Windies have recalled batsman Darren Bravo to their squad for the first Test against England in Barbados next week after an absence of more than two years following a dispute with the governing body. There is also a return to the squad for fast-bowler Alzarri Joseph and first call-ups for uncapped batsmen John Campbell, from Jamaica, and Shamarh Brooks.
Bravo last played a Test for West Indies in November 2016 – although he returned to ODI duty late last year on West Indies’ tour to Bangladesh – after having his contract suspended for a post on his Twitter account which called the West Indies Cricket Board President Dave Cameron a “Big Idiot”. Although Bravo subsequently alluded to not posting the tweet himself, the resulting fall-out has seen him absent from the Test scene since.
It is an absence which West Indies have not been able to afford. The 29 year-old has eight Test hundreds and averages 40 in Test cricket, making him one of only a handful of recognised Test-class batsmen at West Indies’ disposal. Bravo’s recall to the squad adds experience to Jason Holder’s team after a tough year last year in Test cricket. They won just three of their nine Tests in 2018 and suffered heavy defeats at home to India and away to Bangladesh in the second half of the year.
Those results were not for the want of trying by their bowling attack of Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach who had profitable years. They are joined in the squad by 22 year-old Joseph, who is returning from a stress fracture of the back, and Oshane Thomas who is included as cover for Joseph. Thomas has already made headlines as one of the quickest bowlers in the Caribbean and made his limited overs debut for West Indies in India last year. Jomel Warrican has been preferred to Devendra Bishoo as the sole spin option in the squad.
Campbell, who can bowl some part-time off-spin and will open the batting alongside Kraigg Brathwaite, and Brooks receive first call-ups but neither average more than 35 in first-class cricket. Campbell, who is currently playing for West Indies President’s XI against England in a warm-up match, replaces Kieran Powell, who has just one half-century from his last 15 Test innings, at the top of the order. Campbell and Brathwaite will be expected to see off the new ball to give a talented middle order of Bravo, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer some license.
Brooks is likely to be the spare batsman in the squad and is not in the best of form, averaging 18.50 in domestic four-day cricket. It is a bold call to suggest he is a better bet than Jermaine Blackwood, who is also playing against England in the warm-up match in Barbados and who scored a hundred against the tourists on their last Test tour to the Caribbean in 2015.
“After a difficult Test Series in Bangladesh late last year the opportunity presents itself for our team to pick itself up,” said West Indies chairman of selectors, Courtney Browne. “Although a tough series against England is anticipated, home turf has always been a place where our team has made strides. With the return of Darren Bravo, who will add value to a batting department, we expect to see marked improvement.
“Young, exciting, fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, who was sidelined by injury, returns to the squad and Shamarh Brooks has been elevated for his solid first-class performances over the last three years.
John Campbell the incumbent ‘A’ team opener, who has played first class cricket for a number of years will open the batting after a good first-class season in 2018.”
CEO Johnny Grave added: “The Wisden Trophy has got incredible history and the West Indies have got a proud record to defend. England have only won one Test Series on West Indies soil in 50 years. We hope that our fans will once again become the team’s twelfth man and rally to create the noise and colour that gives the squad the support they deserve and register a win in what will be a great battle.”
West Indies Squad
Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican, Oshane Thomas (cover for Joseph)