West Indies depleted by visa problems
It has emerged that the touring West Indies squad, due to face England in a three-Test series starting in less than two weeks' time, currently comprises only 11 fit men, with three players still to arrive in the UK. Assad Fudadin, Narsingh Deonarine and Marlon Samuels have been delayed by visa issues while Fidel Edwards has a "back niggle" and will not play in their three-day match against Sussex, which was due to begin on Saturday but fell victim to the weather.
Samuels, who has been playing in the IPL with Pune Warriors, is expected in the country imminently, but Fudadin and Deonarine are in Jamaica trying to resolve their visa issues. "The rules have become more stringent due to the Olympics," a West Indies spokesman said, "and we're still working on getting that sorted." The pair do not have a confirmed arrival date.
Under normal circumstances, you might expect a team with just seven days of cricket ahead of a Test series in which they are the overwhelming underdogs to be champing at the bit to gain every chance to acclimatise to their new conditions. But West Indies reacted with an understandably phlegmatic attitude to the abandonment of the first day at Hove, where it was bitterly cold and a far cry from the conditions in they played barely a week ago against Australia in the Caribbean.
While it would be premature to dismiss the prospects of a talented but raw West Indies squad, this does not represent the smoothest start to a tour. The original party was only 15 strong and may require strengthening. The team management insist they have yet to think about reinforcements, but it speaks volumes for their current predicament that 50-year-old Richie Richardson, West Indies' tour manager, admitted he may be obliged to act as 12th man in the current match.
The fast bowler Corey Collymore, 34 and currently plying his trade with Middlesex as a Kolpak registration, might represent another local option, though he would surely be reluctant to turn his back on county cricket for a short-term flirtation with the touring squad.
The niggle to Edwards may prove the most significant issue. The 30-year-old fast bowler, easily the most experienced member of the tourists' attack, missed the final Test against Australia due to the same problem and has long been hampered by back problems. He played no cricket in 2010 after undergoing back surgery.
"It's not bad," Darren Sammy, West Indies' captain, said. "We came here knowing Fidel would be rested for this game; he was rested for the last match. Come the first Test, everybody will be ready.
"Fidel is somebody I know what to expect from. I know what he's going to give and whenever he plays will be ready. Last time he played a game at Lord's he was very unlucky - a few catches went down - and I know he's going to give us 100%, just like all my team-mates. Whether he plays the Lions game or not, I know when that bell rings on the 17th, he will be ready. He'll be the first one to say 'give me the ball'. It will be up to Fidel himself to say how he feels, and what the physio recommends."
Barely a drop of rain fell at Hove after 9am on Saturday, but play was abandoned for the day at 1.40pm. It seemed an oddly ambivalent decision.
"Everybody wants to get on the park," Sammy said. "But that's the weather; we don't have control over that. We're not in the Caribbean, where it's nice and warm. This is England, where it's going to be cold. So we've programmed our minds to get over it. I'm quite used to these conditions, but it's been a while since we've played cricket here. Most of the guys have experience here. It's England; you know it's going to be cold, the ball's going to sting your hands; all that stuff."
Sammy will hope that this tour does not go the way of their disastrous visit in 2009, when West Indies arrived as late replacements for Zimbabwe, lost the first Test inside three days and ended up defeated 2-0 in both the Test and one-day series.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo