ST JOHN’S, Antigua — Left-handed opener Kieran Powell is among five current Test players named in a strong 13-man West Indies A squad to face England Lions in the three-match four-day “Test” series starting on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Powell, who has played 31 Tests, will skipper a side that includes batsman Jermaine Blackwood, wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, all-rounder Raymon Reifer and fast bowler Miguel Cummins.
Left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican, who played the last of his four Tests two years ago, has also been named in the unit for the February 11 to March 1 series, which also includes three one-dayers.
Chief selector Courtney Browne said with the Sri Lanka Test series already on the radar, it was important to afford several players the opportunity to prepare themselves for the upcoming assignment as well as enhance their chances of selection.
“With a strong England Lions team touring the Caribbean, the selection panel felt that it was a good opportunity to strengthen the A team with some of our Test players who will not have the opportunity to play any first-class cricket ahead of the Sri Lanka series,” Browne said.
“This series also provides some of the incumbent Test players the opportunity to restate a claim for a position in the Test match squad for the what will be two important home series (vs Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in June and July).”
Powell, despite his experience, returned to international cricket only last year following a three-year self-imposed break, and has yet to really impress with a mere two half-centuries in 19 Test innings.
Likewise, Blackwood, a virtual fixture in the Test side in recent years, has struggled to get among the runs. He has a single hundred in 27 Tests and 15 runs in his last five innings.
Dowrich, too, has failed to tie down his spot and with veteran Denesh Ramdin having scored nearly 800 runs in the recent first class season, the Lions series will hand the Barbadian the opportunity to re-establish himself.
Meanwhile, Shamarh Brooks, who has captained Windies A in recent years but will serve as vice-captain of the side, will look to back up the 632 runs he compiled during the recent first class season.
He struggled for form in a similar three-match series against Sri Lanka A last October with just 93 runs in five innings and at age 29, this year could be vital for the Barbadian right-hander.
Brooks, along with the quartet of Vishaul Singh, John Campbell, Jahmar Hamilton and Keon Joseph, all featured against Sri Lanka A last year while Leeward Islands Hurricanes seamer Jeremiah Louis has gained favour with selectors for the first time.
Browne urged these fringe players to use the chance to force themselves into the selection frame for the upcoming Tests.
“The team also includes several players who have been part of the ‘A’ Team programme before and we believe their focus should be on performances that will elevate them to the senior team,” Browne said.
“We originally included Sherman Lewis, an exciting young fast bowler, but he had to withdraw due to injury. His replacement is Jeremiah Louis, a talented swing bowler, who did really well during the PCL four-day season.
“He is also a capable batsman and will fit well into this set-up.”
The opening Test will be played at the Trelawny Multi-Purpose Stadium, with the second game scheduled for Sabina Park starting February 18.
Cricket West Indies also announced on Sunday that the third game, beginning February 26 at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, will be played under lights.
SQUAD – Kieran Powell (captain), Shamarh Brooks (vice captain), Jermaine Blackwood, John Campbell, Rahkeem Cornwall, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Jahmar Hamilton, Keon Joseph, Jeremiah Louis, Raymon Reifer, Vishaul Singh, Jomel Warrican.