CRICKET West Indies (CWI) lead selector Roger Harper believes the return of experienced top order batsman Darren Bravo and the talented Shimron Hetmyer will boost the batting for the regional team’s tour of New Zealand, which runs from November 27 to December 15.
A CWI media release on Friday said, “Details of the tour were ratified by CWI’s board of directors during a teleconference on Thursday. The board agreed to the tour in principle, subject to final details on medical and logistical protocols of CWI, New Zealand Cricket and Government of New Zealand.”
Bravo and Hetmyer opted not to tour England in June and July for a three-match Test series because of covid19 safety concerns.
All-rounder Keemo Paul, who also decided not to tour England because of covid19, makes his return to the 15-man Test squad. Six reserves will travel to New Zealand including Trinidadians Joshua Da Silva and Jayden Seales.
Following the three-match T20 series the first Test match bowls off on December 3 at Seddon Park in Hamilton.
The teams will then travel to Wellington to play the second and final Test at Basin Reserve from December 11.
On September 30, Bravo told Newsday that he was thinking of making the trip to New Zealand. He said then, “I will take it into consideration and make the best decision pertaining to that tour.”
On Friday, speaking to journalists on Zoom, Harper said, “The batting at the top has been a bit of a problem. We’re hoping that the return of Bravo, especially considering that he has been making runs consistently in every format he has played in recent times, will add a lot of solidity and leadership at the top of the order and help us to lay that sort of foundation and build big totals.”
Discussing Hetmyer, Harper said, “We know he is a very talented player. I think he gives us a lot more depth in quality and in ability in that middle order so we hoping that he will be able to seize this opportunity to showcase just how good a player he is.”
Harper also thinks Hetmyer has the “ability to be one of the best batsmen in the world.”
The Windies batting was inconsistent during the England series without Bravo and Hetmyer. Jermaine Blackwood was the lone batsman to score over 200 runs for the regional team in the series, which West Indies lost 2-1. The Jamaican right-hander cracked 211 runs at an average of 35.16.
In 54 Test matches, Bravo has scored 3,506 runs at an average of 37.69 with eight centuries and 17 fifties. His last Test match for West Indies was in September 2019 against India.
Hetmyer has an average of 27.93 in 16 Test matches which includes five fifties.
Right-handed top order batsman Shai Hope was overlooked after a poor run of form recently.
Hope, who had an English tour to forget, has not been able to replicate the prolific form he has shown in One-Day Internationals (ODIs).
In England he could only muster 105 runs at an average of 17.50.
In ODIs, Hope averages 52.20, but in Tests he has a modest average of 26.27.
Harper said, “We have given (Hope) an opportunity to go back and work at this aspect of his game and get his batting up to the sort of standard that we know he is capable of because I think there is a tremendous future for him in Test cricket, but he needs to get his batting back to where we know it can be.”
Opener John Campbell has been given another chance to prove himself after scoring just 84 runs in England at 16.80. Nicholas Pooran has been making a name for himself in T20 and ODI cricket and there have been calls for him to be included in the Test team. Pooran has only played three First Class matches, but with an average of 49.05 in 25 ODIs for West Indies some think he can be an asset in the Test team.
Harper said, “There was a lot of consideration given to Nicholas Pooran and we still looking at it, but as we go forward I am sure that Pooran will have opportunities too.”
Pooran, along with the Test reserve players, some of the T20 players and members of the 15-man Test squad that are not in the starting XI during the Test series will compete in two four-day First Class matches while the two-match Test series is taking place.
TEST SQUAD: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.
RESERVES: Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva, Preston McSween, Shayne Moseley, Raymon Reifer, Jayden Seales.