Cricket West Indies (CWI) President Ricky Skerritt urged West Indies fans on Saturday, to help create “a winning spirit of passion and unity” ahead of the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup from October 17 to November 14 in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
CWI and its selection panel have faced stinging criticism from the man in the street to heads of government about the selection of the Windies 15-member squad for the T20 World Cup.
But Skerritt appealed to fans to throw their support behind the squad in the face of a global battle, as Kieron Pollard’s side tries to win an unprecedented third T20 World Cup title.
“A successful World Cup journey requires that all of us; who love and support the game, and who have seriously studied the fortunes of West Indies cricket; come together and send positive vibes to captain Pollard and the members of his squad, no matter what,” Skerritt said in a CWI media release.
CWI were roundly condemned for the application of its fitness policy, which gave medical exemptions to veteran batsman Chris Gayle and pacer Ravi Rampaul, yet has left all-rounder Sherfane Rutherford and uncapped pacer Odean Smith on the side-lines in light of strong performances during the recent Caribbean Premier League T20.
The selection panel drew the ire of fans for the shocking omission of world-rated all-rounder Jason Holder with former West Indies players such as Sir Andy Roberts, Deryck Murray, Jeffrey Dujon and Suruj Ragoonath, as well as Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley among the critics, questioning his place among four reserves that will accompany the main squad.
The selection panel was also sharply criticised for picking Gayle, whose form over the past two years has been highly questionable. He averages less than 20 in the format during the period and has scored only one half-century.
“The selectors have produced a fit-for-purpose squad, which is a rich mixture of experienced leadership, proven match-winners and youthful talent,” Skerritt said.
“For the first time for years, the selectors had good options within a growing pool of exciting West Indian talent. But this is a major world tournament, not a development tour.”
The CWI president said: “All the best teams in the world will be setting out to dethrone the West Indies as defending champions. And just coping with the discomfort of an ongoing COVID-19 bubble will be tough enough for the players.
“So the mental toughness of our team will be stiffly tested both on and off the field. That is at least one good reason why they deserve our support. If you are a West Indian fan, then this is your team no matter which territory the players hail from.”
West Indies will assemble in the UAE in early October, where they will have a training camp before fine-tuning their final preparations, including warm-up matches against Pakistan and India.
The Windies were drawn in Group 1 for the T20 World Cup and will play group matches against England, South Africa and Australia along with two teams from a qualifying tournament.
West Indies first group match will be against England on October 23.