Unconvincing statistics have been disregarded in favour of experience and longevity preferred to potential in the changes to the West Indies team from the five ODIs in Zimbabwe to the subsequent tough series of three Tests in South Africa.
Rawl Lewis, 33, whose sporadic international appearances date back 10 years, is retained from the squad to Zimbabwe in spite of the mortifying record of a solitary wicket for 388 runs with his legspin in four Tests in that time, all overseas.
For all his experience, even because of it, it is difficult to understand Lewis’ presence for the longer, even more than for the shorter, game. Perhaps the selectors noted that in last season’s Tests in South Africa, Anil Kumble had 14 wickets in the three Tests for India and Danesh Kaneria 15 in the three for Pakistan. But Lewis is clearly no Kumble or Kaneria.
Instead, Amit Jaggernauth, the leading off-spinner in regional cricket since his debut for Trinidad and Tobago in 2003 with 116 wickets (average 23.51), and Omari Banks, a worthy all-round cricketer with 10 Tests to his name, are again excluded. And both are only 24. Jaggernauth, at least, was surely was worth his first chance.
Daren Ganga, 28, keeps the Test place he first gained nine years ago on the 1998-99 tour of South Africa in spite of a modest batting average of 26.19 in 45 Tests. Pedro Collins, the left-arm swing bowler, 31, is recalled to Test duty for the first time since the home series against India a year and a half ago, extending a chequered career that began in 1999 and has earned him 106 wickets in 32 Tests.
Ganga replaces Narsingh Deonarine, the 24-year-old left-hand batsman and occasional offspinner, and Collins is back for Ravi Rampaul, whose obvious promise brought him selection at 19 on the previous tour of South Africa four years ago since when he has been confined to 32 ODIs, and no Tests, mainly through injury.
The absence of Ramnaresh Sarwan through the latest of his several injuries has removed not only the originally chosen captain but a pivotal No.3 batsman with the background of 67 Tests, 4,303 runs, an average of 38.76 and nine hundreds.
Ganga, for all his inconsistency and a disconcerting record in his previous seven Tests in South Africa (average 14), is capable of either opening or going one down, his favoured position for Trinidad and Tobago. And he has been there and done that, if not very effectively. The only alternative in the squad of 24 assembled at the pre-tour camp in Barbados was Sewnarine Chattergoon, the left-hand opener. Without a Test to his name and in the circumstances, he was not a valid contender.
Collins was omitted from the tour of England last summer in spite of an outstanding Carib Beer Series in which he headed the bowling averages with 28 wickets at a cost of 12.85. Given the success of left-arm bowlers of similar method throughout the wet summer – Ryan Sidebottom of England, Zaheer Khan and RP Singh of India – it was clearly a mistake.
He offers variety to the right-arm fast and seam bowlers – his brother Fidel Edwards, Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy — and has knowledge of conditions in South Africa through the 2003-04 tour and the 2003 World Cup.
What the selections do emphasise is the lack of competent alternatives to those Andy Roberts referred to as — the incumbent. And any team in any sport is only as good as its reserves.