Caribbean braces for the odd couple's reunion

Since their last Test and the upcoming one against Sri Lanka, Windies have played 10 ODIs and 7 T20Is. Not to forget that this period also saw them struggle it out for a spot in next year’s 50-over World Cup in England. It must have been a real test of the grey matter for the group of selectors at Cricket West Indies to recollect who impressed in whites the last time around and who didn’t, given it was quite some time back.

The one thing that wouldn’t have needed as much brain-racking though is going through the performances of their players in the domestic season that has gone by, and it is through this that they decided to recall an old servant in Devon Smith to play at the highest level. Smith returns to Test cricket after a three-year long hiatus, riding on his superlative performance in the regional four-day tournament. Also in the 13-member squad is Jahmar Hamilton, who despite having been around in the first-class circuit for the past 10 years, gets his closest shave with the maroon cap.

Windies are only above Zimbabwe in the Test rankings, discounting Ireland and Afghanistan since they have only now entered the big league. And to revive their fortune in the longest format, the selection panel has made a few bold changes too. Their most experienced wicketkeeper-batsman – Denesh Ramdin – has been recalled only for T20Is and is not being considered yet for Tests. Evin Lewis’s priorities need to be discussed, if he’s happy playing white-ball cricket or if he wants to be a part of Windies’ red-ball plans too.

Amid all this, standing like a rock of strength would be their skipper Jason Holder, who seems to be one among the few constants that the team can look forward to. The hosts will seek solidarity in their batting, and for inspiration they will look no farther than opener Kraigg Brathwaite, the only batsman who did well on their otherwise horrid tour of New Zealand last year.

All eyes would be on Smith as well and the daggers will be out if he doesn’t justify the selection. Bowling responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Miguel Cummins again. But above all, it would be interesting to see how Holder leads them, from ignominy to some promise of sorts.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka will play a Test in the Caribbean after 10 years; that as they look to overturn their luck from 2017, when they were faced with more disappointment than joy in the longer format of the game. The year began with a whitewash at the hands of South Africa, compounded by series losses to India both home and away, and made worse when they failed to defeat Bangladesh in a series in their own backyard. However, for inspiration, they will turn to their spirited show in the UAE against Pakistan where they swept the two-match Test series clean.

They will be delighted to have a fit Angelo Mathews back in the wings, and with almost all their batsmen having gotten among the runs in the solo practice match, Sri Lanka cannot be more pumped up going into the series. Both spinners Akila Dananjaya and Dilruwan Perera got three wickets apiece, which should serve as a soothing balm, given Rangana Herath is expected to play only two of the three Tests, much like Suranga Lakmal, as a part of Sri Lanka’s workload management. The tourists though will sorely miss injured opening batsman Dimuth Karunaratne, in place of whom Mahela Udawatte has been summoned.

When: Windies vs Sri Lanka, 1st Test, June 6-10, 14:00 GMT, 7.30 PM IST

Where: Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad

What to expect: The weather over the course of the next five days should be mostly sunny and pleasant, although a passing shower or two can be expected.

Team News:

Windies: All eyes will be on Devon Smith as he makes a comeback to the Test side after three years. He is almost certain to take up the opener’s job.

Squad: Jason Holder(c), Devendra Bishoo, Devon Smith, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Kemar Roach

Sri Lanka: Dhananjaya de Silva, who had initially opted out of the tour owing to his father’s demise, left for West Indies on Monday and is expected to be there in time for selection. However, it is going to be a tricky call to play him given the long hours in transit.

Squad: Dinesh Chandimal(c), Mahela Udawatte, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera, Roshen Silva, Angelo Mathews, Niroshan Dickwella, Rangana Herath, Dilruwan Perera, Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lahiru Gamage, Kasun Rajitha, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Asitha Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva

Did you know:

The last time Sri Lanka played a Test series in West Indies was in 2008, where they had to settle for a draw in the two-match series after winning the opening Test.

What they said:

Now I enjoy my cricket more than before, when I used to put much more pressure on myself – thinking about being dropped; if I was [not] going to make runs, what was going to happen. [I will] put all that behind me, and just go out there and be positive – Devon Smith, speaking about his much anticipated Test return

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