By Ravendra Madholall
The World Health Organization’s protocols will be observed but back to bat and ball as arch-rivals West Indies and England ready to rumble in the first international cricket showdown in the aftermath of the Global Corona Pandemic.
The first engagement in the three-match rubber, the players will be plying their trade in a much-expected unique style, empty stadium.
With Social Distancing very much in effect, highly recommended by the Health Organization, spectators no doubt in a mood of disappointment but viewership is set to be resounding via the television sets.
Both teams might start proceedings with equally psychological advantages. Certainly for the host-team England because of their familiarity with the conditions while the visitors came with confidence having won the series, 2-1 in the Caribbean the last time they met.
In addition to that even though there was a legion of restrictions as recently as last month to help curb the spread of the deadly virus, West Indies flew in early with a set of reserved players to enhance their confidence with two warm-up matches. Batsmen performed admirably while the bowlers also showed a great degree of enthusiasm to match their skills with the Englishmen.
Head-Coach of West Indies Phil Simmons spoke optimistically that his boys can replicate their performances from 2019 in the Caribbean having churned out some excellent all-round displays to beat the tourists. The Trinidadian Simmons stated his men are anxious to get on the field to compete against their traditional cricket rivals in the game’s longest version.
Much fireworks are expected from the West Indians led by Barbadian Kemar Roach, an outstanding quickie for them over the past several years while Trinidadian Shannon Gabriel can be dangerous as well. Skipper Jason Holder and young promising Alzari Joseph are also talented enough to make a good impression. Their batting will obviously center around the consistent Shai Hope while regular opener Kraigg Brathwaite should bounce back with good form after showing beautiful touches with the bat in the practice games.
On the other hand, England will definitely miss the service of their skipper and seasoned middle-order batsman Joe Root who is off to be at his wife’s side for their second child.
His replacement, the dynamic all-rounder Ben Stokes has been given the responsibility while he should lead the young batting side with his maturity.
Surprisingly, England have left out one of their veterans Stuart Broad from the bowling line which seems very potent with the inclusion of the dominant James Anderson. They have gone for young exciting fast-bowler Mark Wood and the energetic Jofra Archer.
West Indies (probable): 1 John Campbell, 2 Kraigg Brathwaite, 3 Shamarh Brooks, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase/Jermaine Blackwood, 6 Shane Dowrich (wk), 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Rahkeem Cornwall, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Shannon Gabriel.
England possible XI: 1 Dom Sibley, 2 Rory Burns, 3 Joe Denly, 4 Zak Crawley, 5 Ben Stokes (captain), 6 Ollie Pope, 7 Jos Buttler, 8. Dom Bess, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Mark Wood, 11 James Anderson.