In the previous tour to England, West Indies (WI) won the series 2-1. Currently, the squad finalised for the tour to England consists of nine such players who had played in that series. However, three crucial West Indian players — Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul – on Wednesday refused to tour England for next month’s proposed three-match Test series, which will be conducted in a bio-secure environment to combat Covid-19 threat.
English conditions congenial for the orthodox swing bowling adds to the hopes of West Indian bowling, though the English team is geared up for the vendetta. The Caribbean pace battery would include experienced bowlers like Kemar Roch, Azari Joseph and captain Jason Holder himself. Moreover, the presence of Chemar Holder and Raymon Reifer is going to augment their bowling arsenal.
The squad does not lack crucial spinners either. Off-spinners Roston Chase and Rahkeen Cornwall would lead the spin department from the West Indian side. Chase, who took eight wickets at the Kennington Oval, Bridgetown, and proved to be a match-winner against the English giants, is going to be an ace card in the longer form of the game, as he sets up the show with his bat too. Rakheen Cornwall also has decent bowling figures against Afghanistan and India.
However, the batting of the Caribbean side seems wobbly at the moment. The average of the top five batsmen—John Campbell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Roston Chase and Shamarh Brooks—is nearly 30 or less. Both the openers–John Campbell and Kraigg Brathwaite–have not been able to score even half a century during the last England tour.
Batting line-up of the current West Indies side does not ignite much hope. There is little to mention about achievements as far as the Test match is concerned. Braithwaite is a veteran with 59 caps, with his top score of 212; he has a batting average of 34.83. R.L. Chase has played 32 Tests, and his average is 31.38. Shai Hope has scored just 2 centuries in 31 tests. Jermaine Blackwood has 24 appearances and just a single century. Shane Dowrich will be a busy man behind the stumps.
It is difficult to win a Test match in England, where pitches are known to aid bowlers by facilitating sharp swing, without taking 20 wickets. Hence, the extra burden lies on the shoulders of Kemar Roach, the right-arm fast-medium bowler who is on a spree to touch the 200-wicket mark. Jason Holder, six and a half feet tall all-rounder, is an imposing figure; on the greens, he is expected to give his colleague Roach an able company. That would not be difficult for Holder as he is experienced and has scalped 106 wickets in 40 Test matches. Alzarri Joseph is another right-hand fast bowler in the squad. He has played only 9 Tests so far but the youngster is showing promise. Raymon Reifer, left-handed-all-rounder, played his last Test in 2017 against New Zealand and is a surprise inclusion.
Roston Chase, the 28-year-old batting all-rounder, who was named “Cricketer of the Year and Test Cricketer of the year” by the West Indies Player’s Association in 2017, is expected to contain English batsmen with his mystic spin. He has scored five centuries and has taken 50 wickets for the national side in his 29 Tests. Another spinner on the tour is the greenhorn off-break bowler Rahkeem Cornwell, who has just played 2 Test matches.
Chemar Holder is making his debut on the back of impressive pace bowling in domestic cricket. Nkrumah Bonner will debut as a batsman, who could also be a useful part-time spin bowler. Jermaine Blackwood has to prove himself with the recall in the squad as well.
No doubt, West Indies players are excelling in T-20. They are ruling the roost in various leagues around the world. Test cricket has been left to its historic fate. West Indies is at a poor 8th spot in the ICC Test ladder with mere 1,422 points. Their prospective opponent is far superior with 3,466, holding 4th rank in Test cricket. Will this be a clean sweep for the English side, or will West Indies do some magic? Only time will tell.