Under-strength West Indies worries Ponting
Australian captain Ricky Ponting has expressed concern at the prospect of playing a weakened West Indies side later this year at the start of the Australia summer. West Indies are due to tour in November for a full tour of three Tests, five ODIs and two T20Is, but the nature of the squad is not yet clear.
Currently the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is embroiled in an industrial dispute with its leading players, including captain Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul among others; the situation has led to a severely weakened side losing a Test and ODI series at home to Bangladesh. A similarly under-strength side is currently in South Africa for the Champions Trophy. Several meetings between the board and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) have failed to break the impasse, though with the mediation now of the Caribbean community (CARICOM), talks are due to restart.
But there is no guarantee the situation will be resolved by mid-November, when West Indies land in Australia. The two are due to meet in the Champions Trophy as well on Saturday, but Ponting acknowledged that there is little that can be done by outside parties to resolve the situation.
"There is nothing we can do about it, as an Australian cricket team or anyone else about the fact that West Indies' strongest team isn't here at the moment," Ponting said. "We all know the reasons why. All we can do is play well against them."
But a second-string team to start the summer season in Australia would be a worry. "I must admit I am a little bit concerned about the Australian summer and how that will turn out. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope that the number one and full-strength West Indies side make the journey to Australia because all the fans around the world enjoy seeing them as well as fans in Australia."
Ponting refused to be drawn into a debate over whether such a scenario would devalue cricket, adopting a wait-and-see stance. "We'll have to wait and see. We don't know what will happen but we'll keep our fingers crossed as a group of players. From Cricket Australia's point of view they will keep their fingers crossed for the strongest team to turn up."
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland had said earlier this month that he too had his fingers crossed and hoped the dispute would be resolved soon before contemplating contingency plans.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo