Jason Holder

IN THE WICKETS: Jason Holder, left, captain of the Barbados Royals, celebrates taking a return catch to dismiss Chanderpaul Hemraj, right, of the Guyana Amazon Warriors during the 2021 Hero Caribbean Premier League on Tuesday , in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis. —Photo: CPL T20/Getty Images

While he still thinks the West Indies “have a chance” to retain their T20 World Cup title, former Trinidad and Tobago Red Force selector is worried about the selection of Chris Gayle and the omission from the squad of 15 of Jason Holder.

On Thursday, all-rounder Holder was named only as one of four reserves in the squad led by Kieron Pollard that will attempt to defend the title in the United Arab Emirates and Oman nest month, that the Caribbean side won in India in 2016 under Darren Sammy. And Gray said the Windies could regret not having the versatile Holder.

“I think he brings a lot to the table, not just experience, but the intelligence factor,” Gray told the Daily Express. “Holder has good all-round ability in different situations of the game.”

Former fast bowler Gray also noted that Holder’s skills as a slip catcher would have been an asset to the side, and with his six-foot-seven-inch frame, “he can be used as a utility batsman. He can bat higher up the order where bowlers will have to make adjustments where length is concerned. In the pitches in the UAE, that stride forward can put off spinners. I feel spinners will play a major role in that tournament.”

In recent times, Holder — Test cricket’s No.1 ranked all-rounder - has enhanced his reputation as a bowler in the T20 format following performances during the still-to-be-completed season of the Indian Premier league and the West Indies’ T20 series against Australia in July.

However, Gray does not have much hope that veteran left-hander Chris Gayle can roll back the years next month. Gayle will be 42 by the time the tournament begins on October 17.

”I don’t think that Gayle should have gone,” he said. “I think that he will struggle against the fast bowlers, and if you look at our group, we are coming up against South Africa, England and Australia and primarily they depend on their fast bowlers to do the damage. And what Chris Gayle has shown in recent times is that he is struggling to make runs against the fast bowlers primarily.

In defending Gayle’s selection, lead selector Roger Harper said the experience of the “Universe Boss,” T20 cricket’s all-time top-scorer was valued. However Gray countered: “Reputation is one thing but you have to go on recent performances and form more than reputation. He’s had a host of international games recently and the CPL to give us something to talk about, and he has had one innings of significance - against Australia. I’m concerned about him and his form against the faster bowlers. But he has been picked and I will support him all the way.”

And while another senior pro, Ravi Rampaul was not in Gray’s World Cup 15, he said he had no objection with the inclusion of the man who is currently the leading wicket-taker in the CPL.

Gray also had reservations about the selection of fast bowler Oshane Thomas for the series, saying: “He doesn’t have enough experience and variety,” But he added, he “is a wicket-taker if he gets it right.”

Despite those concerns however, Gray still said the Windies, “have the combination of players to do very well in the tournament.”

He noted: “There is a mixture of senior players who have World Cup experience - Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul, Pollard, Gayle, Lendl Simmons. You have some young players who have gained experience in recent times in the IPL, the CPL and around the world playing franchise cricket - Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Andre Fletcher, Obed McCoy - they have all done well, even Hayden Walsh Jr has done well against Australia. And Andre Russell is one of the most sought-after players in the world.”

West Indies begin their campaign on October 23 against England.

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