Five West Indians to watch
Here are five lesser known players who will boost West Indies firepower
Much has been made about Kevin Pietersen’s retirement from ODIs but one aspect has gone largely unnoticed amid the furore. This is that Pietersen’s absence from England’s side actually makes the West Indies favourites for this series.
On paper, the tourists look to have far more power, panache and potential than their hosts. With Chris Gayle finally ending his 14-month hiatus from international cricket, the Windies’ squad looks nicely balanced.
Gayle is clearly one reason to back the West Indies. He has stroked 169 sixes in ODIs, which is more than the England side combined. And he's in the form of his life having topped the IPL 2012 runs table with 733 runs at 61. One spectacular innings of 128 included 13 sixes. But here are five more players who provide further reasons to make West Indies slight favourites.:
After a series of notable performances at the 2011 World Cup, Andre Russell has become an important member of the West Indies side in the shorter forms of the game. Despite some lusty cameos with the blade, Russell is a bowling all-rounder who delivers a heavy ball.
The 24-year-old has claimed 27 wickets in 21 ODIs at 28.18. Although his economy is slightly on the high side at nearly 5.5 an over, the Jamaican should enjoy the seaming conditions in England and he has a good chance to enhance his reputation further.
Now aged 27, Lendl Simmons is only just beginning to translate his undoubted potential into meaningful scores in international cricket. Simmons has had a good couple of years at the top of the Windies’ ODI order and now averages a respectable 34.37 with one hundred.
The Trinidadian is also an exceptional fielder and he will be helped by the return of Gayle whose fast scoring will alleviate the pressure. This should help Simmons have another productive series.
Life is never dull when Tino Best is around and his participation in this series gives it extra spice. The exuberant paceman has already made his mark on this tour, scoring 95 in the Third Test – the highest score by a number 11 in Test history.
But it’s with the ball that Best will be most needed as he becomes the spearhead of the attack in the absence of Kemar Roach. The bustling Best hasn’t played an ODI for nearly three years and he will be determined to make the most of this opportunity. One thing’s for sure, it will be fun to watch the Barbadian back at the top level once more.
One of the most exciting aspects of this series will be watching Sunil Narine bowling on English soil with a white ball for the first time. Narine’s mystery spin has bamboozled the likes of Australia and India recently and he is sure to test England’s batsmen over the next week or so.
The 24-year-old has made an extraordinary start to his ODI career, claiming 14 wickets in eight matches. But it’s his parsimony which is most striking as Narine yields just 3.79 runs an over. This is predominantly down to his variations which batsmen around the world are yet to pick confidently.
England have traditionally struggled against mystery spin and if they fail to fathom Narine, their chances of series success are slim.
At 29, Dwayne Smith remains an unfulfilled talent at the highest level, but because of his rare ability to strike a cricket ball, he continues to be picked in West Indies squads.
A paltry average of 16.22 fails to do justice to Smith’s talent but his impetuousness, which was there as a youngster, has never really gone away. He regularly plays the shot of the day but rarely the innings and this has always been his problem.
Smith does have extensive experience of English conditions and his medium pace will be useful for captain Darren Sammy. The Barbadian has the potential to win games for the tourists but it remains to be seen if he actually will.