By Neto Baptiste
Former West Indies fast bowler and one of four knighted cricketers here, Sir Curtly Ambrose, is standing by his previous statement in which he said that Jamaican star-batsman Chris Gayle should not be considered by regional selectors.
His statement comes even as Gayle is named in a 14-man West Indies team for their ODI series against India, having changed his mind about retirement.
“I still stand by what I said that Chris Gayle is a great player and we can’t fault him for representing West Indies cricket for years at the highest level and has done extremely well, but I think that we need to move on. He is not going to feature for the next four years until the World Cup, he’s not going to feature for many more games, so let’s start to groom some youngsters; and I was surprised because he wasn’t selected for the T20s but for the ODIs,” he said.
Gayle announced in February he would retire after the World Cup, though he later altered his decision during the tournament in England.
The 39-year-old is two short of 300 ODI appearances, and stated he would definitely take part in the series against India.
Sir Curtly believes, however, that the time is right to move past the big-hitting Jamaican and groom players with the 2023 World Cup in mind.
“You need them to get better in terms of the Hetmyer and the Pooran and so forth, and Evin Lewis; so what are you going to do? Let Chris Gayle play for a next four years and then four years later you bring them in, and are they going to get better then? Of course not,” the former player said.
“Now is the time to start to build so for the next couple of years you look at them, and then you will finalize the 15 you have to take forward so you have an opportunity now to groom these players. You can’t wait until two years later and then say ok, let’s bring them in; you have to start now, look for the next four years for the World Cup or whatever the case may be,” he added.
The fast bowler, who claimed 405 wickets in 98 Tests and 225 ODI victims in 176 showings, warned that the practice of feeling indebted to players must stop as it is a dangerous one.
“If any of the selectors walk around thinking they owe Chris Gayle or anybody anything then something is wrong because that’s not what West Indies cricket is all about; it is about picking your best possible players to take the team forward,” he said.
“Chris Gayle has played for many years and has done extremely well and I have a lot of respect for him but what I am saying is that it is time to move on. People talking about give him a farewell Test match; he hasn’t played Test for five years so what you are telling me is that one of your opening batsmen, whoever he may be, you’re going to tell him to sit this game out and let’s give Chris Gayle a farewell, but that doesn’t make sense. Bring back Chanderpaul and give him two farewell games then,” Sir Curtly added.
The full Windies squad is as follows: Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Carlos Braithwaite, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.