynes said there were several “close calls” when the 15-member squad was being chosen and given the limited spaces there were players who were “pretty close to selection, but lose out because of the combination of the side”.
Insisting that the selectors had picked “the best team for the West Indies”, Haynes told journalists who pressed him on the rationale for certain selections that people with potential had to be “given a chance”.
In the case of leg-spinning all-rounder Cariah, who has played only four T20s taking only one wicket and was not selected by any of the franchises for the ongoing Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Haynes was adamant that he had proven himself otherwise.
“We were very impressed with Yannic in the games that we had selected him,” the lead selector said. “It started with the A team; he bowled very well, and we gave him a chance to play against New Zealand in the 50-over competition, and we were very impressed with him.
“And I think if it’s one thing a lot of people might not be aware of is that even though yes, he is bowling well for us, he also got a lot of respect for his batting. We think that he’s a guy who can make runs for us as well.
“This would be a good opportunity for him to play in a World Cup. I think he’s good enough. I also think that he can do very well for us with the bat as well, and I think he deserves the opportunity to play in this big tournament.”
Cariah’s last T20 match was during the 2016 CPL and despite his limited experience, Haynes said he was chosen over the more accomplished Hayden Walsh Jr.
“We believe Yannick is the best person for the leg-spin position and he would do a good job for us,” Haynes said.
After being bombarded with further questions about Cariah’s selection for a crucial tournament in which West Indies will be aiming to win an unprecedented third T20 World Cup title, the chief selector added: “Sometimes you just have to go with a person you feel can do a good job for you…. Just give us a chance. We feel that this guy can do a job for us and that’s the reason why he’s in the side.”
The CWI’s main selector also explained that Charles, who was part of West Indies’ T20 World Cup winning teams in 2012 and 2016, earned a recall partly based on his experience.
According to Haynes, selectors also took into consideration his performance for St Lucia Kings in the current CPL in which he is the second-highest run-getter with 227 runs in six innings at an average of 45.40 and a strike rate of 136.74.
“Judging from this performance in the CPL, his experience as well, he had a tour of Australia and he’s done well down there and also we’re looking at somebody who could be the second keeper,” he said, adding that Charles got the edge over Andre Fletcher.
Haynes, said previously estanged opener Evin Lewis had pledged his commitment to West Indies cricket, leading to his inclusion in the T20 World Cup squad.
Lewis has struggled to meet CWI’s fitness criteria and recently failed to undertake a fitness test in order to qualify for selection for the New Zealand series.
“He met with coach Phil Simmons and director of cricket Jimmy Adams, and Evin indicated at the meeting that he is committed to West Indies cricket, and I think that we have to give people a chance,” Haynes told a virtual news conference.
“At the end of the day, if someone comes in and says that they are committed to playing cricket for West Indies, especially in the white ball format, I think we have to give people a chance…
“Sometimes we have to move on, and we have to really appreciate when people could come to us and explain their position to us and if we agree we give them a chance.”
The T20 World Cup runs from October 16 to November 13, with West Indies scheduled to first play a qualifying tournament to reach the main draw.