ST JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – Uncapped Barbadians Kyle Hope and Raymon Reifer have been named in a 15-man West Indies squad to tour England for three Tests starting next month while experienced seamer Kemar Roach has been recalled following a 19-month break.
Hope, a 28-year-old opener, recently made his debut in the One-Day International series against India while the 26-year-old Reifer, an all-rounder, is yet to play international cricket.
Both have gained favour with selectors following impressive first class seasons. The right-handed Hope piled up 649 runs for Trinidad and Tobago Red Force to be second highest run-getter of the competition while Reifer made 445 runs at an average of 37 and snared 36 wickets at 21 apiece, with his left-arm seam.
Chief selector Courtney Browne said both players would be assets to the touring party based on their performances at the first class level.
“We have two players who will be new to Tests but they have experience at first-class level having played in the expanded Digicel Regional Four-Day tournament,” Browne said.
“Kyle will be our third option as opener and he can also be a possible number three. Raymon adds variety to our attack with his left-arm swing bowling and has proven to be very useful with the bat in the lower order. He, therefore, adds value to our team and could be very useful in English conditions.”
Roach, meanwhile, has finally returned to West Indies colours after a long stint on the sidelines because of injury and loss of form.
The 29-year-old, who has 37 Tests to his name, picked up 23 wickets for Barbados Pride in the last first class championship at 16 apiece, doing enough to convince selectors of his readiness again for international cricket.
Overall, Roach has taken 122 Test wickets making him the most experienced member of the Windies attack, and Browne said the Barbadian would be expected to play a key role.
“Kemar’s return is welcomed as he was one of the best fast bowlers in Tests in the recent past for us. We have seen him during the last Digicel R4Day season show signs of his return to form,” Browne explained.
“He may not be bowling as quickly as before but still possesses that skill we all knew he had, plus his experience adds greater depth to the attack.”
One notable absence, however, is that of leading Test batsman Darren Bravo. The left-hander has not played for West Indies since being sent home last November ahead of the Tri-Nation Series in Zimbabwe.
He and Cricket West Indies only resolved the nine-month impasse earlier this week, too late to be considered for selection for the upcoming tour. At any rate, Bravo last month indicated he would be unavailable because of his commitments to Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League which clashes with the England tour.
Meanwhile, selectors have persisted with 20-year-old left-hander Shimron Hetmyer despite his unflattering showing against Pakistan recently when he mustered 96 runs from six Test innings. However, they have ignored Vishaul Singh who struggled with 63 runs in his six innings in the three-Test series against the Pakistanis.
The squad, which will be led again by all-rounder Jason Holder, is a young one with more than half having played 11 Tests or less. Roach and Vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite are the most experienced with 37 matches each.
Despite the inexperience, Browne said the squad was a cohesive unit which had shown promising signs of development.
“The core group of this squad has been playing together from the Test series against India last year in the Caribbean,” he pointed out.
“The group is developing nicely and we are already seeing some good signs from some individual players and the team as a whole. Our bowling again has shown that hard work and consistency will bring success.
“This bowling group has played around 10 Test matches consecutively and quite a number of ODIs together over the last year, and they had success which augurs well for their continued development.”
West Indies will play three three-day games against County sides Essex, Kent and Derbyshire before facing England in the day/night opening Test at Edgbaston on August 17.
The second Test bowls off at Headingly eight days later with the third and final Test carded for Lord’s starting September 7.
SQUAD – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Braithwaite (vice-captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach.