A young West Indies side head into the first Test at Perth this week without a win on Australian soil for 25 years, but Pat Cummins’ number one-ranked team insist they will not take the tourists lightly.
The Caribbean side won by 10 wickets in 1997 on the back of a magnificent century from Brian Lara, coincidentally in Perth, but have not won a Test in Australia since.
Lara will be back this week as a commentator and he called on the West Indies to put up a fight.
“I am not going to say that if we play at our best, we can beat Australia, but I want us to show resilience,” Lara told the Herald Sun newspaper ahead of the two-match series, which moves to Adelaide next week for a day-night Test.
“Get the games going five days. You never know. I have in the back of my mind the thought that these youngsters are up for a fight.”
Skipper Kraigg Brathwaite said they were not focusing on past results.
“Obviously, past history shows it’s a long time since getting wins in Australia and stuff, but we are focusing on our own goals,” he said.
“What is the big focus is that we have 10 days of Test cricket, and we want to be playing a good, solid 10 days of Test cricket.
“We just want to make people in the Caribbean proud.”
Brathwaite is set for a new opening partner for the clash starting Wednesday in exciting left-hander Tagenarine Chanderpaul, the son of retired batting great Shivnarine.
He was handed a maiden call-up to the squad after John Campbell, who opened with Brathwaite against Bangladesh in June, was slapped with a four-year ban for violation of an anti-doping rule.
Chanderpaul showed his mettle in a warm-up game against a Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra, hitting 119 and 56.
Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales and the experienced Jason Holder spearhead a dangerous pace attack, with Lara pointing to Joseph as a key threat.
“I believe Joseph is going to be special, and Australia is going to know a lot more about him by the end of the series,” he said of the 26-year-old.
Mountain of runs
Despite their poor record in Australia, the West Indies will take confidence from winning both Test series they have played this year — against England and Bangladesh at home.
But they will have to be at their best to upset Australia’s star-studded side, who top the Test rankings ahead of India, with the West Indies only eighth.
A key threat could come from Steve Smith, who has reverted to a more orthodox batting style which saw him score 94 and an unbeaten 80 in Australia’s recent one-day series against England.
Former captain Greg Chappell predicted at the weekend that Smith would “make a mountain of runs this summer”.
Brathwaite and his team will also need to tame one of the most potent pace attacks in the world, led by Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, and also deal with the spin of Nathan Lyon.
Starc is just 13 wickets away from the 300-mark with pace-friendly conditions in Perth set to assist the left-armer.
He is looking forward to “a good contest between bat and ball”, and said the West Indies should not be underestimated, pointing to their home Test triumph over England in March.
“Definitely not taking any teams lightly. We know what the West Indies can serve up at their best,” Starc said.
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (capt), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
West Indies squad: Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva), Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Anderson Phillip, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Devon Thomas