Cricket: Strange policy of old for new

Tony Cozier says the West Indies have sacrificed the future for the present
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THE West Indies cannot lose this series and are likely to win it. Judging by their selections, that has been the be all and end all of their strategy. There has been no thought to the future - cause for concern for those who care about West Indies cricket.

In this series, 10 of their players have been over 30 and only two new to Test cricket, the fast bowler Nixon McLean and the leg-spinner Dinanath Ramnarine. Jimmy Adams, Kenny Benjamin and David Williams were recycled only to be replaced by other over-30s who had been used before - Roland Holder, Ian Bishop and Junior Murray.

It was a short-term policy prompted by their humiliation in Pakistan late last year when they were trounced in all three Tests. They simply could not afford to falter against England who have struggled for so long. In Pakistan, the manager Clive Lloyd repeatedly complained of a lack of discipline and pride but no player was discarded on returning home. The disturbing truth is that those who failed then remain the best available.

So Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh have stoked the attack while potential successors have been left on the back burner. With their class and experience, they clinically exploited helpful pitches but only McLean of the younger brigade has had the chance to learn alongside them. And even he was dropped after two Tests in spite of obvious improvement.

Disregarding Franklyn Rose, Mervyn Dillon and Reon King, all in their early 20s, the selectors recalled Benjamin and Bishop, each for two Tests. It was a backward step compounded when neither measured up. Meanwhile, Rose, an enthusiastic Jamaican who was the leading wicket-taker on his debut against India and Sri Lanka last year, was inexplicably kept out until this Test. Dillon, tall, athletic and brisk like most West Indian fast bowlers, had shown his value last year when he took five wickets in an innings in Karachi.

It has been the same with the opening batsmen and wicket-keeping. When Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams came to the end of their tether after 14 matches, the selectors returned to Clayton Lambert, at the age of 36, and Philo Wallace, 27, each of whom had been previously given just one solitary Test. Their success in Barbados was refreshing but didn't suggest they are a permanent solution to the problem. Campbell's record suggests he will return but the likes of 21-year-old Leon Garrick of Jamaica must wait even longer for a taste of Test cricket.

Adams, whose consistency once gave him a Test average in the 70s, went through such a lean patch that he was given time off, as captain of the A team in South Africa. Inclined to use his pad as the first line of defence, he was lbw three times offering no stroke and made way - but not for a promising young buck like Floyd Reifer, Wavel Hinds or the teenaged Sylvester Joseph.

The wicket-keeping has been another problem with David Williams, Junior Murray and Courtney Browne being shuffled around as if on the gambling table of an Antiguan casino.

West Indies' next two assign-ments are likely to be far more demanding. A full series in South Africa in November precedes a home meeting with Australia. By then, the senior players will be even older and the selectors may regret not turning to youth a little sooner.