West Indies cricket is buoyant again, but even after the success of the Caribbean Premier League, there are still improvements needed to raise standards so that the regional side can be more competitive at Test level.
Critics say that with so many 20 over tournaments, in which the West Indies players excel, the West Indies A team is a luxury, but Theo Cuffy, Cayman Islands Cricket Association technical director, does not agree.
West Indies Cricket Board selectors have just replaced Kirk Edwards as captain of the West Indies A team for Kieran Powell of the one-day side for the tour of India in a couple of weeks.
Edwards will continue to lead the side in first-class tour matches.
Cuffy sees the tweak as a positive move.“Development of our leadership is important,” he said. “We need to expose our different leadership positions. It is paramount to have a West Indies A team. It’s the only way we’re actively going to maintain our continuity. We need to have a West Indies A side functioning at all times.”
Cuffy likes that emerging talent like Jonathan Carter, Chadwick Walton and Andre Fletcher are getting invaluable experience at A level as they refine their game.
Cuffy sees the need for A team players to be competing at the same time as players in the first team in case of illness, poor form and injury.
“Then they can be flown from wherever they are to replace them,” he said. “It also keeps the first team players on their toes and reminds them their places are not guaranteed. If a fella is doing good in the A team he will be pushing to replace someone who has lost form.”
When West Indies were cricket kings in the ‘70s and ‘80s, they sent emerging players to England for county league experience. It was seen as a finishing school.
“But we no longer have that option because the English did not want us dominating anymore,” Cuffy said.
“Our regional four-day and 50 over matches cannot attract enough interest and sponsorship to fully develop our players, so the A team format is the ideal alternative. It is also a good way of a West Indies player coming back from injury to ease back into the game. More A team tours and exchange visits is the best option.”
Powell, an opening batsman who has played 15 Tests and 19 one-day internationals, is making his way back from injury. He sat out the Champions Trophy and the home series against Pakistan, before returning to international cricket in the Caribbean Premier League.
First-class squad: Kirk Edwards (capt), Kieran Powell (vice-capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Miguel Cummins, Narsingh Deonarine, Assad Fudadin, Jahmar Hamilton, Delorn Johnson, Leon Johnson, Nikita Miller, Veerasammy Permaul, Shane Shillingford and Chadwick Walton.
Limited-overs squad: Kieran Powell (capt), Veerasammy Permaul (vice-capt), Ronsford Beaton, Nkrumah Bonner, Jonathan Carter, Sheldon Cottrell, Miguel Cummins, Narsingh Deonarine, Kirk Edwards, Andre Fletcher, Leon Johnson, Nikita Miller, Ashley Nurse, Andre Russell and Devon Thomas.