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
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
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
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing