The first Test of the two-match series between West Indies at Australia at Dominica will mark the beginning of a new era, not only in West Indian cricket, but Test cricket as a whole. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, modern day's lone throwback to the era of the 90s, has been axed from the squad, that was nothing short of his second home for two decades. The 40-plus batting legend was a permanent fixture in the Caribbean batting line-up ever since he made his debut in the early 90s. Barring a few injuries, he rarely ever lost his place in the team. Alas, time has caught up with him, and with the southpaw unwilling to give up, the selectors have been forced to look behind him, and understandably so.
Match: Australia vs West Indies, 1st Test at Dominica
Time: Match begin at 10:00 local time (14:00 GMT | 7:30 PM IST)
Moving on then, West Indies will be keen to make an impact against the reigning world champions. Undoubtedly, the hosts would begin as underdogs, but they would be elated with their performance against England recently, as they managed to draw a two-match series 1-1. To put things into perspective though, the challenge would be much tougher against the Aussie. History also points towards the same. West Indies haven't won the Frank Worrell trophy in more than two decades. They last time they won a Test series against Australia, in 1992-93, the likes of Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson were still around. Since, their only memorable showing has been in 1999, when they tied 2-2, with Brian Lara at the peak of his powers.
With no Chanderpaul around, the other batsmen in the team will now need to take additional responsibility as it would be very difficult to fill in the vacancy of the great batsman. Jermaine Blackwood was highly impressive against England, and he is one youngster from whom Windies have plenty of hopes. He demonstrated against the English that he is open for a challenge. Among other experienced men, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and skipper Denesh Ramdin himself will have to step up. Veerasammy Permaul was extremely impressive for the Windies against England, keeping it tight with his spin. In the fast bowling department, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel will be key.
Aussie opener Chris Rogers is slated to feature in his farewell series during the upcoming Ashes. But, he wouldn't get good practice in the first Test as he has been ruled out due to concussions. Rogers' bad luck presents another golden opportunity for Shaun Marsh to establish himself in the Test team. He has been constantly in and out, owing to his inconsistency. With Rogers only slated to play a handful of Tests, Marsh can stake claim for the opener's slot. Australia are otherwise strong in the batting with the destructive David Warner at the top, followed by the likes of Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Shane Watson.
Bowling is also an area where the Aussies have a significant edge and experience as compared to the hosts. Mitchell Johnson can be lethal if he gets it right, which he does in Tests more often than not. His opening partner Mitchell Starc, fresh from his World Cup success, will be keen to continue his good work in the longer version as well. Josh Hazelwood has been an instant success at the Test level, a tribute to Australia's domestic quality. However, it would be most intriguing to observe how Fawad Ahmed performs in case the leggie is handed a Test debut.
--By A Cricket Analyst