Dynamic all-rounder Andre Russell was Wednesday named in West Indies’ 15-man World Cup squad but speculation over the anticipated return of several veteran T20 stars proved pointless, as they were overlooked for the ICC showpiece in England next month.
The 30-year-old Russell has played 52 One-Day Internationals but has not suited up for West Indies in almost a year. He was recalled for the recent series against England but did not feature due to injury.
Left-handed opener Evin Lewis, who has also been on the sidelines for nearly a year, has been recalled in the squad which retains the core of players who featured in the recent five-match home series against England which finished tied 2-2.
Debate had raged over the last week about the possible inclusion of previously marginalised players but there was ultimately no recall for the likes of all-rounders Kieron Pollard and the retired Dwayne Bravo.
Off-spinner Sunil Narine, currently campaigning in the Indian Premier League, was not considered for selection due to a finger injury and neither was fast bowler Alzarri Joseph who also pulled out of the cash-rich T20 league with a dislocated shoulder.
“Based on the new selection policy approach which allowed us to consider a number of players that have not regularly appeared in the side over the last two years, we had a wide base of talent from which to choose,” said new interim chairman of selectors, Robert Haynes.
“There were a number of tough calls we had to make to settle on our squad of 15, including ensuring there was some continuity in the side, but we believe we have chosen a strong squad of players taking into consideration such factors as experience, fitness, team balance, current form and conditions.
“In keeping with tournament regulations, we submitted our squad prior to the deadline date of yesterday. All players named for the Tri-Nations Series could, however, stake a claim to be in the final 15-member squad that will be submitted after the Tri-Series and before the final deadline next month.”
As expected, veteran left-hander Chris Gayle heads the batting group and is now set to play his fifth World Cup and his final, following his announcement earlier year that he intends to retire from ODIs after the tournament.
If there were lingering doubts about the 39-year-old’s form, he quenched them with a Man-of-the-Series 424 runs against England recently and Haynes backed the talismanic former captain to produce at the May 30 to July 14 World Cup.
“To have a player the calibre of Chris in the side to lead the batting with his vast experience and his ability to play match-winning or game-changing innings is a blessing for us and the motivation of becoming the leading scorer for West Indies in ODIs is something which I think he will relish,” said Haynes.
“Looking at the condition of pitches in ODIs over the last few years in England and Wales, it appears that big totals will be the order of the day, so we believe we have a line-up that can put big totals on the board or chase them, as we have seen from recent matches.
“With players like the captain, Jason Holder, as well as Andre Russell in the lower middle-order, we believe we have good depth to our batting which will allow us to play the brand of cricket that will give us the best of chance of winning the World Cup.”
Gayle will be surrounded by the youth of Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran, all in their first-ever World Cup.
Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who will also play his first World Cup, will lead the pace attack which includes veteran Kemar Roach, left-armer Sheldon Cottrell and rookie Oshane Thomas.
Holder, Russell and fellow all-rounder, Carlos Brathwaite, will all provide additional firepower in conditions expected to be seam-friendly.
“We are excited about the pace attack led by Kemar and Shannon, and we are confident that any bowling combination we put on the park is capable of providing a serious challenge to the opposition in any conditions,” Haynes said
“It will be a long tournament and it will be important for the bowling attack to stay fit and healthy for us to remain competitive and make a strong push to win the World Cup.”
Following the upcoming Tri-Nations Series in Ireland, West Indies will stage a one-week camp in Southampton from May 18-24 before launching their World Cup campaign against Pakistan.
SQUAD – Jason Holder (captain), Fabian Allen, Carlos Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Nicholas Pooran, Kemar Roach, Andre Russell, Oshane Thomas.