Dwaynes can end all-rounder search
Sunday 27 June 2004
It is one of the puzzles of West Indies cricket that it should have produced Sir Garry Sobers, the king of all-rounders but so few others fit to grace the royal circle.
While Pakistan have had Imran Khan, England Ian Botham, India Kapil Dev and New Zealand Sir Richard Hadlee, the most authentic West Indian all-rounder since Sobers was Bernard Julien, the underachieving right-handed batsman and left-arm swing bowler of the Seventies.
In their era of invincibility, under Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards a decade later, all-purpose players were redundant. While Lloyd, Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Larry Gomes piled on the runs, the proliferation of fast bowlers swept the opposition aside. Even then, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose were capable enough batsmen to post at least one Test half-century.
Nowadays, it is cause for celebration if their successors who occupy the lower order cobble together 20. None of the five fast bowlers chosen for the forthcoming Test series averages better than Tino Best's 8.77, none has a higher score than Pedro Collins' 24.
It is a deficiency that Richards, in his two years as head of the selection panel that controversially ended last week, has sought to put right. Richards knew first-hand the impact Imran, Botham, Kapil and Hadlee had. He has seen what Jacques Kallis and Shaun Pollock have done for South Africa, and Andrew Flintoff's influence on England.
In the past year, he and his colleagues have found twoplayers with the potential to fill the void. Two Dwaynes, Bravo, aged 20, and Smith, 21, are aggressive strokeplayers and outstanding fielders but it is their bowling that could make them the genuine all-rounders West Indies require.
Bravo graduated through the system, representing West Indies in the youth World Cup in New Zealand early in 2002, and touring England with the A team that summer, where he averaged 43 in six matches against the counties.
He was, initially, a batsman who bowled a bit. On that tour, he was used for only five overs but, as he has filled out physically, he has impressed with the pace he generates from a quick arm and a strong body action. He was the leading all-rounder in seven matches in last season's domestic Carib Beer Cup, averaging 37 with the bat, and taking 28 wickets at just over 13 runs apiece.
It was enough for Richards and his panel to introduce him to the senior team for the One-day internationals against England and Bangladesh. One of his first deeds was to confirm the West Indies victory in the One-day international in St Lucia with a six over extra-cover off Darren Gough.
He has yet to earn a Test cap but it should not be long in coming. He announced himself on this tour with a 63-ball, unbeaten 100 against Ireland, and Richards has predicted he can beWest Indies' Kallis. The next few months are essential to his development.
As they are for Smith. His advance into the team was less measured than Bravo's. He did not play age-group cricket for West Indies but Richards was so impressed by his rare ability in an unbeaten 94, with nine sixes, in a domestic one-day match for Barbados against Guyana last year, he sent him to South Africa as a replacement for the injured Marlon Samuels.
It was a calculated gamble that Smith repaid with his run-a-ball, unbeaten 105 on Test debut in Cape Town. Like Bravo, he is an exceptional fielder but it is his medium-pace bowling, slower but with more swerve, that could make him into a Flintoff equivalent.
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