After not being considered for selection on the West Indies Test match teams for the tour to England in July as well as the on-going tour of New Zealand, West Indies T20 vice-captain Nicholas Pooran maintains his desire to represent the regional team on the Test stage someday soon.
However, those exclusions have generated heavy debate at home and abroad about the player’s future, at what is regarded the highest level.
For the most part, Pooran, who was recently named the regional side's T20 vice-captain for the New Zealand series, has maintained silence on the matter, until now.
He said, “I haven’t answered the question because it got very tiring.
“Look, I made myself available for Test cricket in the summertime. The selectors had to make their decision and they obviously have their criteria. But I am still available.”
Pooran was only named in the T20 squad for three matches against New Zealand on November 27, 28 and 30, but has agreed to stay in New Zealand beyond those dates to play in two First-Class four-day matches which the West Indies A team will play against New Zealand A next, month. This he hopes will once and for all make a clear statement of intent.
However, on Thursday, doubt was cast over Pooran’s involvement with the West Indies A team when it was revealed that he had signed with the Melbourne Stars for Australia’s Big Bash League which begins on December 10.
Speaking to Guardian Media Sports from Christchurch, New Zealand, where Pooran and the other West Indies players joining the team from the Indian Premier League (IPL) are serving a 14-day quarantine, he explained that he will only join the Stars when his West Indies duty is completed.
"I’m just going over (to Australia) for six games. That is my availability. My first game is on December 26 and I fly across (to Australia) after that last First-Class game,” he said. “I made myself available for those two First Class games and I am sticking to it.”
His rising demand by T20 franchises globally is not a new phenomenon and similarly to players before him, his willingness to capitalise on those opportunities rather than graduate more quickly to Test-player status has divided public opinion.
He responded, “Everyone would want Pooran to say he’s not going to play Big Bash, he’s not going to play in Bangladesh or England. They want to see Pooran come back home and play First-Class cricket because they want to see him play Test cricket but what if I play a whole First-Class season and don’t perform, they will say Pooran not good and is not ready for Test cricket. So regardless of what I do, people will have their own opinion.”
Looking ahead to the First-Class matches in New Zealand, Pooran acknowledges that they represent a huge opportunity to address the selectors, who insist that he and others need First Class experience before becoming eligible for Test match selection.
The 25-year-old has only played three First-Class matches in his career so far, which all came for T&T in 2014 when he was just 19 years old. In his second match of that season, Pooran made his highest score to date, 55 in the second innings versus Jamaica. Currently, he averages 23.83 in First-Class matches.
Since then, he has steadily emerged as a talented and often destructive top-order batsman in the shortest format of the game, becoming highly sought after by teams around the world and as a result, has seen fewer and fewer opportunities to make a name in the longest version.
“I play T20 cricket around the world. I had to make a decision and I had to live with it. The time has changed now and the decision I made back then is obviously different to now. I had to compromise with Cricket West Indies (CWI) and now the opportunity has arisen,” said Pooran.
As far as recent tours go, however, first-class arrangements such as A team matches for West Indian players are rare.
And Pooran explained, that like many before him, making oneself available for the regional First-Class season is easier said, than done.
“A season now is six or seven games. And during the season we also usually have 50-Over cricket for the West Indies. So to play First-Class cricket I may have to forego playing ODIs (One Day Internationals) for the West Indies as well. So when do they want me to play First-Class cricket? That is the question,” he said.
“I am also putting myself at risk as well because rest and recovery are also very important.”
The left-hander called for the selectors to be more compromising and understanding of players’ circumstances.
As for his impending showcase before the Test match selectors, Pooran is relishing the challenge.
“First-Class is a new challenge for me. I last played about six years ago and didn’t do too bad. But at the end of the day, First-Class, Test cricket, ODI cricket T20 cricket it's all the same. I just need to challenge myself to try to bat longer, score runs and be consistent. If I need to do good in First-Class cricket, then I need to challenge myself. But I don’t need to prove anything to anyone."