It's tradition for touring teams to arrive in Australia saying they can beat the hosts and David Williams, the West Indies coach, has joined the list. This summer the Australian team should be vulnerable after losing the Ashes to mid-table England and watching their ranking fall to No. 4, but it's unlikely this Caribbean outfit can offer anything more than intermittent surges following a tumultuous year of strikes and poor performances.
Williams and Joel Garner, the manager, are two reminders of the great West Indies sides of the 1980s and early 1990s that turned up to bruise and beat the Australians. Chris Gayle's unit will be more challenging in the limited-overs matches when they return early next year.
In West Indies' past 48 Tests they have only four wins and this squad is a blend of the experienced players who went on a strike and a couple of their replacements who were part of the series defeat to Bangladesh in July. Even though they have Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, it will be a surprise if the tourists can improve on any of their results here since their last series win in 1992-93. In the next three visits they won two games, but lost their past eight.
Williams, who has the coaching job full-time following the dismissal of John Dyson in September, believes his side must fire early to trouble the hosts. "If we play to our full potential we have a good chance of beating Australia," he said. "In the recent past they haven't played very well at home, particularly in the first match, and I think there's an opportunity we can capitalise on."
Australia did struggle in the first innings against New Zealand last year and went on to lose 2-1 to South Africa later in the summer, but the Gabba has been a fortress since they were last beaten in Brisbane, by West Indies in 1988. Williams was in the squad for that trip and also played two Tests during the next successful tour in 1992-93. However, Australia are undefeated in their past 20 Tests in Queensland, including 15 victories.
"If we can hit our straps running and get them on the back foot, you never know, we could sneak that first Test and go on to win the series," Williams said. "It's going to take hard work, they are the No. 1 team. We believe we can win if we can play to our potential."
The sentiment is the same from Gayle. "Every team is beatable," he said. "We know the task won't be easy. To beat Australia you have to be on cue from ball one. Batting is going to be very important, and our overall cricket has to be good to beat the No. 1 team."
Team unity will also be essential and Williams, Gayle and Garner have more to worry about than the Australians on this trip following the long-running disputes between the team and the board. "We have got to stick together, the team is very important," Williams said. "We have to work extremely hard to keep that intact."
The West Indians have a four-day warm-up match against Queensland starting on Wednesday and Williams intends to play his best side in preparation for the opening Test on November 26. He likes the look of the fresh faces Adrian Barath, Travis Dowlin, and Ravi Rampaul, who is back after injury, in the 15-man outfit.
"And Kemar Roach has got some pace and is someone we believe can carry West Indies cricket for a long time," he said. "Gavin Tonge is also a force to be reckoned with, he can move the ball and we're looking to him to continue to improve." However, the senior players must also be at their best if the tips of Williams and Gayle are to come true.