Powell recalled for first Test against Pakistan

Batsman Kieran Powell is in line to play his first Test in nearly three years after being recalled into the West Indies Test side for the first match against Pakistan at Sabina Park beginning on Friday. The uncapped batting pair of Vishaul Singh and Shimron Hetmyer have also joined Powell in the squad while Marlon Samuels, Darren Bravo and Leon Johnson have been dropped from the squad that toured the UAE for three Tests against Pakistan in October.

“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,” said Courtney Browne, West Indies chairman of selectors.

Powell, 27, last played Test cricket in 2014 and briefly quit cricket altogether not long afterward in a failed attempt to break into baseball in America. He returned to the West Indies domestic scene last summer in the Caribbean Premier League with St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, then finished as the leading scorer in the Regional Super50 competition in February, with 513 runs in eight innings at 64.12, to earn a recall into the West Indies ODI team for the three-match series against England in March and was subsequently picked for the ODI series against Pakistan earlier this month.

Powell’s form in the domestic four-day competition is not as solid as his one-day record this season, with 342 runs at 28.50 and just two half-centuries. However, he produced scores of 58 and 84 not out for the West Indies President’s XI in the drawn three-day tour match against Pakistan that concluded on Tuesday.

“We are happy to be able to give a recall to Kieran Powell for one of the opening slots, although he did not have the best regional first-class season,” Browne said. “He showed for the President’s XI that his experience can add value to our team.

“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.”

Vishaul Singh, a 28-year-old right-hander from Guyana, similarly has had an underwhelming season in the domestic four-day competition, with 317 runs at 26.41 and a best of 71. However, he was the third-highest scorer in the 2015-16 season with 712 runs at 50.85 and three centuries. Like Powell, he also produced a strong performance for the West Indies President’s XI, making an unbeaten 135 in the first innings.

“Vishal has been one of the more consistent batsmen in the Regional 4-Day Tournament over the last few seasons and had a very good A-Team series against Sri Lanka last year,” Browne said. “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.”

Hetmyer, 20, captained the West Indies junior side to the 2016 ICC U-19 World Cup title in Bangladesh last year and has had a promising campaign for Guyana in the four-day competition, scoring 496 runs at 38.15 including four half-centuries in 15 innings. He has just one first-class hundred in his 17-match career, but it came against Jamaica in the last match of the 2015-16 season to clinch the four-day title for Guyana.

The ascension of Hetmyer coincides with the continuing stalemate between Bravo and the WICB. Bravo was the second-highest scorer for West Indies in the Test series against Pakistan in October, but had his match contract canceled after tweeting criticism of WICB President Dave Cameron in November. Browne said in January that Bravo would not be considered for selection again until the dispute is settled.

Also dropped from the previous Test squad against Pakistan are Carlos Brathwaite and Jomel Warrican. Though he was part of the Test squad in the UAE, Brathwaite didn’t play any of the three Tests and his last appearance in the format came against India in Antigua last July. He is currently in the IPL and West Indies coach Stuart Law said he had been left out of the ODI squad ahead of the Test series to work on improving his fitness and bowling. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)