PACE BOWLERS With about eight months or so to go before the next staging of the 50-overs ICC World Cup, the West Indies selectors must be having sleepless nights pondering on a potential squad. There are still a few ODI matches to go between now and then, so there is still time, but as of right now, the selectors must be scratching their heads and wondering what their team should be like. The just completed ODI series against India, rather than helping them to settle on the core of the team, has, if anything, made the job of the selectors that much harder. Let us look at a potential batting order. Pencilled in at the top will be Chris Gayle. Gayle has shown that he still has something left in the tank. If he stays fit, his place is automatic. The first problem the selectors have is who opens with him. Kieran Powell averaged a mere 18.8 in the ODIs in India. His position cannot be considered safe. The youngster Chanderpaul Hemraj was tried at the top. He averaged only 17. He did little to enhance his claims. The decision to open with Rovman Powell in the last game must be seen as nothing more than a desperate coaching staff clutching at straws. That cannot be long term. So the first question that is plaguing the selectors is who will open with Gayle. The bowling spots are, for the most part, up for grabs. Holder and maybe Kemar Roach should be two of the three pace bowlers, but who else? Both Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy were given their ODI debuts in India. Neither can say that they staked an obvious claim. McCoy got four wickets, but his economy rate was 7.79. Thomas’ economy rate was even higher, 8.92. Keemo. Paul was expensive too. He took one wicket in the two games he played, going at over nine an over. With people like Jerome Taylor looking to make a comeback and one or two younger pacers impressing in the just-completed super 50, none of those three can breathe easy. In the spin department, Ashley Nurse should feel fairly comfortable. His economy rate in India was under six. He took five wickets and showed that he can hit the ball effectively in the lower order. I hope the selectors realise that Devendra Bishoo is not the man for the job as the teams front line spinner, certainly not in one day cricket. So, all in all, there are only maybe half a dozen spots that can be called automatic selections for this West Indies team. The majority of the squad is still up for grabs. There are still a few games to go for people to put their hands up. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if come World Cup selection time, Courtney Browne and company may have to resort to ‘eenie meenie miny moe’! THREE ‘H’s Shai Hope has solved the number three-problem. In fact the three H’s, Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, and captain Jason Holder, have ensured that three of the top six spots are cemented. Holder has batted at seven and eight, but those days should be over. He is too good to be batting below six in this fragile West Indies line-up. That leaves one spot in that middle order wide open. Under normal conditions, that should be Marlon Samuels. Samuels, however, had a very poor run in India, and the real question now is whether the selectors will persist with him. He didn’t score 30 or more in any innings and averaged only 12.8. On his, day he is a proven match-winner and a big match performer. That may still work in his favour, but … Shai Hope as the wicketkeeper and Holder as a genuine all-rounder batting in the top six should mean that the number seven spot should still go to a batsman, or at the very least, a batting all-rounder. Will Rovman Powell hold on to his spot, or will the selectors still be looking around for a possible replacement? He averaged a mere 12 in India. He can be a dangerous lower-order batsman. He is a brilliant fielder and a reasonable seamer, but his limitations to high-quality spin are well-documented. Fabian Allen was tried in the India series but really didn’t distinguish himself. He is one for the future, though. Here again the selectors job is cut out.