October 18, 2000

Courtney headed for Australia

Courtney Walsh is playing on. The greatest wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket has been named by West Indian selectors to take part in their five-Test tour of Australia which begins at the start of next month.

Walsh will be part of a team, led by Jimmy Adams, who will be rank outsiders to reclaim the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy from the Australians. This is a far cry from his first such tour, in 1984, when under Clive Lloyd the West Indies' world standing was much different to what it is today.

This will be Walsh's fifth Worrell Trophy tour of Australia. With 483 Test wickets under his belt at an average of 24.24 from 122 Test appearances, Walsh is far and away the most experienced to the West Indian players on tour, especially with the retirement of Curtly Ambrose.

The calendar year 2000 has, in fact, been one of Walsh's most successful in Test cricket. In 10 Tests against Zimbabwe, Pakistan and England, Walsh has taken 57 wickets at an average of 15.12, and has not failed to take a wicket in every innings he has bowled. Only Muttiah Muralitharan (64) has taken more Test wickets in 2000.

Walsh told a Jamaican newspaper on Monday that his decision to play in Australia was based, not on any desire to capture his 500th wicket, but on a sense of duty to his young West Indian team-mates.

Walsh aside, an inexperienced pace battery it will be. Three players without Test experience have been named in the sixteen-man squad, and all three are pacemen. Walsh, Nixon McLean and Mervyn Dillon will be joined by Colin Stuart of Guyana, Kerry Jeremy of the Leeward Islands and Marlon Black of Trinidad & Tobago. Stuart and Jeremy gained their first full international experience during the ICC KnockOut in Kenya. Stuart, at 27, may be seen by some as rather old to be starting an international career. Black is 25 and Jeremy 20.

Reon King was unavailable for the tour after suffering stress fractures while playing for Guyana in the Red Stripe Bowl this week. Pacemen Corey Collymore and Franklyn Rose were also overlooked.

Daren Ganga, currently undertaking a six-week scholarship at the Australian Cricket Academy in Adelaide, returns to the West Indian squad, and it is likely that he is earmarked for the opening batsman's role alongside Sherwin Campbell, who again has been named vice-captain. Ramnaresh Sarwan, also currently attending the Adelaide academy, is in the team, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul returns after injury pending, as with all team members, a fitness test during the training camp in Jamaica from October 23-29.

Brian Lara is in the team, despite reports that he is in need of an eye operation. Courtney Browne has been chosen to shadow Ridley Jacobs as wicketkeeper and will add to the West Indies' batting reserves. Guyanese legspinner Mahendra Nagamootoo has the thankless task of being the sole specialist spin bowler on tour - the first time the West Indians have chosen a spinner for a Frank Worrell Trophy tour since Roger Harper in 1988-89.

The West Indian team play their first tour match in Australia on November 7 in Perth. The First Test commences in Brisbane on November 23. After the completion of the Fifth Test in Sydney on January 6, they will take part on a five-week one-day triangular series involving Australia and Zimbabwe.

The squad for the one-day series will be chosen at a later date. Chris Gayle and Ricardo Powell, also attending the Australian Cricket Academy at the moment, could get their chance when that team is announced - as could Carl Hooper, who declared his availability for international cricket this week.

The West Indies squad for the Test tour of Australia is: Jimmy Adams (capt), Sherwin Campbell (vc), Darren Ganga, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Courtney Browne, Courtney Walsh, Nixon McLean, Mervyn Dillon, Colin Stuart, Marlon Black, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Kerry Jeremy.