SA tour: Diluted WI no fix

2014-10-22 23:30
West Indies players talk with umpire Simon Taufel after the spitting incident between Dale Steyn and Sulieman Benn. (AFP)

Cape Town – If the current dispute in West Indies cricket was occurring during its 1970s and 1980s heyday, the thought of a weakened Caribbean side touring South Africa – though in a necessarily post-apartheid landscape, of course -- would still be reasonably palatable.

Never forget that when someone like Sylvester Clarke, with his legendary “throat-follower” deliveries, formidably spearheaded the pace attack of the West Indian rebel sides and then the Transvaal Mean Machine in the old Currie Cup, he incredibly hadn’t always been able to boast a regular place in the Windies Test side even while still free of pariah status.

But the modern team remains sadly a shadow of the one that once ruled the world, so any thought of a second-string combination visiting this country during the summer seems close to futile.

The possibility has raised its head because the core of senior current West Indies cricketers have fallen into serious financial dispute with the WICB, which led to the premature abandonment a few days ago of the series in India.

Coming only a few weeks before the intended full visit to South Africa as the lone incoming side to these shores of the 2014/15 season, it has raised the suggestion that a significantly below-full-strength West Indies squad may have to be assembled.

Overwhelming first prize, of course, is a solution being found between the board and keynote Test players like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn and Denesh Ramdin, because even if the Caribbean outfit are at fullest complement the powerful Proteas will be strongly tipped to win the scheduled three-Test series plus hatful of limited-overs fixtures.

West Indies lie a lowly eighth on the ICC five-day rankings, ahead of only Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, and their record in South Africa is pretty awful: a 5-0 clean sweep loss in 1998/99, 3-0 reverse in a four-Test series in 2003/04 and 2-1 defeat in the shorter series of 2007/08.

So what sort of Test party would the West Indies be able to put together if their “first-teamers” are still at loggerheads with the WICB and don’t come?

One shaft of light that might mean some international cricket in South Africa this summer, rather than possibly none at all, is that the West Indies ‘A’ side is continuing its ongoing tour of Sri Lanka, so those players aren’t part – at this stage anyway – of the row.

As with the A-teams of many countries, the present Windies one contains a smattering of players with some prior Test experience, as well as some youngsters who are earmarked as potential candidates for that status in the not too distant future.

Then again, if you provided the names of the West Indies ‘A’ team which took part in the second of three unofficial Tests against their Sri Lankan counterparts – the host nation leads 1-0, with one draw thus far – you also wouldn’t have too many South Africans rushing out for tickets in the event that they are suddenly promoted to top-tier opponents against Hashim Amla’s Proteas in December and January.

This was the side: Kraigg Brathwaite, Assad Fudadin, Kirk Edwards, Jermaine Blackwood, Andre Fletcher, Chadwick Walton, Carlos Brathwaite, Shane Shillingford, Sheldon Cottrell, Miguel Cummins, Shannon Gabriel.

Three of them have not played any Tests, and a further four in fewer than five each at this stage, which would already mean the majority of the side being desperately short of experience for a maiden away challenge against the Proteas.

Only one player, off-spinner Shillingford, boasts any prior activity against South Africa at Test level, having made his debut and played two further Tests during the Proteas’ triumphant last tour of the Caribbean in 2010.

At least the 21-year-old batsman Kraigg Brathwaite would be a minor drawcard because he has 14 Tests already to his credit – averaging 38.24, and boasting a double-century against Bangladesh – and might well have cracked the nod for a full-strength squad in SA anyway.

Fellow top-order player Edwards, 29, averages 31.80 from 17 Tests and notched tons against both India and Bangladesh in 2011, although his pickings have been notably leaner since, hence his demotion to the ‘A’ ranks.

Generally, though, you can see why Cricket South Africa’s bosses must be praying we still see the Full Monty arriving a few weeks up the drag ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    csa  |  proteas  |  cape town  |  cricket

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