Kemar Roach has been ruled out of the first Test against India in Rajkot starting Thursday. The 30-year old fast bowler had left the West Indies squad following the death of his grandmother and will only make it back from Barbados midway through the Rajkot game.
The head coach Stuart Law accepted that losing a new-ball bowler for the opening Test of a series against the No. 1 side in the world was tough, but he was confident the rest of the attack could thrive in subcontinent conditions. And he talked up a couple of new faces in the squad: Keemo Paul, the vice-captain of the Under-19 World-Cup winning team in 2016, and Sherman Lewis, who picked up eight wickets against India A in a four-dayer in July.
"Missing Kemar is a big hole but we've got some bright talent coming through as well - fast-bowling talent. We've unearthed a couple of young kids which you'll hopefully see through the ODI and T20I series as well. And we've got two more here, Keemo Paul, who's played a big part in our recent successes and a young kid called Sherman Lewis. They've got some pace, they swing the ball, they're young, they're keen to learn. Sometimes better the unknown; going in with the unknown, the opposition don't really understand what they're about and hopefully they can come in, nick a few out early, put India under pressure and we can bat well."
Paul has 57 first-class wickets at an average of 17.47, and can also be a handy batsman in the lower order - his highest score is 107. In June, he was named Cricket West Indies' emerging player of the year. In July, he was representing them in a Test match. Lewis, who is much less experienced, was brought in as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Alzarri Joseph and the 22-year old made an immediate impression in the tour game that ended on Sunday, giving away only 13 runs in 10 overs while picking up the wicket of Hanuma Vihari, who is part of India's Test squad.
While they may not have faced a batting line-up like India's just yet, Law felt the two young quicks - along with the whole team - were "looking forward to the challenge." West Indies had trained in Dubai before arriving in India to prepare for the conditions they'd face here; conditions they seem to like. "We'd rather be in the hot than the cold, put it that way," Law said and then talked about their resources in the spin department.
"Moeen Ali really took it to India bowling into a foothole," he said. "Roston Chase is a bit taller than Moeen Ali, bowls at a similar pace, gets good bounce and can spin it. Along with [Devendra] Bishoo and [Jomel] Warrican, you've got some really good control as well."
Law's tenure as head coach of West Indies will come to an end after this trip to the subcontinent - they play in Bangladesh next month - and although he admitted a few more wins would have been nicer, he was content with how everything has turned out.
"It's been a fantastic two years. Working with the players has made it what it is," he said. "They're a great bunch of guys. They really work hard. I consider them my sons if you like. They don't shy away from hard work which we've been trying to instill in them. Obviously, we would have liked far more positive results (West Indies won six out of 15 Tests under Law and are ranked No. 8 by the ICC) but I think the result that I'm seeing is that each game we're preparing better, we're understanding what we need to do to perform at this level and we're going out and we're actually executing our plans than what we did at the start."