Williams, Murray Recalled
Short of genuine class, the West Indies selectors have depended mainly on current form in choosing their squad for the first of five Tests in the Cable & Wireless Series against India, starting at Bourda in Guyana on Thursday.
They have also deemed that age and previous record, two usual considerations, are luxuries that cannot be afforded at one of the most difficult periods in the history of West Indies cricket.
The upshot is the recall of opening batsman Stuart Williams, 32, and wicket-keeper Junior Murray, 34, more than three years after their last Tests, on the 1998-99 tour of South Africa, and the inclusion of leg-spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo, whose previous two Tests were in England in August 2000 and in Australia in January 2001.
Adam Sanford, the 25-year-old fast bowler who had played a solitary first-class match for the Windward Islands prior to the 2002 season, is the only newcomer in the 13 announced yesterday.
He is the eleventh contender chosen in the past five years as the desperate search for worthy successors for Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh continues.
Like Williams, Murray and Nagamootoo, his choice is based on form in the recent Busta Cup, in which his swing and control snared 41 wickets for his adopted Leewards.
A native of Dominica, he can claim to be the most authentic West Indian in the team as a descendant of the Carib Indians, one of the indigenous tribes Christopher Colombus encountered when he first landed in the New World.
Merv Dillon, Marlon Black and the giant Cameron Cuffy are the other three fast bowlers in the squad and one is almost certain to be omitted.
Williams, whose earlier 28 Tests brought him the moderate average of 24.26 and inevitable dismissal, reclaimed his place on the irrefutable evidence of statistics.
His 974 runs in the Busta Cup, at an average of 97.40, were a record for the annual first-class tournament and included scores of 195 and 252 not out against Guyana, pertinently led by West Indies captain Carl Hooper.
He replaced Daren Ganga, the 23-year-old Trinidadian who, like Williams before him, failed to make use of the several chances offered him by selectors seduced by his sound technique. He averages 20.85 from his 15 Tests all overseas in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and Sharjah.
Murray's four hundreds in a weak Windward Islands batting team in the Busta were as much a factor in his return as his wicket-keeping.
It is ironic that he comes back to resume a career of 31 Tests instead of Ridley Jacobs, who took over from him in the series in South Africa three years ago in a shuffling for the position that had also included David Williams and Courtney Browne.
Jacobs, actually two months older than Murray, is dropped or the first time after 37 Tests. He previously commanded his place through reliable, if unspectacular, keeping and dogged left-handed batting at No. 7 that brought him the only West Indian hundred in last year's home series against South Africa.
The incessant grind of the modern game appeared to have taken its toll on Jacobs in the last two series in Sri Lanka and against Pakistan in Sharjah where his standards behind and in front of the stumps perceptibly waned.
Nagamootoo is preferred as the leg-spinner in the squad to Dinanath Ramnarine, who held the spot for nine of the last 12 Tests.
His record in this season's Busta of becoming the first bowler to claim 50 wickets in the annual regional tournament was a powerful recommendation that could not be denied. His left-handed batting is a useful supplement.
Ryan Hinds, the 20-year-old Barbadian left-hander who made an impressive debut in the two Tests in Sharjah in February, is retained as the youngest member of the squad.
But, with an established middle-order boosted by the return of Brian Lara and Ramnaresh Sarwan, he may have to wait a while for another chance.
Carl Hooper (captain), Chris Gayle, Stuart Williams, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ryan Hinds, Junior Murray, Mervyn Dillon, Cameron Cuffy, Adam Sanford, Marlon Black and Mahendra Nagamootoo.