The West Indies will begin their latest Test Series against their New Zealand hosts on December 1 having not defeated the Kiwis on home turf since 1995. It’s been a very long twenty-two years and in this their latest attempt to correct that imbalance, the West Indies will have to fire on all cylinders.
The first step in doing so will be to make sure that they field an XI that will give them the very best chance of winning the first Test. In attempting to do so the Windows Selectors will likely experience some headaches in identifying the most suitable and competent personnel, particularly for the numbers 3 and 6 batting positions and also for the third bowler.
Kraigg Brathwaite, the Windies #1 Opener, thankfully came into some form, retiring out on 80 in the second innings of the Windies’ solitary warm-up match before the Test. Although he failed in both innings of that match, Kieran Powell will likely retain his position at the top of the order in a somewhat straightforward selection.
The # 3 position is however, likely to cause the Windies Tour Selectors some severe headaches. Shimron Hetmeyer who batted in that position in both innings of the warm-up match, failed miserably in both instances, registering scores of 12 and 10. His average in the three Tests he’s played to date stands only at a paltry 16.00, which will hardly provide the Selectors with much confidence. Still he’s an obvious talent so they may still be inclined to gamble on him.
Shai Hope and Royston Chase have been the Windies most consistent batsmen within the past two Series and will therefore continue to occupy the numbers four and five positions. #6 however can be expected to pose even more problems for the Selectors, as the incumbent Jerome Blackwood, with scores of 4 and 0, was an even bigger failure in the warm-up match. His returns in the Tests he’s played of late will also be cause for concern to the Selectors.
Stridently knocking on the door in the quest to replace Blackwood is Sunil Ambris, the twenty-four year old Vincentian who very strongly registered his claims for inclusion with an aggressive 153 in the first innings of the warm-up match. Ambris also scored two centuries in the Caribbean Regional four-day competition which earned him his call up to the Squad, as a replacement for the dismally performing Kyle Hope.
Common sense would suggest that Blackwood should sit and Ambris should play, but sensible selection hasn’t exactly been standard practice for the West Indies of late. So who knows what the Tour Selectors in their infinite wisdom will decide.
Positions seven, eight, ten and eleven will be straight forward choices of Dowrich as the wicket-keeper, Holder as the Captain and third seamer, with Roach and Gabriel as the front-line pacers. The final spot will be a toss up between a fourth seamer, Cummings, Joseph and Reifer as an outside possibility being the available choices, or Bishoo as the spinner. Pitches and conditions in New Zealand tend to favor seam rather than pace, so the expectation is that the Selectors will opt for a four-prong seam attack, with Chase and Brathwaite providing the required spin. The only question to be resolved would then be the identity of the fourth seamer.
It will be interesting to see who is chosen, but given their record of late I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the final choice becomes one of the two Bajans, Cummings or Reifer, at the expense of young Joseph.