WEST Indies head coach Phil Simmons said the regional team’s squad may increase to 15 for the first Test match because it is a possibility that fast bowler Shannon Gabriel would be included if he makes enough progress with his ankle injury.
Gabriel, who had surgery on his ankle last November, was named as one of the 11 reserves for the West Indies three-match Test series against England along with a squad of 14.
If Gabriel joins the squad for the first Test he would add to the fast bowling prowess of Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, captain Jason Holder, and Chemar Holder. Simmons, speaking with journalists on Zoom on Monday said he likes the progress Gabriel has been showing. “The last week he’s been at full tilt and he looks fit. He looks good. He’s bowling as fast as I’ve seen him for a while so he’s ready and close enough to the Test match.”
The first Test starts on July 8 in Southampton.
“Shannon Gabriel has been named in the reserves. One thing we looked at with him is he is one of West Indies’ prominent fast bowlers coming back from injury and we just had to make sure, especially that he was fit enough to go through the tour. There is a possibility of Shannon Gabriel joining the touring party of 14.”
Simmons suggested that if any of the other reserves join the squad for the first Test it would be because of an injury to someone on the first team. “When leaving home 14 were named in the squad and of that 14 in order for someone to come in from the reserves other than one person (Gabriel), I think it more has to be an injury. I think for the first Test we definitely going to be starting with 14 and as I said before because of Shannon coming back from his injury we had to just let him get a little bit further and see how he is and then we decide whether to bring him in and make it a 15-member squad.”
The West Indies players will start a three-day practice match at Manchester, on Tuesday, among themselves from 11 am to 6 pm. Simmons said the match will not be a case where the likely starting XI for the first Test would be playing against the rest. The Windies coach said it would be a relaxed structure.
“The three-day game is a mix up, the four-day game (starting next Monday) will be closer to a first class game 11 versus 11, but tomorrow (Tuesday) will be more of a mix up between the 25 (players) that we have here.”
Simmons said, on Monday, preparations were ramped up as the first Test is just over two weeks away.
The Windies fast bowling attack has been identified as the strength of the team, but Simmons said the batting is training hard in an effort to support the bowlers.
“From everything that we looked at over the past two or three years, the bowling has been the stronger suit of our game as a Test nation. The batters have looked really well on this (tour). The work that we have put in over the last couple weeks it has shown and over the next three days we are going to see how they put their innings together, but as for working and the way how they look in the nets it has been good.”
The series will feature the top two all-rounders in Test cricket. Holder is ranked number one and Ben Stokes is right behind in position two.
Discussing Holder and Stokes, Simmons said, “The rivalry is always there because I think Ben is the type of person who wants to be number one and if Jason is up there he is always going to be looking to do his best to get Jason’s position and I know Jason wants to be number one, that’s why he is there and he wants to keep that...that rivalry is going to be huge for this series.”
SQUADS FOR PRACTICE MATCH
Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Raymon Reifer, Chemar Holder, Anderson Phillip, Jomel Warrican, Keon Harding, Oshane Thomas, Marquino Mindley
Jason Holder (captain), Shayne Moseley, Jermaine Blackwood, Sunil Ambris, Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua DaSilva, Kyle Mayers, Rahkeem Cornwall, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Preston McSween