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Openers' Places In Jeopardy?

by Tony Cozier

4 March 1998

GEORGETOWN A big weekend lies ahead for the opening batsmen of the West Indies.

With the continuing failure of Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams to provide proper starts, chairman Wes Hall is dispersing members of his selection panel to the three first-class matches that precede the fifth Test against England to evaluate the several candidates for the posts.

Hall himself and Joey Carew will be at Kensington Oval for Barbados' three-day match against the touring Englishmen, starting Saturday.

Michael Findlay and captain Brian Lara will be at the Enmore ground in Guyana where Lara leads Trinidad and Tobago against the home team and coach Malcolm Marshall travels to Ronald Webster Park to watch the Leeward Islands play the Windwards. Both President's Cup matches run from tomorrow to Sunday.

Hall said yesterday, he and his colleagues would meet in Barbados on Monday to choose the squad of 13 for the fifth Test, starting at Kensington Oval on March 12.

Areas of concern

``There are obviously one or two areas that we are concerned about and, as we did prior to the Bourda Test, we want to assess present form and fitness before we sit down to pick the 13,' Hall said following what he termed a post-mortem with the panel on the fourth Test that West Indies won by 242 runs with a day to spare here Monday.

Campbell (79 runs at an average of 13.16) and Williams (141 runs at 23.50) have had opening partnerships of 16 and 10, 36 and 37, 16 and 4 so far. They have played together for 17 consecutive Tests since last year's series against India in the Caribbean last year.

While the Barbados match gives Campbell the chance to confirm the return to form hinted in his second innings 17 at Bourda on Sunday, before he had an unlucky umpiring decision, Williams has placed himself in doubt by withdrawing from the Anguilla match.

Hall said Williams was suffering from an ingrowing toe-nail which required treatment from a chiropodist. Fast bowler Kenny Benjamin will take his place as Leewards' captain.

The obvious contenders on display for the selectors are Philo Wallace and Adrian Griffith of Barbados and Clayton Lambert of Guyana, all of whom have had a single overseas Test, and Suruj Ragoonath of Trinidad and Tobago who was on the ``A' team tour of South Africa late last year.

Since Jamaica is the odd team out, there is no chance for their openers, the left-handed Robert Samuels and 21-year- old Leon Garrick to advance their claims.

Samuels had six Tests against New Zealand and Australia in 1996-97 while the right-handed Garrick was on the ``A' team to South Africa.

Wallace and the left-handers Griffith and Lambert have each got hundreds this season.

After a slow start to the season, Barbados captain Wallace has put together successive innings of 129 against Guyana and 87 and 79 not out against the Windwards.

Griffith, dropped from the Barbados team last season after a disappointing tour of Australia where he had his only Test as Campbell's opening partner, compiled his highest first-class score, 186, against the Windwards.

The 35-year-old Lambert, a heavy scorer in regional cricket, hit his second century in successive seasons at Kensington, 108 against Barbados in late January.

Ragoonath's only scores of note in seven innings were 61 and 74 in the last President's Cup match against Jamaica.

The Barbados match is also important for Roland Holder. Now 30, he gained belated Test selection in all seven Tests against India and Sri Lanka last year after several years on the verge of the team.

He was chosen for only one of three Tests in Pakistan last year and, although included in the 13 for the Bourda Test, did not make the starting XI. His 183 for the ``A' team against England at Chedwin Park in January, a career-best, is one of only two hundreds against the touring team so far.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 118 in the Bourda Test was the second.

Holder is jostling with left-hander Jimmy Adams for the No. 6 position but, in the present circumstances, might be considered as an opener.

That is an option, Hall conceded, yesterday.

Source: The Barbados Nation
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Date-stamped : 04 Mar1998 - 18:25