The West Indies squad for the lone one-day international which Sri Lanka will play on their first official tour of Caribbean indicates just one thing -- since 1976, the West Indies have never been serious about having spinners in the team and that thinking is yet to change, 21 years on. And it is the fact that they have included a leg-spinner that makes this clear!
The last spinner to get a look in was Rajindra Dhanraj who played against the New Zealanders last year. The West Indies did not bother with a spinner on the tour of Australia and, though Raul Lewis was named in the squad against India, he only did the work of an occasional substitute. Now, instead of persisting with Lewis --- as the selectors would have done had they thought a spinner had a regular role to play in the team -- the men in charge have brought in Dinanath Ramnarine who was in the squad twice before but never played. The 13 who were named on June 2 are for the one-dayer only; the Test squad may well see Ramnarine missing and another spinner taking his place!
This is not a big surprise, given that the manager is a man named Clive Hubert Lloyd. The experience he had with spinners is too well-known to be told. Had the series against India gone the other way, with the Indian spinners playing a substantial role, then Lloyd may have been a little more willing to experiment. One must remember that the 2-3 loss to Australia was put down to batting failures, not the lack of penetrative bowling. The fast bowlers carried the team then, they will continue to carry it now -- that is the logic that prevails and besides Lloyd, there is one Malcolm Denzil Marshall, who thinks the same way.
This indication apart, the West Indies selectors have also sent out a reminder that current form, not reputation, is going to be the guide for selection. Jimmy Adams and Sherwin Campbell find themselves out in the cold and Barbados's middle-order batsman Floyd Reifer has won his first call-up. Reifer has just come off a season during which he set a Red Stripe record by scoring 756 runs in a 10 first-class matches, including a career-best 200 against the Windward Islands and an unbeaten 151 against Guyana. In Campbell's absence, Stuart Williams, whose showing against India has earned him a reprieve, will open with Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
The musical chairs between the wicket-keepers continues with Junior Murray getting his chance again. Laurie Williams returns as well; he played against New Zealand thrice last year. Thirty-two wickets in the Red Stripe at under 20 apiece have guaranteed him a place in the squad. The two fast bowlers who made an impact during the series against India have been retained; both Franklyn Rose and Mervyn Dillon are apparently regarded as good prospects. Ian Bishop has been omitted but may well come back for the two Tests against the Lankans.
There had been some speculation that Brian Lara would be made captain from this series onwards but the selectors obviously do not think that he should be entrusted with the task full-time as yet. There are plenty of examples around of people being made to lead too early and Lara is definitely too much of an asset to be used carelessly. His one Test as captain showed that he has the makings of a good captain. It is possible that Lara may get his first full assignment in December this year when the West Indies visit Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates for a four-nation, one-day tournament.
Sri Lanka go into the short tour with all their regulars apart from Chaminda Vaas who has pulled out due to injury. Ravindra Pushpakumara is his replacement; the Lankans are coming off a successful tour of India and will be quite pumped up. What happens in the Caribbean will give an indication as to how good they are in translating their one-day abilities into something that counts in the five-day game. The one-day tie is scheduled for June 6 (Barbados) and the Tests from June 13 to 17 (St John's, Antigua) and June 20 to 24 (Kingstown, St Vincent).