Stars opt out of Pakistan T20 series

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – West Indies selectors on Thursday belatedly named a 13-man second string squad for the historic three-match Twenty20 tour of Pakistan, with several of the leading stars opting out because of security concerns.

Captain Carlos Brathwaite, the hero of the Caribbean’s side T20 World Cup triumph two years ago, headlines the absentees, with superstar opener Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard all failing to make the trip.

However, veteran Marlon Samuels, along with regulars Samuel Badree, Kesrick Williams, Rovman Powell and Andre Fletcher have all made themselves available, while seasoned wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin returns to Windies colours for the first time in 17 months.

Four uncapped players have been included in the squad with Youth World Cup star Keemo Paul, along with with Andre McCarthy, Veerasammy Permaul and Odean Smith, all poised to make their debuts in the shortest format.

Chairman of selectors, Courtney Browne, said his panel had “fully accepted” the position of those players opting out of the tour but believed the replacements were fitting.

“We had a few players that opted not to tour Pakistan, due to their or their families’ security concerns and CWI have fully accepted their position,” Browne said ahead of the Windies arrival in Pakistan on Saturday.

“This series, therefore, provides opportunities for new players to state their claim for a regular place in the team, plus gain vital experience in different conditions. We expect the series to be highly competitive.”

The Windies series in Pakistan is the first by a major Test-playing side since the now infamous terrorist attacks on a Sri Lankan bus in 2009 which injured several players and left members of the security forces dead.

And while the Pakistan Cricket Board had confirmed the tour as early as last month, Cricket West Indies remained silent, with their first public acknowledgement of the series now coming three days before the opening match at the National Stadium in Karachi on Sunday.

In an effort to further assuage fears over the security situation, CWI chief executive Johnny Grave said the regional governing body had been assured by experts that the risk was “manageable” and could be “mitigated to an acceptable level.”

“This tour is a further major step for our friends at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to bring their cricket back home, and we are pleased that our players and support staff have recognised this and supported this venture,” the Englishman said.

“Independent security advisors, Eastern Star International (ESI), have confirmed to both CWI and WIPA that they are satisfied that the risk is manageable and can be mitigated to an acceptable level.

“We have made it very clear to the players and support staff that had personal reservations about this tour that we fully understand and accept their position.”

The squad will be led by Jason Mohammed, who has just six T20s to his name, following his debut last April.

He is fresh off the ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe where he served as vice-captain on the ODI side but featured in only two matches.

Browne said he expected the 31-year-old to bring his experience to bear on the leadership role.

“Jason is our One-Day International vice-captain, and he has been asked to step up and lead the team with the unavailability of Carlos. He has lots of captaincy experience at first-class level.”

Paul, meanwhile, has continued his quick rise in the senior ranks, following his recent call-up for West Indies A and subsequent ODI debut in the qualifiers.

The 19-year-old fast bowler is joined by Guyana Jaguars teammate, Permaul, who has already played six Tests and seven ODIs, along with the Jamaica Scorpions pair of McCarthy and Smith.

“Smith and McCarthy are currently in our Windies ‘A’ programme and we believe this experience will be of benefit to them,” Browne pointed out.

“Smith has good pace and has shown good potential as a fast bowler. McCarthy is a talented batsman who has made progress in white-ball cricket.”

He added: “Paul has really grasped his opportunity following a strong showing in the Super50, the Windies ‘A’ series victories against England Lions and he has grabbed his opportunity at international level.

“His performances during the ICC World Cup Qualifiers were both exciting and composed and he gets a chance to build on these with his selection for Pakistan.”

Ramdin, dropped from all formats of the game in 2016, returns following a prolific first class season and Browne said the series offered the 33-year-old Trinidadian a new chance in Windies colours.

“Denesh brings a lot of experience and an opportunity to restart his international career.”

Ramdin played the last of his 58 T20 Internationals in the World Cup final against England two years ago in Kolkata.

The series also features matches on April 2 and 3.

SQUAD – Jason Mohammed (captain), Samuel Badree, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Andre McCarthy, Keemo Paul, Veerasammy Permaul, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels, Odean Smith, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams.

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