Kieran Powell, the left-hand opening batsman, is set to return to Test cricket for the first time in nearly three years after being named in a 13-man squad for the first Test against Pakistan starting at Sabina Park in Kingston on April 21.
Powell, 27, played the last of his 21 Tests against New Zealand, also at Sabina Park, in June 2014, before quitting cricket altogether in a bid to pursue a career in baseball in the United States. He aborted that move to return to cricket last season, and made 58 and 84 not out for a West Indies President’s XI against the Pakistanis in a warm-up game that ended in a draw at Trelawny Stadium on Monday.
“We are happy that Kieran is once again available as an option for us to open the batting,” said Courtney Browne, the former West Indian wicketkeeper who is the current chairman of selectors. “West Indies cricket has invested heavily in him over the years and with the void of openers within the Caribbean, the panel felt a need to fast track him through our ‘A’ team programme last year with a view in helping him to bridge that gap.”
Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo and Leon Johnson were all left out of the Test squad that did duty during the 1-2 loss to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in October-November last year.
Drafted into the squad, instead, is the uncapped batting duo of Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmyer, the 2016 Under-19 World Cup-winning captain, both of whom had successful outings in the practice game.
Vishaul, the 28-year-old left-hand middle-order batsman, made an unbeaten 135 in the first innings, while Hetmyer, the 20-year-old left-hand top-order bat, followed up 97 in the first innings with 22 in the second against a near full-strength Pakistani attack.
“Vishaul has been one of the more consistent batsmen in the Regional four-day tournament over the last few seasons and had a very good ‘A’ team series against Sri Lanka last year,” said Browne. “His hundred over the weekend for the WICB President’s XI against the Pakistanis helped to fortify in our minds that he has a place in our squad. He gives us the option of a solid middle-order batsman around whom our more free-scoring players can bat.
“Shimron has shown a lot of maturity during this season of regional games and also within our ‘A’ team. It is really satisfying to see someone that only a year ago was leading our Under-19 squad to the ICC Youth World Cup title progress so quickly to be considered for a place in the squad.”
The team, led by Jason Holder, will take confidence from having won its last Test, against Pakistan in Sharjah in November last. “After winning our previous Test which was against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, the panel felt that we should stick as close as we possibly can to that squad,” added Browne, ahead of the 50th Test at Sabina Park. “We have a young Test squad which was admirably led by Jason Holder during the last series and, though there are some noticeable absentees, we believe that the players will give a good account of themselves especially in their own backyard.”
Squad for first Test: Jason Holder (capt), Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Vishaul Singh.