Five Windies to watch
Five Caribbean cricketers to look out for this summer
The West Indies’ squad have arrived in England ahead of the three-match Test series but much of the focus has been on absent stars. The swashbuckling Chris Gayle has not been selected, although he has resolved his differences with the West Indies Cricket Board and may take part in the subsequent ODI series. Likewise, all-rounder Dwayne Bravo is on IPL duty and won’t be seen until the ODIs.
But perhaps an even bigger loss for the tourists – and indeed the series - is the mercurial mystery spinner Sunil Narine who is unavailable due to his IPL commitments. Although the 23-year-old has yet to make his Test debut, his variation and control would have tested England’s batsmen after their struggles against spin over the winter.
Despite the absentees, the West Indies still have five players who can uphold their traditions of calypso cricket and cause problems for England.
As Darren Bravo heads into his third year of international cricket, he is still searching for consistency to augment his undoubted class. The left-hander remains slightly enigmatic despite a healthy Test average of 49.59 from 16 matches.
Bravo has absorbed a lot of lessons from his cousin Brian Lara and there are aspects of his game which are strikingly similar to the great Trinidadian, most notably the high back lift and flourishing cover-drive.
Like Lara, Bravo will have to deal with the pressure of scoring runs in a struggling team, but if he has a good tour of England, the West Indies may be able to spring a surprise.
The West Indies have a rich tradition of wonderful fast bowlers and in Kemar Roach it looks like they have produced another gem. The Barbadian is now adding greater consistency to his genuine pace and the results speak for themselves. Roach snared 19 wickets in the recent series against Australia to rise to 18th in the ICC world rankings.
Roach’s easy, rhythmical run-up can gull opposing batsmen into thinking he is not that quick. But they are often stuck on the crease, surprised by his pace and skiddy trajectory. The 23-year-old should enjoy English conditions and another productive series will see his stock rise still further.
Off-spinner Shane Shillingford is another Windie who enjoyed success against Australia, and although this doesn’t carry the kudos that it once did, he should be in fine fettle for this tour. He claimed his maiden five-for and ten-wicket match haul against the Australians and now has 28 wickets in seven Tests.
Shillingford, 29, has had problems with his bowling action and underwent remedial work which led to him being cleared in 2011. His high action means he gets bounce which is a useful trait for a spinner, but he lacks the variation of Narine and he will have to bowl well to test England.
Widely considered to be one of the brightest young batting talents in the Carribean, Adrian Barath is still trying to justify the hype three years after his Test debut. The pugnacious opening batsmen plundered a brilliant debut ton against Australia at the ‘Gabba in late 2009, but 11 Tests later, it remains his solitary century.
Barath’s subsequent lack of runs since that day in Brisbane means he averages a meagre 23.60 in Tests, a figure well below what it should be. At just 22 the man from Trinidad is still learning his game but he has shown he can make runs against good attacks and he could surprise England.
In a parallel universe, Marlon Samuels has 6,000 Test runs, 100 Test caps and is a cornerstone of the West Indian side. But back in the real world the scenario is very different as Samuels’ career has been beset by a series of controversies.
Samuels was banned for two years in 2008 when he was found guilty of “receiving money or other rewards that could bring him or the game into disrepute”. On the field he has been called for ‘throwing’ and he also ran Lara out in his final international innings.
The Jamaican has the ability to dominate attacks and he has always exuded calmness and confidence at the crease. This confidence hasn’t always translated into performances and thus his Test average remains the wrong side of 30. So, the 31-year-old may not have the numbers to worry England but the talent is unquestionably there and he will be worth watching this summer.