In observance of Guyana’s 50th anniversary of Independence, a few persons have been trying their hand at selecting a Guyana team of players from 1966 to present day. As with any such exercise, the debates have been intense and inevitably, emotions have run high. After some thought, I decided I would join in the fun and throw my hat in the ring.
I decided that the first thing that needs to be done is to lay out the criteria. My team would include two opening batsmen; three middle-order batsmen; an all-rounder; a wicket-keeper; two spinners; and two fast bowlers. Players would be assessed based on returns for West Indies and Guyana, and performances after 1966. This policy could see batsmen who might be considered superior to an opener being left out simply because I wanted batsmen who plied their trade as openers and not men who ‘could do the job”.
The next thing I did was identify those who are sure picks; who are without doubt Guyana’s finest performers. It’s a brave person who argues that these men cannot walk into any Guyana All Time XI unopposed. These consisted of our number one opening batsman, Roy Fredericks; the man considered by many as our best ever batsman, Rohan Kanhai; our most prolific, Shivnarine Chanderpaul; the West Indies most successful captain, Clive Lloyd; our best fast bowler, Colin Croft; and former record-holder for Test wickets, off-spinner Lance Gibbs.
That left me with five spots to fill. I needed an opening bat, an all-rounder, a wicket-keeper, a spinner and a fast bowler. First up was the opener. I considered Stephen Comacho, Andrew Lyght and Clayton Lambert. Comacho and Lyght (who didn’t play Tests) both averaged in the mid-30s for Guyana, while Comacho and Lambert averaged around the 30 mark in Tests. Where Lambert separates himself from the others is in his returns for Guyana. The burly left-hander amassed 4680 runs at an average of 48.75 with 14 centuries. His aggregate is second only to Chanderpaul, while his tally of centuries is bettered only by Chanderpaul (17), and Fredericks (15).
The next position to fill was that of the all-rounder where Carl Hooper and Roger Harper were the players in contention. Hooper, because of his superior batting and his ability to bowl both off-spin and medium-pace, got the nod. The wicket-keeping spot was also an easy one, because even though older heads claim Geoffrey Murray was phenomenal in my opinion Milton Pydanna was the best gloveman of those in contention. For over a decade he was our number one stumper and it was only his inability to perform with the bat, when others like David Murray and Jeffrey Dujon were doing the opposite, which restricted him to three one-day internationals over two tours. Of the keepers I’ve seen Kenneth Wong and Vishal Nagamootoo (second to Pydanna in the number of dismissals) deserve honorable mention.
The choice of fast bowler was not as easy with a number of credible contenders coming to the fore. Reon King, Colin Stuart, Barrington Brown and Lynden Joseph are some of the names that came to mind. Of them Joseph and Stuart were the most aggressive although Joseph’s tally of 67 wickets at 27.74 was the lowest. Stuart’s was the next lowest with 81 at 35.01. Browne was slightly more economical than King – his 111 wickets costing 25.93 to King’s 149 at 26.61. My vote went to King because of his relative success at the Test level and the pace advantage he has over Browne.
The choice of a second spinner was a straight fight between off-spinner Clyde Butts and leg-spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo. Their Tests records are pretty similar and they were both prolific wicket-takers for Guyana, the top two in fact. Nagamootoo claimed a record 331 at 27.45 while Butts ended with what was then also a record 274 at 22.41. In the end I went for Nagamootoo for the variety he brings since Gibbs and Hooper are also off-spinners.
So there you have it. My team for Guyana’s 50th anniversary of independence: Roy Fredericks, Clayton Lambert, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Carl Hooper, Milton Pydanna, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Colin Croft, Lance Gibbs and Reon King. The reserves are Butts, Basil Butcher and Alvin Kallicharran.