Windies sweating over first Test line-ups

Kingston, May 21:

Australia, still trying to settle down following a number of high profile retirements over the last year, could enter the opening Test of three against West Indies starting on Thursday without Matthew Hayden.

The long-standing left-handed opening batsman is suffering from an Achilles problem. “He is actually a lot better than he was in the last few days, and if he wakes up well on the eve of the Test, we will probably do some sort of testing,” Australia captain Ricky Ponting said today.

Ponting revealed however, that Australia have already prepared for the worst, and that Simon Katich will open the batting with Phil Jaques. Australia are also missing Michael Clarke. He remained at home to attend the funeral of his fiancee’s father.

Brad Hodge will bat at five if Hayden fails a fitness test and Katich has to open the batting, leaving Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey, and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin to form the rest of the batting.

West Indies too, have a few mountains to climb, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, leading the side in the absence of Chris Gayle, is well aware of the challenge that confronts the home team.

With Gayle and Sewnarine Chattergoon missing through injury, and Marlon Samuels banned for two years for his connections with an alleged Indian bookie, West Indies face a dilemma in their line-up.

The absence of Gayle and Chattergoon allows Devon Smith crack at the opening position, and earns Brenton Parchment a recall and a chance to prove his potential. The combined effect of Gayle and Samuels missing also affects the rest of the line-up, since their uncomplicated spin bowling support lent balance to the side which fortifies the case for the selection of a specialist slow bowler.