BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Ex-West Indies fast bowler Tony Gray has criticised the selection of Keemo Paul in the Test squad for New Zealand, contending the all-rounder should have been replaced by stroke-maker Shai Hope whom he has labelled a “great talent”.
The 22-year-old Paul was last week named in a 15-man squad for the two-Test series while Hope, 26, was axed following a poor run of form.
Gray argued Paul, who has played only three Tests, was not well suited to the longest format as he did not possess the patience required as a seamer.
“The only problem I have [with the squad] is Keemo Paul,” said Gray, whose five Tests and 25 One-Day Internationals came between 1986 and 1991.
“Keemo Paul to me at this point in time is not suited to play Test cricket. [He is] too inconsistent with his bowling, he tries too many things and he cannot work to a game plan and Test cricket is working to a game plan, having the stock deliveries, [being] patient but also having deliveries that will take wickets.
“He has wicket-taking deliveries but the thing about him is that he is not patient. His batting has declined too.”
Gray, the T&T Cricket Board’s chairman of selectors, contended if Hope was excluded from the 15-man squad, he should have been among the six reserves which formed part of the touring party.
The right-hander has averaged just 19 from 17 Tests inside the last 2-1/2 years and struggled on the recent tour of England with an average of 17 from six innings.
“You have enough seamers there for two Test matches [and] you have (Roston) Chase there who is an efficient bowler [and] gets wickets at Test level,” Gray continued.
“You need to have Shai Hope around. If you’re not picking him in the Test squad, you’ve got to pick him in the reserves. But you’ve got to work with him [because] he’s such a great talent.”
West Indies suffered a 2-1 defeat on the tour of England last July, with the poor batting lying at fault for the two defeats in the final matches at Manchester.
And Gray said he was pleased selectors had not responded emotionally by “chopping and changing”, as there was still a need to continue building a team especially with the current limitations on the development of players.
“We have to be controlled in our emotions in looking at this team [because] we need to have continuity. We cannot be chopping and changing,” Gray told Starcom Radio’s Mason and Guest cricket show.
“We have to understand too because of the ineptness or low standard of our cricket, that players will take longer to develop. So a player at about 29 is now developing because we’re seeing the deletion of a lot of things that helped West Indies batsmen to develop in their years of dominance [in the past].
“We don’t have County cricket again … to learn the intricacies of batting in different batting conditions, in different weather conditions.
“We have deleted the faster pitches here in the West Indies so it’s one type of pitch that we have … so we have to be astute when it comes to selecting players.”
He added: “So you have to give players time to grow or … we’ll continue to chop and change players. We’re looking for stars but we’re looking for stars too quickly and this is a period of process-oriented type of attitudes.”
West Indies face New Zealand in the first Test starting December 3 in Hamilton before clashing with the hosts in the second Test in Wellington eight days later.
Keemo Paul (left) celebrates a wicket with Shai Hope.