At 10 am today, the West Indies cricket team will officially begin life without the rock Shivnarine Chanderpaul. When the umpires call play at Windsor Park in Dominica, it will signal the first time since his debut back in 1994 that the left-hander is missing from a match, apart from injury.
The 40-year-old was dropped just 86 runs short of becoming the highest run scorer in Test cricket for the West Indies. This has caused heated debate in some quarters but the fact is that Denesh Ramdin will lead a team out this morning, without the Unity Village man.
Lowly-ranked West Indies, anxious to build on a momentum gained from a one all draw with England, are seeking to ignite the end of a 20-year domination by highly-ranked Australia.
Morale is said to be high in a West Indies team packed with young players who appear undaunted by the prospects of David and Goliath like contests that loom in Roseau and Kingston.
West Indies, eighth in the ICC test rankings, above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, are planning to take the fight to Australia who are second to South Africa and who have not played a test since January.
At the pre-match press conference yesterday, Ramdin called on the young players to make their chances count and reminded his senior players that their job is even more crucial now.
“I think we are in a good frame of mind after the last test match with a win against England and a good week in Barbados,” said Ramdin after an intense one week training camp in Bridgetown to prepare for the series.
The middle order vacancy created by Chanderpaul’s controversial exit is likely to be filled by Shane Dowrich who impressed with half-centuries in his two innings for the President’s XI during the tour match.
Jermaine Blackwood, whose role in the middle order takes on added importance with Chanderpaul’s omission, will hope to continue his form against the Australians after emerging as the leading West Indian run scorer in their recent series against England.
Given the fact that the pitch will assist the spinners, Guyanese tensions after Chanderpaul’s omission may be eased, as it is likely that their spin twins in Devendra Bishoo and Veresammy Permaul will be in the final XI. Out of 101 wickets that have fallen in three Tests at Windsor Park, 58 have been taken by the spinners and native Shane Shillingford has shown the way with 20 wickets in two of those matches.
There is also the chance that yet another Guyanese may be included in opener Rajindra Chandrika, who slapped 72 against the touring Aussies last week.
Everyone around Caribbean cricket will be anxious to see who is in the starting eleven. The Windies played four bowlers against England and if they opt for the fifth against Australia, Ramdin will bat at six, one slot up from his accustomed position.
The Aussies, on the other hand, will be eager to take on a Caribbean side without Chanderpaul, who has played nine home series against them scoring five centuries and averaging 80.38 in the process.
The Aussies suffered a setback with opening batsman Chris Rogers ruled out due to symptoms of concussion after being struck on the helmet by a local bowler in the nets on Sunday.
He is expected to be replaced by Shaun Marsh, who scored an impressive hundred in the tourists’ lone warm-up match against the President’s XI in Antigua.
The excitement in Roseau is unbelievable and from all indicators, a full house of 12,000 fans will be rocking the stadium today.