West Indies in Australia 2009-10 November 21, 2009

Woes pile up for West Indies

Every time it appears impossible for things to get any worse for West Indies cricket, they do

Every time it appears impossible for things to get any worse for West Indies cricket, they do.

Less than a week before the start of the first Test against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane, the team's situation could hardly be gloomier. Captain Chris Gayle is on the other side of the world, back in Kingston to be with his ill mother, with doubts over when, indeed whether, he will rejoin his team.

A mystery infection has struck down Ramnaresh Sarwan, the key No.3 batsman, and Jerome Taylor, the one fast bowler with genuine Test experience, is 'stiff and sore' and is not playing in the only match prior to the Test, against a below-strength state team Queensland who clouted 16 sixes and 73 fours in amassing 617 for 7 declared.

Gayle has given no indication of his plans for the immediate future. He is a keen user of the twitter.com website but his posts on Thursday offered no clue as to the likelihood of getting back to Australia.

Instead he mentioned a steamed fish meal with his father at Cuddy's, Courtney Walsh's restaurant in New Kingston, and the progress of his mother's heart problem, which forced him home. He passed on his mother's "thanks again for those prayers" and reported his visit to her in hospital where a nurse asked him to "wait outside, sigh," and the doctor reported that, while "her heart (is) not that good", she had improved "a lot".

They were still running tests, he added, and he was "to meet with the doc later."

Gayle and 19-year-old rookie Adrian Barath were the only two recognised opening batsman chosen for the tour. The selectors are reportedly considering a replacement of some experience (Lendl Simmons and Devon Smith are the likeliest contenders) but they need to move without delay, whether Gayle is able to return of not.

In the absence of the captain (82 Tests, average 39.58 and 10 hundreds), Travis Dowlin was Barath's partner against Queensland. It is an unfamiliar position for him. He went in No.3 in his two Tests against Bangladesh but his usual slot for Guyana is No.5. Sarwan did not bat yesterday, Narsingh Deonarine taking his place at No.3 in West Indies' second innings. Eye witnesses said that, after play, Sarwan was "covered in cream with his shirt off".

"The doctors said he has some infection so it is better for him to stay off the field and not do anything further," coach David Williams said last night. Sarwan, veteran of 81 Tests who topscored with 73 in the first innings total of 271, felt it was an allergic reaction and was confident that he would be able to bat on the final day today.

Taylor, who has 81 wickets in his 28 Tests, is also expected to recover in time for Thursday's Test but is bound to be short of preparation. He was one of the players who opted out of the home series against Bangladesh in July and the Champions Trophy in South Africa in September so that his last appearances for the West Indies were in England in May and June in Tests, ODIs and the World Twenty20 tournament.

His only match for Jamaica since then was last month in the regional one-day competition for the President's Cup in Guyana when when took two wickets for 14 from five overs against the Combined Colleges and Campuses.

The only other fast bowlers are Kemar Roach, whose two Tests against Bangladesh in August were his first, Ravi Rampaul and Gavin Tonge who are yet to play one.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years