Thirteen named

Kemar Roach, in action here at Carlton Cricket Club today, is expected to spearhead the West Indies attack.
Kemar Roach, in action here at Carlton Cricket Club today, is expected to spearhead the West Indies attack.

West Indies batsman Kirk Edwards continues to pay dearly for his solitary series failure in England.

The Barbados captain was a surprise omission from the West Indies’ 13-man squad announced today for the first Test against Zimbabwe that starts at Kensington Oval on March 12.

Edwards, with an average of just under 40, two centuries and four fifties †in nine Tests, and having already struck two centuries in the ongoing WICB Regional Four-Day Championship, has not donned the West Indies maroon since the May 25, 2012 Test at Trent Bridge.

Meanwhile, the selectors have kept faith with middle-order batsman Narsingh Deonarine who has yet to solidify a position in the line-up after 14 Tests in which he averages 29 with a highest score of 82. But, Deonarine offers the option of more-than useful right-arm off-spin and has captured 19 Test wickets at an average of 27.94.Jamaican batting stylist Marlon Samuels returns to a middle-order he has dominated over the past 18 months, after recovering from an eye injury he sustained during the Australian Big Bash in December. Samuels was struck in the face when he edged a Lasith Malinga delivery through the grill of his helmet while attempting a pull shot.

Against the weaker opposition that are the Zimbabweans, the selectors have taken the peculiar decision of omitting off-spinner Sunil Narine on home soil. Ironically, Narine’s omission comes on the heels of an outstanding display in the ongoing Regional Four-Day encounter between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago where the highly talented spinner took 6 for 38.

Narine had a poor run in last year’s tour of Bangladesh, taking three wickets in two Tests at an average of 114.33, but as a developing bowler, still remains a major threat in all three formats of the game.

Windward Islands off-spinner Shane Shillingford, who has had issues with his bowling action, returns to the squad after being overlooked for recent West Indies engagements at home and abroad. He too has been in good form during the regional season. Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel†who debuted in the Lord’s Test last year, but was then sidelined†by a back injury, has been recalled to the squad. Gabriel, capable of express pace, has bowled impressively with a slightly altered action since his return to competitive cricket.

Together with Tino Best, the Zimbabweans could be confronted with disconcerting pace even on the graveyards which regional curators have perfected in recent years. However, with captain Darren Sammy holding a spot in the eleven by right, a shortening of the batting order might be necessary to accommodate Gabriel, spearhead Kemar Roach, Best and a front-line spinner.

Also missing from the party are fast bowlers Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards. Rampaul has only recently returned from a knee injury and has had minimal first-class cricket. Though he declared himself fully fit, his inclusion by selectors would have been an unnecessary risk with several other options available. Edwards’ last outing for the West Indies was in Khulna in Bangladesh where he snared 6 for 90 in the hosts first innings.

But Edwards has not been the first choice fast bowler in the estimation of the selectors in recent times, if their selection trends are to be used as the gauge. However, he remains the most productive of the current crop with 165 wickets in 55 Tests, even if at an unflattering average of 37.87.

Calls in some quarters for the big-hitting Twenty20 specialist Kieron Pollard to be given a Test match opportunity have not been immediately heeded by the selectors. In such a short series, Pollard is unlikely to be considered. He has played a mere 22 first-class matches, compared to the whopping 184 Twenty20s in which he has been involved.

Selectors have also overlooked the superlative season which left-arm spinner Nikita Miller has had for Jamaica, including a nine-wicket haul in his side’s recent victory over the Windward Islands. Miller’s solitary Test was four years ago against Bangladesh in Kingstown.

With Sammy’s presence as captain basically limiting Dwayne Bravo’s chances of playing Test cricket in the immediate future, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin retains the role of Test vice-captain. Bravo captained the side to a clean-sweep in the One-Day International in Grenada.

Predictably, an out-of-form Chris Gayle returns to the squad after requesting to skip the ODIs and T20s series against Zimbabwe. Ramnaresh Sarwan, who looked like a novice with a bat last month on the limited overs tour of Australia, but prospered somewhat at home against the friendlier Zimbabwean attack, has not forced his way back into immediate Test contention.

Full squad: Darren Sammy (cpt), Denesh Ramdin (v.cpt), Chris Gayle, Kieran Powell, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Shane Shillingford, Tino Best, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Veerasammy Permaul and Narsingh Deonarine.††

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