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Pooran to get chance to display readiness for Test cricket down under

Monday, October 19, 2020

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TALENTED Trinidadian batsman Nicholas Pooran is about to get the chance to show he wants to play Test cricket for West Indies.

The 25-year-old Pooran, a budding star in white-ball cricket, was named to the 14-member squad for three Twenty20 (T20) matches on the proposed November 27 to December 15 tour to New Zealand. However, he was not included in the squad of 15 nor the six-man reserves for the accompanying two-Test series down under.

In reference to the dashing left-hander's non-inclusion for the Tests, Cricket West Indies (CWI) Chief Selector Roger Harper said the New Zealand tour is to feature first class matches, paving the way for fringe players to underline their interest in the longer format.

“There was a lot of consideration given to Nicholas Pooran [being named in the Test squad]. We are still looking at it but as we go forward I'm sure that Pooran will have opportunities,” Harper told journalists during a virtual media conference on Friday.

“There will be two first class matches on the tour — two four-day matches — which will be played while the Test matches are going on. This will give an opportunity to the reserve players — along with a number of members of the T20 squad who are interested in playing four-day cricket, and maybe one or two of the guys in the Test squad who are not involved in the Test match — to have some four-day competition,” he explained.

The regional cricket board of directors has agreed to the tour in principle, subject to final details on medical and logistical protocols of CWI, New Zealand Cricket and the Government of New Zealand.

Pooran has been a staple in T20 franchise leagues around the world since he was a teenager. He has played three regional four-day matches — all of which came between November and December 2014 — and averages 23.83.

He has an outstanding average of 49.05 in 25 One-Day International (ODI) matches. He has 21 T20 caps for the regional side, averaging 23.53.

Earlier this year, the fluent stroke-maker told the Jamaica Observer of his desire to become a Test cricketer.

“Test cricket is something I always wanted to play. I would love the opportunity to experience Test cricket at some point but just right now, I'm taking it step by step,” Pooran said during a telephone interview in May.

Cricket West Indies, under President Ricky Skerritt, has scrapped the strict guidelines implemented by the previous administration which, barring an exemption, forced Test aspirants to participate in the regional first class tournament.

But even with those rules out the window it is widely expected that players would indicate their ambitions by playing first class cricket.

“Nicholas will have an opportunity to play those four-day games and we'll have an opportunity to see him in that [format] — and then we'll decide,” said the head selector, even while noting “there's no absolute rule which says he has to [play first class cricket]”.

During the media conference, Harper also specifically mentioned the Jamaican quartet of fast bowler Oshane Thomas, batsman Brandon King and all-rounders Fabian Allen and Rovman Powell — players named in the T20 squad who have expressed interest in Test cricket.

Powell, 27, has represented West Indies in 34 ODIs and 26 T20Is. Though yet to ignite with the bat in his brief first class career, Powell has been a successful medium pacer, utilising deceptive variation and swing to claim 25 wickets in 11 matches at 21.76.

King, 25, made his debut for West Indies in T20 and ODI cricket last year, playing eight and four matches in the respective formats. He compiled over 600 runs during the 2018-19 regional four-day season. His subsequent tally of 496 runs in the 2019 Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament fast-tracked him into the West Indies white-ball squads.

Thomas, 23, has played 20 ODI and 12 T20I matches. The fiery speedster has only played eight first class matches despite a fairy-tale start for Jamaica Scorpions at Sabina Park in November 2016, claiming the prized wicket of Windward Islands Volcanoes batsman Devon Smith with his first ball in regional four-day cricket.

Allen, 25, is another player still in the early days of his West Indies career, playing 14 ODIs and 13 T20 matches. But he is also yet to feature for the Test side despite an outstanding start with the bat in regional four-day cricket. In the 2017-18 campaign — only his second season of four-day cricket — Allen, who also bowls left-arm finger spin, scored two unbeaten hundreds, including a career-best 169.

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