West Indies white ball captain Kieron Pollard will lead his troops in next month’s limited overs outings against the Republic of Ireland and Jamaica, after recovering from the hamstring injury that kept him out of the disastrous Homage Series in Pakistan.
The Cricket West Indies (CWI) selection panel, now temporarily led by head coach Phil Simmons, selected 14 players for three One-day Internationals (ODI) against Ireland and a 16-man squad for one T20 International (T20I) against Ireland and five against England. There were also three ‘Covid-19 reserves’ named for the T20I team and two for the ODI squad.
The Ireland series will be played at Sabina Park in Jamaica from 8 – 16 January while West Indies will host England at Kensington Oval in Barbados from 22 – 30 January.
West Indies had six players ruled out after positive Covid-19 tests in Pakistan, which forced the postponement of the ODI leg of the Homage Series before a single one of the three matches was played. The players who tested positive before or during the Pakistan tour were Akeal Hosein, Shai Hope, Justin Greaves, Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase and Kyle Myers.
All six are back in the West Indies fold for the January outings while allrounder Jason Holder returns, after being rested for the Homage Series.
Allrounder Fabian Allen, who missed the T20 World Cup through injury, is expected to be fit to face England although he will not take part in the solitary T20I against Ireland owing to a positive Covid-19 test.
Opening batsman Evin Lewis and pacer Anderson Phillip were declared ‘unavailable’ for both series against Ireland and England, according to a CWI Media release, owing to positive Covid-19 tests.
Left-arm pacer Obed McCoy will not feature for WI against either opponent too, having not recovered sufficiently from a shin injury.
Notably, iconic veteran West Indies opener Chris Gayle was not included in the T20I squad to face Ireland, despite earlier suggestions from CWI CEO Johnny Grave that the game might serve as a testimonial for the Jamaican.
“That would be, hopefully, if fans are allowed into Sabina, a good opportunity for us to say farewell to Chris at his home ground,” Grave told the Mason & Guest Show last month, when asked about a ‘farewell match’ for Gayle. “[…] It would certainly be appropriate, as far as I can see, to treat our players and give them the opportunity to bow out—especially players like Chris, who have had unbelievable careers and won trophies for the West Indies.”
Yesterday, a cricket source told the Jamaica Gleaner that the push-back against the idea of a Gayle send-off, which was not afforded to former greats like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, was enough to veto it. And Gayle was not included in the West Indies squad announced today.
Gayle was not the only high-profile omission, though, as Shimron Hetmyer, Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell and Oshane Thomas were also left out—with no suggestion from the CWI Media that they were unavailable.
Thomas played in all three T20Is against Pakistan this month while Hetmyer, Simmons and Russell skipped the tour to play franchise cricket elsewhere.
Wired868 understands Thomas failed to suitably impress the selectors while Simmons (L) and Russell were overlooked.
With Hetmyer, however, it was a more familiar story. Simmons (P) confirmed that, not for the first time, the gifted middle-order left-hander failed the fitness test he needed to pass to be considered for selection.
“It’s the same old, same old,” said the head coach. “[Hetmyer] did his fitness assessment in Guyana and he came in way below the required mark. Again, it is something that is heart-wrenching because you know that you are part of this team and you have to keep a certain fitness to be part of this team and you keep letting down your team-mates.”
The absence of this threesome meant that the majority of the West Indies players who travelled to Pakistan will get another chance to stake their claim.
“We have tried to maintain the general make-up of the squads from the Pakistan Tour before Christmas, with the captain and some senior players coming back in,” head coach Simmons, told the CWI Media. “Covid-19 has also played a part in the final make-up of the squad. The challenges in the next couple months are getting the young players in both squads to not only improve on their skills but maintain the attitude and desire we saw in Pakistan.”
Thomas apart, allrounder Raymon Reifer also lost his place from the ODI team that travelled to Pakistan while spinner Gudakesh Moti is out of the T20I squad but remains in the ODI ranks.
Rovman Powell and Devon Thomas, late call-ups as Homage Series replacements for Pollard in the T20I and ODI squads respectively, retained their places.
And Brandon King, Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith, who all impressed in Pakistan, will get a chance to prove themselves in a near full-strength team.
“We do need to start the year on a high, and we know both Ireland and England have very good teams,” said Simmons. “So we expect a very strong challenge as we look [to] improve our chances of automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023 and building the T20 team for the ICC T20 World Cup in 2022.”
West Indies ODI squad (to face Ireland): Kieron Pollard (captain), Shai Hope (vice-captain), Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Justin Greaves, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, Nicholas Pooran, Jayden Seales, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Devon Thomas.
Covid-19 Reserves: Keacy Carty, Sheldon Cottrell.
West Indies T20I squad (to face Ireland and England): Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen (England T20I only), Darren Bravo (England T20Is only), Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Jason Holder, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Covid-19 Reserves: Jayden Seales, Alzarri Joseph, Devon Thomas.
Ireland Series at Sabina Park, Jamaica
8 January: 1st CG Insurance ODI (9:30am local time/10:30am Eastern Caribbean)
11 January: 2nd CG Insurance ODI (9:30am local time/10:30am Eastern Caribbean)
14 January: 3rd CG Insurance ODI (9:30am local time/10:30am Eastern Caribbean)
16 January: one-off T20I (4pm local time/5pm Eastern Caribbean)
England Series at Kensington Oval, Barbados
22 January: 1st T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
23 January: 2nd T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
26 January: 3rd T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
29 January: 4th T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)
30 January: 5th T20I (4pm local time/3pm Jamaica)