West Indies are entering a battle against England with the odds far outweighing them, but should a few of their stars — the likes of Shimron Hetmyer, Darren Bravo and Shai Hope – fire, the hosts could possibly punch above their weight class.
England has shown in the warm-up matches that their big guns are no-nonsense players; a number of them — including Jonny Bairstow who hit 98, Joe Root who hit 87, opener Rory Burns who contributed fifties, and star all-rounder Ben Stokes — have headlined the tour games.
West Indies (CWI) President’s XI unit which faced Root and company this past week, the lack of experience and runs in the top-order is something that England could likely prey upon, come the start of the series; especially with a battery of pacers led by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who have 998 victims between them heading into the Tests.
With no Chris Gayle, Andre Russell or even Shivnarine Chanderpaul to really frustrate the England bowlers, the Windies will have to rely upon their young guns to uphold their reputation. Hope and Hetmyer were by far the Windies best batters in 2018, having scored hundreds while climbing both the Test and One Day International (ODI) Rankings in the process.
The England series should be a great opportunity for the pair to really step up and show their class against a World-Class side that has two of the best fast-bowlers in contemporary cricket at the time — Broad and Anderson.
Hetmyer will be given more responsibility this tour. Given his form last year across all formats of the game, the Guyanese should be able to easily utilise conditions at home much like he did last year against Bangladesh, where he made a strong impression with the bat. Hetmyer should want to hit that 3 figure score this series and add to his 4 half-centuries.
Hope should be more inclined to remind England why he wrote his name in the record books a few years ago.
The Barbados batsman was 23 at the time, and was the youngest member of the playing XI when he took his team to a victory over the English in England with knocks of 147 and 118 not out; making him the first player in a stretch of 534 first-class matches to score a hundred in each innings at Headingly Ground.
With both of his tons at the Test level coming against England, the right-hander should be desperate to not only continue his form against the England boys, but to make the time spent playing the matches in his home country of Barbados count.
Bravo’s case is a bit different, as he returns to the Windies Test team after two years’ absence due to a number of issues regarding the CWI Board etc. With a fresh start and a better relationship with the board, it seems Bravo’s role in the Test side will be what it was destined to be — leader of the batting attack.
Apart from opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who will be under the radar after failing against Bangladesh in the last series, no other batsman in the side has more Test runs than Bravo’s 3400. The left-hander and Brathwaite are the leading run-scorers for the Windies, with each having just about the same amount of runs as well as near identical conversion rates.
Bravo has 8 hundreds and 16 fifties, with a best of 218; while Brathwaite has 8 tons and 17 fifties, with 212 as his best.
The stats clearly show that Windies would need a lot from Hope and Hetmyer, as the future and current in-form pair; while Bravo and Brathwaite would need to shoulder most of the batting responsibilities as the two leading run-scorers in the team.
Also, with newbies John Campbell and Shamarh Brooks added to the squad, much will lie on the aforementioned batsmen to shield while guiding the newer players against an England side who are fresh off a 3-0 whitewash Test series win over Sri Lanka.
West Indies FULL SQUAD:-Jason Holder (Captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach and Jomel Warrican
NOTE: Oshane Thomas has been called up as cover for Alzarri Joseph.