Tomorrow sees the start of a three-match Test series between the West Indies and Australia in Hobart. It is rare that the outcome of an international series is easy to predict, this one is an exception.
Australia will win comfortably. The once feared Caribbean team have not won a test series on tour against anyone but Bangladesh or Zimbabwe for twenty years and this will not change against an in-form Australia. The reasons for this are almost inexhaustible.
First and foremost, the standard of First-class cricket in the Caribbean is not good enough and is no longer producing players capable of making a swift transition to Test level.
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Players like Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard spend much of the year playing in t20 competitions around the world and their absence compounds the lack of quality. This is a long-term issue which must be overcome.
Conversely, the mystifying selection policies of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is a more immediate problem.
The farcical nature of selection was highlighted when Coach Phil Simmons publically denounced the decision to leave Bravo and Pollard out of the One-Day International squad to tour Sri Lanka. He was subsequently suspended and only now has he been allowed to return to his duties.
Talent in the squad
The Test squad he will preside over in Australia has sprinklings of top quality talent. Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels are excellent batsmen while pace bowling pair Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach can trouble anyone on their day. However, Taylor and Roach suffer injuries far too frequently and performances befitting the talent of Bravo and Samuels are all too rare.
Outside these names, the team features a mixture of raw talent and those who are simply not good enough. Kraigg Brathwaite and Jermaine Blackwood have shown real promise in their fledgling careers, but they shoulder too much responsibility.
Brathwaite deserves an opening partner capable of performing at this level, while ideally Blackwood should be allowed to express himself at six or seven in the batting order, rather than at five.
Jason Holder has also exhibited promise in all formats of the game. His height and accuracy give him some potency with the ball and his hundred against England last year showed potential with the bat.
However, the WICB have placed an inordinate amount of pressure on his shoulders by assigning him the Test match captaincy. At 24 and with only ten Test career appearances to his name, Holder is very inexperienced and ill-equipped both to lead the side and to bat at number seven.
Finally, it is a sad indictment of the state of the domestic First-class system, that the best options available to partner Brathwaite at the top of the order are Shai Hope and Rajendra Chandrika. Neither batter averages above 30 in a sub-standard domestic league and, therefore, it is unrealistic to expect them to achieve anything of note in the international arena.
Not only are they lacking in depth because of an ailing domestic system; the stubbornness and politics of the WICB have yet again ensured that the best West Indies side will not take the field in Hobart.
The recent dropping of world-class batter Shivnarine Chanderpaul was inexcusable and ensured that the best middle order player in the Caribbean will be watching from home. Meanwhile past disagreements between Dwayne Bravo and Lendl Simmons means that two more proven and experienced international cricketers will not be participating.
Adding to this seemingly endless list of issues, the Windies only tour match against a Cricket Australia XI ended in a ten-wicket defeat. This was the worst possible preparation for what will be an incredibly challenging three-match series.
A small glimmer of hope has been provided by the retirement of Mitchell Johnson and injury to Mitchell Starc, taking some of the potency out of Australia’s bowling attack. However, a hungry James Pattinson has returned to the fold and the host's batsmen excelled against New Zealand.
Miracles do sometimes happen in sport; but while this West Indies side is not completely devoid of talent, the decision-making of the selectors will once again inhibit their performance.
Do the West Indies have any chance against an in-form Australia? Give your opinion in the comment box below!