West Indies coach Ottis Gibson has said that leaving Ramnaresh Sarwan out of the Test team was a tough decision but one that needed to be made in the interests of the touring squad in Sri Lanka. Fitness issues and indifferent form have kept Sarwan out of the side in 2010, but Gibson said he still has a lot to offer the team.
"It came down to whether we can continue to take Sarwan on tour and then have one of our best players not available to us for selection all the time," Gibson said. "The decision was taken to give him more time to get fit. I still think he's got a lot more contributions to make to West Indies cricket and that gives him the opportunity to do the things he knows he needs to do to not just get fit, but stay fit to make those contributions."
Gibson backed the "strong decisions" made by the selectors in picking a new-look squad, with Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo stripped of their leadership roles following their refusal to sign WICB's central contracts. Darren Sammy took over as captain from Gayle, while Brendan Nash was named vice-captain.
"The selectors have picked a team in trying to chart the way forward for the West Indies in the coming years," Gibson said. "We are in the decision-making business and West Indies cricket, from where it sits currently, needs strong decisions and those are the decisions the selectors have taken. It's an exciting time for Darren and Brendan but also for some of the young guys who have been picked."
The squad includes the uncapped pair of fast bowler Andre Russell and wicketkeeper Devon Thomas, who was picked in place of Denesh Ramdin. Gibson was confident that both the team and the new players stood to benefit from their presence on a potentially tough tour of Sri Lanka.
"Thomas' selection comes at the back of a very good stint at the Sagicor High Performance Center in Barbados," Gibson said. "He has had rave reviews when they went on tour in Canada. The thinking of the selectors is that the subcontinent is a tough place to tour, and if you're going on a tour like that you need to have cover in specialist positions so therefore the view of taking two keepers [Carlton Baugh is also in the side] is exactly that.
"When I see Andre Russell, he excites me. He is a big, tall fellow and he has got some pace. We took the decision to take him along and it will give me an opportunity to work with him and introduce him into the international arena that way."
Gibson also reposed faith in the inexperienced leadership pair that will take charge of the side. Sammy has played only eight Tests since his debut in 2007, while the Australia-born batsman, Nash, has featured in 15.
"Darren Sammy as a cricketer and as a leader always plays with passion. Hopefully when he leads, he continues to lead in that way. What we don't want is for him to get the job and change the way he is. I said to him already that he must be his own man and make sure that we, as management, will take as much stress off him so he can do his job.
"Brendan Nash, since he's been here, has been very professional," Gibson said. "Growing up in Australia, he's got a steely Australia attitude, meticulous with his preparation. That's what I see of Nash and that's what I hope he brings to his role as the vice-captain of the team - to lead in that regard, continue to show the younger players in the team in that way."