BIRMINGHAM, England – West Indies have appeared to pin their hopes on uncapped mystery off-spinner Sunil Narine as they begin their quest to avoid a series whitewash against England when the third Test bowls off here Thursday.
Losses in the first Test at Lord’s and the second Test at Trent Bridge last week have left the Windies without a win in England in 12 years and tottering on the verge of another humiliation.
Narine was called up unexpectedly to replace the injured speedster Kemar Roach but now seems in line for a spot in the final XI as West Indies seek desperately to pull one back and salvage some pride.
The 24 year old was the star of the Indian Premier League, bamboozling batsmen to claim 24 wickets and the Man-of-the-Series honour while steering Kolkata Knight Riders to their first ever title.
West Indies are now hoping the wily Trinidadian can reproduce this form in the longer format of the game in which he has never played.
“He has every chance of playing. Everybody calls him the mystery spinner and we hope he can come in and make an impact in this Test match for us,” Sammy told reporters Wednesday.
“It’s a difficult place for spinners to make their debut but he has a lot up his sleeve so we’re backing him to have an impact.
“He had five five-wicket hauls in seven first class games … and it’s a good inclusion in the squad for us and hopefully he can start off something that could be a great Test career.”
Narine took 11 wickets against Australia back in March as West Indies drew their five-match One Day International series, 2-2.
His IPL commitments ruled him out of the subsequent Test phase of the tour and he was only expected to feature in the one-day series against England starting later this month, until injury forced Roach out of the tour.
“It’s always good to have someone like Sunil in your team but we all know the situation (with his unavailability because of the IPL),” Sammy explained.
“I’m glad to have him here now and if we can win a Test match here in England it would still be an achievement for this team.”
Narine missed the two-day game against Leicestershire last weekend and therefore has not bowled competitively since arriving on Saturday.
However, head coach Ottis Gibson said he believed this could prove to be an advantage for the Windies as Narine would enter the Test an unknown entity for the English batsmen.
Narine is likely to replace fellow off-spinner Shane Shillingford whose 34 overs in the Nottingham Test yielded a single wicket and cost 138 runs.
With Sammy a fixture, it means seamers Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards and Tino Best will compete for the two other spots in the bowling attack at Edgbaston.
Openers Kieran Powell and Adrian Barath, the only specialist openers on tour, are in need of big scores while vice-captain Kirk Edwards could find himself axed for this Test after a wretched run of form that has yielded 20 runs in eight innings, including four “ducks.”
He could be replaced by either Narsingh Deonarine who is yet to play an innings on tour or Assad Fudadin who spent half-hour over seven not out against Leicestershire last weekend.
Much, as usual, will depend on the duo of Marlon Samuels and Shiv Chanderpaul, the leading scorers for the Windies on tour.
Though England have rested the spearhead of their seam attack, Jimmy Anderson, Sammy said he expected his batsmen to still face a huge challenge but was encouraged by recent performances.
“We’re coming up against a strong attack and we as a batting group have to come really good but it’s good that we’ve scored over 300 in back-to-back innings here in England, something that India came here with their (powerful batting and couldn’t do),” Sammy contended.
“We’ve been doing some good stuff. We just need to do it over an extended passage of play.” (CMC)