Legendary fast bowler Sir Andy Roberts believes selectors have erred by including out-of-form Chris Gayle in the Twenty20 World Cup squad and says the veteran left-hander should have instead quit international cricket two years ago.
In a damning critique of the 15-man squad, announced last week by the Roger Harper-led panel, Sir Andy said Gayle’s performances had not “risen to the standard” expected and yet selectors were continuing to hope the Jamaican found form.
The outspoken Antiguan, a former West Indies selector, said “great harm” had also been done to star all-rounder Jason Holder, who was relegated to the travelling four-man reserves for the October 17 to November 14 World Cup set for United Arab Emirates and Oman.
“Gayle should have walked away from international cricket after the 2019 World Cup because he has not risen to the standard that we all expect,” said Sir Andy.
“We are hoping that he can come good but coming good in one game doesn’t make a series.”
He added: “I’m not in favour of Ravi Rampaul and Chris Gayle. I don’t think you should be giving exemptions to these players, not in a T20 tournament.”
Rampaul, 36, was recalled to West Indies colours six years after last playing international cricket while Gayle, who turns 42 next week, has endured a prolonged slump.
Both were handed medical exemptions by Cricket West Indies’ medical panel, allowing them to be selected.
Gayle has averaged 17 from 16 T20 Internationals this year and recorded a single half-century in the last five years. He struggled badly in the just concluded Caribbean Premier League, averaging 16 from nine outings with a best of 42.
Rampaul was the tournament’s leading bowler with 19 wickets but critics have pointed to outstanding pacer Romario Shepherd’s 18 wickets as a case for his inclusion instead, especially with the Guyanese being 10 years younger and possessing batting ability.
Remarkably, the 29-year-old Holder has lost his place in the squad, despite being rested by selectors during the recent home series, with the aim of managing the player’s workload.
A powerful lower-order hitter, effective seamer, and brilliant fielder, Holder has joined left-hander Darren Bravo, left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell, and left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein among the reserves.
“I think Roger and company have done great harm to Jason Holder because I think that Jason Holder should’ve been one of the first people who were chosen to go on that tour,” Sir Andy told Starcom Radio’s Mason and Guest.
“He’s the best cricketer we have in the region and I just simply cannot see how you can leave your best cricketer out of the setup.”
Sir Andy also took aim at CWI’s selection policy, arguing a balance needed to be struck between performance and fitness, especially after watching as several in-form players were excluded on fitness grounds.
Champion off-spinner Sunil Narine claimed 12 wickets in the recent CPL, speedster Odean Smith was among the leading bowlers with 18 wickets while destructive 23-year-old left-hander, Sherfane Rutherford, struck three half-centuries and averaged nearly 40.
They were among those missing out after failing to meet CWI’s fitness standards.
“If we’re going to be going into this World Cup hoping to win, we’ve got to have people who we think can stay the course,” said Sir Andy.
“Some of these players [selected] are not going to stay the course because some of them are not as fit as people think they are.”
He added: “I hear so much talk about this fitness, fitness, fitness but what about ability? Who has the ability to perform? Because you can be as fit as hell but you can’t perform and to me, I’d be going for the players who are fit enough to play and have the ability to perform.”
The squad will be led by Kieron Pollard and also includes the likes of veteran all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.