FORMER TT captain Daren Ganga expects the West Indies to field a four-pronged pace attack against England, when the First Test takes place at the Rose Bowl, Southampton on Wednesday morning. The game bowls off at 6 am TT time.
This will be the first time that a Test match, and even a First-Class game, will be contested since the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of cricket in mid-March.
Ganga, who led the WI team for a couple Tests during the 2007 tour of England (in the absence of the injured Ramnaresh Sarwan), said on Tuesday, “Shannon Gabriel has reported that he’s fit and raring to go. He played in the (latter) intra-team match and I expect that (he) will play.”
Ganga continued, “When you look at the squad, you would think that it pretty much picked itself, with John Campbell at the top of the innings with Kraigg Brathwaite. I’m expecting that Shamarh Brooks will get an opportunity to bat at number three. When he played against India (last September) he showed very good promise and his temperament is very much suited to the longest format of the game.
“Given what Jermaine Blackwood has done in the Professional Cricket League, being the leading run-scorer, I expect that he would feature.”
With respects to the bowling attack, Ganga said, “Also, we’re seeing statistically that in Southampton that spinners tend to have a better average and (they) have taken wickets there, I still think that the West Indies would be reliant on their pace attack. I expect to see Gabriel alongside Kemar Roach, with possibly Alzarri Joseph or Chemar Holder and the captain Jason Holder.”
He continued, “Shane Dowrich has defined himself as the number one wicket-keeper/batsman in the Caribbean and I’m sure he’ll continue to hold his spot. I don’t see the West Indies making a drastic decision to play a specialist spinner. It’s (the) First Test match so I think they will want to pick an evenly balanced team, and produce a solid result.”
The 25-member West Indies team (15 named for the three-Test series and 10 reserves) have been in England for a month, under quarantine before engaging in a pair of intra-squad matches at Old Trafford, Manchester.
“For any international cricketer going into a series without game-time is always going to be an uphill challenge,” said Ganga. “That is the case, not only for the West Indian players but the English players, because of this covid19 pandemic.
“What we’ve been getting, in terms of reports, (is that the preparation) been efficient, very thorough and I think the players’ attitude is something that jumps out. Our players were very much focused, their practice sessions have been intense, and I think mentally is where the West Indies team will need to make sure they are sound.
“Phil Simmons (coach) and Rawl Lewis (manager) were quite pleased with the intensity, with the efforts of all the players in the build-up to the First Test match.”
England will be captained by Ben Stokes, as Joe Root had to leave the squad for the birth of his second child.
Stokes has no captaincy experience at the First-Class level but Ganga is confident in the all-rounder’s capabilities.
“Stokes is ably suitable to lead,” Ganga noted. “He’s been the vice-captain to Root and what he’s done, in terms of his own individual performances with the bat and ball (lately), I think his confidence is very high. He’s such a champion player that I think he would rise to the occasion. I have no doubt that Stokes will represent himself properly in the First Test.”
Ganga thinks that the global cricket fans will be eager to see a return to action, despite the threat of the covid19 pandemic.
“The world is looking forward to international cricket resuming,” said the former top-order batsman. “The West Indies will be one of the (first) teams featured post-covid19. Everybody will be switched on and, as a West Indian, we’ll be looking towards positive performances from our West Indian team.”
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