Top players opt out of Windies Test tour to Australia
ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) — Impacted by the unavailability of several established players, including former captain Jason Holder, West Indies will be sending one of their least experienced Test squads on the Tour of Australia next month.
The selection panel led by Desmond Haynes has named seven uncapped players in the 15-member squad to be captained again by opener Kraigg Brathwaite, with pace spearhead Alzarri Joseph elevated to be his deputy.
The uncapped seven are batsman Zachary McCaskie, wicketkeeper-batsman Tevin Imlach, all-rounders Justin Greaves, Kavem Hodge, and Kevin Sinclair, as well as fast bowlers Akeem Jordan and Shamar Joseph.
Of the squad, only Brathwaite (87), Joseph (30), long-serving pacer Kemar Roach (79), and wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua Da Silva (24) have more than 20 Tests under their belts.
According to a news release from Cricket West Indies announcing the squad on Wednesday, Holder and ambidextrous fellow Barbadian all-rounder Kyle Mayers are unavailable because they have expressed a preference to explore Twenty20 franchise opportunities in January.
The news release added that fast bowler Jayden Seales was unavailable for selection because of a shoulder injury, while it appeared that former vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood has fallen out of favour with the selection panel and was not included.
“The squad has been affected by the unavailability of some key players,” Haynes said in the news release. “However, we have had a very strong red-ball programme being run over the past year, which has unearthed significant talent throughout the region.
“The selected players have passed each test given to them and must now be given the opportunity to showcase their skills in the Test arena. Australia away is always a challenge, but we are confident in our team.”
Holder said in an article appearing on the ESPN-Cricinfo website that his decision to make himself unavailable for the series in Australia was prompted by his desire to focus on T20 cricket ahead of a World Cup on home soil next year.
The 30-year-old, who captained West Indies in 37 of his 64 Tests between 2015 and 2020, will be playing in the ILT20 in the UAE at the time.
He said he has spoken extensively with CWI in recent months and made it clear his desire to play Tests again after the T20I World Cup to be staged jointly in the Caribbean and the United States.
Mayers, who has had diminishing returns in his 18 Tests after an electrifying double hundred on debut, turned down a central contract with CWI – like Holder and white-ball specialist Nicholas Pooran – but it was not immediately clear what his plans for the period will be.
Their decision gives other players a chance to make a name for themselves in Australia, like Mayers did on the tour of Bangladesh in early 2021 when several players, including Holder, opted out.
With 56 Tests and almost 3,000 runs under his belt, Blackwood would surely have added depth to the batting, but he too, has found runs to be at a premium in this format, and the selection panel appears strongly focused on building for the future.
They have resisted the temptation to include him or others such as Darren Bravo or Shai Hope against easily the best side in the sport today and on one of the most challenging tours on the international stage.
West Indies will play two Tests against world champions Australia from January 17 in Adelaide, and January 25 in Brisbane for the Frank Worrell Trophy as part of the new round of the World Test Championship.
This is the second Test series for West Indies out of a total of six in the 2023 to 2025 World Test Championship cycle, after they drew one Test and lost the other against India this past August on home soil.
This will be the first of three away series that the side will play in the World Test Championship.
Squad: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Alzarri Joseph (vice-captain), Alick Athanaze, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Joshua Da Silva, Justin Greaves, Kavem Hodge, Tevin Imlach, Akeem Jordan, Shamar Joseph, Zachary McCaskie, Kirk McKenzie, Gudakesh Motie, Kemar Roach, Kevin Sinclair.