Desmond Haynes, the legendary West Indies opener who formed arguable the best opening partnership in the history of cricket with Gordon Greenidge, is wearing a new hat these days.
The role of a selector in cricket has never been harder than it is currently. With three different formats of the game in international and domestic cricket, coupled with franchise T20 and T10 leagues all around the world, a selector has to be on his toes throughout the year.
West Indies are two time World T20 Champions; however they are placed at 11:1 in the latest online cricket betting odds for winning the T20 World Cup, which will be played later this year in Australia.
In his exclusive interview with Betway, Haynes discusses these issues and more.
When did you decide that you would like to take on the role of selector for West Indies?
Well, I was selector for Barbados Cricket Association back in the ‘90s, so I’d already had some experience in selecting teams.
When I was approached to do the job I figured that if there’s any time that I can give back to West Indies cricket, it’s now.
They needed a lead selector, they discussed the position with me, and that is when I started thinking very seriously about it.
What do you think are the keys to being a good selector?
Mainly, it’s knowledge of the game, but it’s also identifying talent, because sometimes you can look at stats, and stats don’t really show the true picture. If you get the opportunity to see people play, you’ll be able to judge their character.
Also just being a professional. As a selector, you never get your own way. Sometimes you want a player and you get outvoted. In the West Indies, it used to be five selectors, now there are only three. You’ve got the co-selector and also the coach.
As the lead selector, I will listen to the discussion from both parties, and then at the end I will look to go for who I think is the right person to do the job.
I always say that our aim is to select the best players. It doesn’t matter where they come from, it doesn’t matter what format they’re playing. We just want to make sure that when we put a team out there, it’s the best possible team to win that game.
What are the key pointers you’re looking for when you’re identifying international players?
You look at the character of the players, you look at the way they’re committed to training and cricket in general.
Obviously, knowledge of the game is very important for me as it allows me to make sure that the players understand the game and are students of the game.
Also talent, at the end of the day. If someone wants to play cricket at the highest level, their talent has got to be able to produce and do well for the West Indies.
How do you balance statistics with gut feel when selecting?
Statistics are important, but as I said to you before, it’s about identifying the talent and looking at the person. I always go back to the character to see if he can play a role for us in the team.
It’s good to find out about their stats, though, because if they have struggled against spin or the swinging ball, or whatever the case may be, I obviously have to also take that into consideration.
We’re quite fortunate to have the analysts and the technology there to tell us those things.
In terms of the practicalities of your role, how closely aligned are you with the coaching staff?
I keep my distance really, because I think that my role is to produce the players, select the players, and then let the coaches deal with the coaching.
When it comes to performance, how much responsibility do you as a selector take for the results?
When you’re a selector, you’re part and parcel of it. We all want the same goals, we all want to do what is right for West Indies cricket, and it’s not about any individual.
As a selector, you obviously want to know that the team that you’ve selected have done well out on the field. We all feel that we have selected the best side to perform. If they don’t perform, then obviously we take some of the blame as well.
How much do you let every result affect your thinking when it comes to selection?
It’s more of a long-term process. It’s important to give players chances. If someone fails, you have to look at the circumstances: how he failed, how he got out, and so forth.
But there does come a time when you can only give a person a certain number of chances, and then you have to try somebody else. It’s very important that if you want the best from the player, they realise that there’s competition. They have to do well – if not, somebody has to take their place.
In the modern game the cricket calendar is busier than it’s ever been. How do you approach rest and rotation as a selector?
I think rotation is very important, especially for fast bowlers. The international calendar is so hectic. The tour against England that’s coming up features back-to-back-to-back Test matches.
If you’ve got four fast bowlers, it’s going to be very hard for all of them to play 15 days of cricket straight up. It also allows you to give another guy a game.
How do you ensure you are looking after the mental well being of players when selecting, particularly in the era of bubbles?
I played the game, but I never had to play in these circumstances, so I can’t imagine how tough it is for the players. It’s got to be a mental strain for them, being in the hotel, locked down.
But I also believe that when you’re a professional, you learn to adapt to the situation, and the players now are doing well. The policies are now relaxing a bit, so the guys are getting a little bit more freedom to move around, and it’s getting a lot easier for them.
How do you feel about franchise competitions complicating selection for the West Indies national team?
Well, the IPL has a window, so the players are allowed to go and play in it then.
But where you get the problem is with all the other other franchises around the world. Then you’ve got to start looking at how the players are going to balance the commitment to the West Indies and also their hectic schedule.
That’s why we want more players vying for every position, so that when guys are not available for the West Indies, we’re not scrambling for people to replace them.
How are you finding that young players are striking the balance between franchise and international cricket?
From my experience, everybody wants to play where there’s big money. At the end of the day, everybody’s wanting to improve their standard of living.
But I always say to them, it is good to realise that you’ve got aspirations to get into the big leagues, but it’s also a very important for you to work on becoming a good cricketer. If you do that, the financial side will look after itself.
It is important to focus more on your ability, to keep working and also to look at self-development. You should always try to be knowledgeable about the game, try to seek information, try to pick the brains of some of the legends and some of the senior players.
I guarantee that if you do that – do the right things, really look after yourself, and make sure that you’re fit – you will make a lot of money from the game.
Do you believe that multi-format cricketers are the future, or will players be pigeon-holed more in future?
I believe players should be multi-format cricketers. If you’re a good player, you can play any form of the game.
The players are the ones who make the decision on what format they want to play, but India and New Zealand are showing that if you’re a very good Test cricketer, you can play any form of the game.
It feels as though West Indies are in a good place at the moment. How do you assess the current crop of players?
We’re always going to have talent in the West Indies, we are just a little unfortunate that we don’t have the numbers. We can’t really compare to places like Australia and India because they’ve got loads of players playing cricket, with the various academies around those countries.
I do think it’s important for the ICC to look at finding ways that they can assist countries like West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, those places with limited numbers, to try to find ways to make sure that when they split the pie, some of the smaller countries get a bit more money to help with cricket development.
I think that’s something that is vital if you really want to have competitive cricket worldwide.
This interview was originally conducted by Betway.