ROSEAU: West Indies and Australia commence a short Test series at Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica on Wednesday with the visitors favoured to extend their 20-year dominance over the Caribbean squad.
Yet while quality, form and international ranking suggest that Michael Clarke’s side should prevail here and in the second and final Test in Jamaica a week later, Denesh Ramdin’s men will be seeking to pick up from where they left off in the three-match series with England which ended a month earlier with victory inside three days in Barbados to leave the rubber square at 1-1.
Australia, who head to England immediately after the Kingston match for the defence of the Ashes, suffered a setback leading into the first Test with opening batsman Chris Rogers ruled out due to symptoms of concussion after being struck on the helmet by a local bowler in the nets on Sunday.
Shaun Marsh, who scored an impressive hundred in the tourists’ lone warm-up match against a West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI in Antigua, is virtually confirmed to open the batting with David Warner. Rogers’ recovery from the injury will be monitored closely to determine whether he can be considered for the second Test at Sabina Park.
Much of the West Indies’ build-up to the series has focussed on the omission of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a player built along similar lines to Rogers but with a much more impressive international record.
Just 87 runs away from surpassing Brian Lara as the most prolific West Indian batsman in the history of Test cricket, Chanderpaul apparently did not agree with the selectors’ decision to focus on developing the talented young players in the region at his expense, notwithstanding poor returns in the two previous series at home to England and in South Africa.
Rajindra Chandrika, like Chanderpaul a native of Guyana, looks likely to open the batting in his debut Test alongside Kraigg Brathwaite.
The 25-year-old is yet to score a hundred from 32 first-class matches and a modest batting average of 25.81 will hardly strike fear in the hearts of an Australian bowling line-up expected to be spearheaded by the two Mitchells, Johnson and Starc.
Fawad Ahmed, whose transformation from Pakistani asylum seeker four years ago to Australian international cricketer has been one of contemporary sport’s inspirational stories, is duelling with established off-spinner Nathan Lyon for the specialist slow bowler’s role on a pitch that offers very little assistance for the pacers.
Three years earlier, Clarke snared five for 86 with his left-arm spinners to bowl his team to a 75-run victory and 2-0 series triumph. Notwithstanding those figures, it is unlikely that either team will venture beyond the lone frontline spinner, leaving the bulk of the work in the match to be borne by their pace attacks.
Australia, then under Mark Taylor, ended the West Indies’ 15-year reign of invincibility in Test series in 1995.
Since then, the visitors’ only hiccup in the Caribbean was in 1999 when Steve Waugh’s side claimed victory in the final Test to square the series 2-2 and retain the Frank Worrell Trophy despite the phenomenal batting exploits of Lara, who compiled contrasting hundreds in the last three Tests.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Rajindra Chandrika, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood, Denesh Ramdin (captain/wicketkeeper), Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Veerasammy Permaul.
Australia: David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson, Michael Clarke (captain), Steve Smith, Brad Haddin (wicketkeeper), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Peter Siddle, Nathan Lyon.