West Indies’ back-to-back tours of India offer a welcome return to the longer game for the top cricket players, as well as a chance for the reserves to stake their claim for promotion.
The A team is presently under way, to be immediately followed by the seniors’ attendance at the hurriedly arranged celebration of Sachin Tendulkar’s 200th Test.
It is all preparation for players and guidance for selectors for the altogether different environment encountered in New Zealand for three Tests and five one-day internationals in December and January.
Given that, for one reason or another – player commitments to their domestic teams and to those in the Champions League – India A are not as strong as they were on their successful preceding A series in South Africa and at home against New Zealand, Kirk Edwards and Kraigg Brathwaite, each dropped from the West Indies Test team a year ago, have wasted no time pressing for a return.
Nikita Miller, Veerasammy Permaul and Ashley Nurse have established that their spin is not only effective on substandard pitches back home.
At last, Jonathan Carter, with bat and ball, has started to justify his repeated selections. Miguel Cummins, 23, a new fast bowling kid on the block with just six months’ first-class experience, has made an immediate impression.
Above all, the West Indies A team has again demonstrated character to overcome initial defeat to take the one-day contests 2-1. On Saturday, they completed a resounding victory in the first of the three unofficial Tests.
It was similar in their victorious series at home against Pakistan in 2011, India in 2012 and Sri Lanka last June.
The one major disappointment is Sheldon Cotterrell’s knee injury that ended his tour even before it began. Age 24, strong, athletic, fast and left-arm all in one, the Jamaican soldier is an exciting long-term prospect. There was no hyperbole in manager Lockhart Sebastien’s comment that it was “a devastating blow.”
If there is an apt comment on the choice of Cotterell’s replacement, it is mystifying. There is little logic in Fidel Edwards’ call-up.
Of those still active, he is West Indies’ top wicket-taker in Tests, with 165 wickets in 55 matches. But at 31 and dogged by back injuries, his prime has passed.
All his cricket this year has been of the Twenty20 variety in which he is still capable of a telling, but brief burst.
Now he has been summoned to India with only two four-day matches remaining. Others with more promising futures were available, such as Trinidadian Marlon Richards, 24, for instance.
West Indies have had just two Tests so far in 2013, both at home against Zimbabwe, hardly a stern examination. With the A team’s four-dayers in India the only guide to current form, the same XI that defeated Zimbabwe at Kensington Oval and Windsor Park could well take the field against India in November.