United Down Under

All the big names are there, much to the relief of Cricket Australia, and Chris Gayle has been reinstated as captain.

Most intriguing, though, is the selection of former Queenslander Brendan Nash in a full-strength West Indies squad to tour Australia for three Tests this summer.

The West Indies Cricket Board signaled the end of a bitter dispute with its star players by announcing Gayle would lead a 15-man touring party that also includes senior men Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo.

They were among the players who went on strike for a series against Bangladesh earlier this year and were not selected for the Champions Trophy, leading Cricket Australia to fear it would have to host a second-rate touring team, a recipe for international embarrassment and commercial disaster.

In reappointing Gayle, who once described himself as a reluctant captain, the West Indies resisted the temptation to recall respected Trinidad and Tobago skipper Daren Ganga to fill a leadership vacuum despite his modest international record.

Ganga had a torrid time during the West Indies’ 5-0 defeat in Australia in 2000-01, and averages just 25.71 in 48 Tests.

The announcement of the region’s best possible squad, following Bravo’s pronouncement a month ago that he and his teammates would make themselves available, will bring sighs of relief at CA.

Still, the cool and explosive opening batsman Gayle has a mixed record as captain, presiding over three wins in 14 Tests and 13 victories from 38 one-day matches, and the series will pitch an Australian team made hungrier by its Ashes defeat against the No.8 Test team in the world.

At least the arrival of Nash in Brisbane, his former hometown, should create some interest. Nash was a substitute fielder for Australia in a Gabba Test against the West Indies in 2005, but when his Queensland Cricket contract was not renewed for 2007-08, he moved to Jamaica, the nation his father represented in swimming at Commonwealth Games and Olympic level from 1966 to 1970.

It took time for Nash, known as the White Windie, to gain acceptance but the left-handed batsman used his Jamaican parentage to qualify for the West Indies, for whom he has now played nine Tests and boasts a respectable average of 38.23.

There was, predictably, no room in the squad for Floyd Reifer, the veteran who stood in as captain during the dispute, but a handful of those who played under him made the cut, among them emerging pacemen Kemar Roach and Gavin Tonge.

Another youngster who could make his Test debut as Gayle’s opening partner in Brisbane is Adrian Barath, 19, who recently drew plaudits from his compatriot Brian Lara.

The former West Indies captain feared the once-mighty Calypso cricketers, even at full strength, would be swept aside by Australia but saw potential in Barath, who helped Trinidad and Tobago to the final of the Champions League Twenty20 in India.

There was no room for the other rising star of that campaign, Kieron Pollard, in the Test squad, but he is expected to feature in the limited-overs series

Squad: Chris Gayle (c), Adrian Barath, Sulieman Benn, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Travis Dowlin, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Jerome Taylor, Gavin Tonge.