While Chris Rogers has been ruled out of the first Test in Dominica with injury, both sides have debut hopefuls
The last time the West Indies took on Australia in a Test series, a three-match assignment at home in 2012, it was a relatively inexperienced side. Shivnarine Chanderpaul was one of the seniors, and he batted superbly then, scoring 346 runs from five innings at an average of 86.5.
This time, it will again be a young West Indies team that will take on the No. 2 Test side in the world, in the first Test at Windsor Park in Dominica on Wednesday (June 3). But this time around, it will be without the services of the 40-year-old veteran.
So as the West Indies looks to the future, it will be boosted by its recent performance in the longest format of the game. Most of the players named in the squad for the first of two Tests against Australia were a part of the recent series against England. They did well there, bouncing back from a nine-wicket defeat in the second Test to win the third by five wickets and ensure honours were even at the end of the three-Test series.
Shai Hope is expected to keep his place at the top of the order, opening the batting for the home side with Kraigg Brathwaite. Hope had partnered Brathwaite in the third Test against England – his debut – after Devon Smith had been dropped.
However, with Chanderpaul's absence opening up a spot, Rajindra Chandrika, the right-hand batsman – one of two uncapped players named in the squad, along with Shane Dowrich, the wicketkeeper-batsman – could also make his Test debut, perhaps even opening the batting. Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Jermaine Blackwood and Denesh Ramdin, the captain, will likely make up the rest of the middle order.
In Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach, the West Indies has two genuine quicks, to go along with the all-round skills of Jason Holder. It also has the left-arm spin of Veerasammy Permaul and Devendra Bishoo's leg-breaks to choose from. The usually spin-friendly surface could see both making the cut, but there's uncertainty surrounding the nature of the pitch.
The unusual grass cover on the surface has meant Australia is holding off announcing its XI. Coming off an ICC Cricket World Cup triumph, this will be the side's first international assignment since lifting the trophy in March. It hasn't played a Test since January this year, when it beat India 2-0 in a four-Test series.
It has already had a setback with Chris Rogers ruled out of the first Test. Rogers suffered a concussion after being struck on the helmet during training. In his absence, Shaun Marsh could move to the top to open the innings with David Warner. Marsh had a good warm-up game against the West Indies Cricket Board President's XI, scoring a century.
Michael Clarke, the captain, on Tuesday confirmed that Steven Smith would move up to No. 3. Apart from Clarke, the rest of the middle order will be a tussle between Mitchell Marsh, Shane Watson and Adam Voges, who, if picked, will be making his Test debut.
A spin-friendly surface could also see a debut cap being handed out to Fawad Ahmed, the legspinner. Josh Hazlewood had a good tour game where he returned match figures of 5 for 40 and made 31 not out in the Australians' innings. If both Fawad and Nathan Lyon play, two of Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc, will have to miss out.
Australia has a superior record in the West Indies, where it has not lost a Test series since 1990-91, and will be keen to continue the trend. It has an important few months ahead as it heads to England next for the Ashes and will look to use this series as preparation and to gain some momentum.
Yet, given the West Indies' recent showing, the World Cup winner should be wary.
West Indies: Denesh Ramdin (captain), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Rajindra Chandrika, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Veerasammy Permaul, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor.
Australia: Michael Clarke (capt), Steve Smith, Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin (wk), Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson.