346 runs at an average of 86.50. In case you’re wondering, those numbers belong to none other than Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a man whose omission has dominated most of the build up to the Australia in West Indies series. The last time Australia toured the West Indies in 2012, Chanderpaul was the Man of the series with that staggering run tally. It was the series where he achieved the landmark of 10,000 test runs. The next highest run tally in the three test series belonged to Michael Hussey (219); another man who has retired since then.
This series marks a new beginning for the men from the Caribbean. Shiv has been an immovable object in that line up ever since he debuted in 1994. While the decision to drop him remains debatable, the selectors under Clive Lloyd have sent out a clear message that they are looking to build towards the future and will not carry any passengers. It will be a good challenge for the young West Indian batsmen against arguably the best attack in world cricket.
Australia will also miss the services of their bulwark, Ryan Harris who has stayed back to prepare for the Ashes in England. The last time that Australia lost a series against the West Indies was in 1992-93 when the West Indies were in the midst of their 15 year unbeaten run. However, Australia’s recent record away from home hasn’t been the best, and they would look at this series as the ideal opportunity to improve upon that. In fact, since the last time they played in the West Indies, they have won 2 and lost 8 of their 12 away tests.
West Indies, on the other hand, have won 8 and lost 3 of their 12 tests at home in the same period. The series promises to be a gripping contest as West Indies showed a lot of promise against England in their previous test series with young players like Jermaine Blackwood and Jason Holder getting their maiden test centuries and leading the way.
Australia will look at the series as the ideal start to a summer where they will aim to win the Ashes in England after a gap of 14 years. They had a tough time in the practice match against the West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI where they trailed by 132 runs in the 1st innings after being bowled out for 250. The result was impacted by Australia choosing to rest five first choice players – David Warner, Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson – after their IPL sojourn. Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges were the only two players to get scores in excess of 50 for Australia on a pitch which had a fair bit of assistance for the seamers. The selectors will be pleased with their form as both of them are likely to be back up batsmen, with Shane Watson now available for the entire series after being home for the birth of his second child.
The first test will be played at Windsor Park in Roseau, Dominica. Only three tests have been played at the ground so far. Australia won the last match between these two teams at Windsor Park by 75 runs in a game which was dominated by the spinners. Australia might look to play two spinners as they have included Fawad Ahmed along with regular Nathan Lyon in their squad for this series. With Mitchell Marsh and Shane Watson being more than handy bowlers, Australia might go in with an attack of two fast bowlers and two spinners.
West Indies will be hoping that Kemar Roach finally finds his best form. Roach has not been the bowler he used to be ever since he returned from his latest injury. He was the highest wicket taker in the previous series with 19 at an average of 19.73. Jerome Taylor was impressive with the new ball against England and will look to complement Kemar Roach in a threatening new ball attack.
With Australia ranked number 2 on the ICC rankings and West Indies a lowly number 8, the series may look a mismatch on paper, but the Windies batsmen gave a good account of themselves in the recent test series against England and would look to continue the same.
The series will provide the West Indian public with a better clue about their future now that time has been called upon Chanderpaul’s illustrious and well storied career. Australia will look at the series as an ideal opportunity to fine tune their preparations before an Ashes series, having been out of test cricket for close to four and a half months now.
As their coach Darren Lehmann said after the warm up game, "We get on the plane tomorrow and it's all about prep for the Test now. We've had a good mini-training camp, if you like, for the week here and then a three day game and they played really well the President's XI so it was a good quality opposition."