Windies dream of breaking two-decade Aussie grip
Australia, aim to extend their 19-year grip on the Frank Worrell Trophy against the West Indies from tomorrow and pile on the Test match agony for the fallen Caribbean giants.
Since they last hosted Australia four years ago, the West Indies have won only three of the 30 Tests that they've played while trying to rebuild their team. Those three wins have been enough to produce series wins over England and, more recently, in Bangladesh, their first victory away since 2003.
Meanwhile, Australia are on a high having had a 4-0 cleansweep over India in their last series in January. They haven't lost a Test series since the Ashes defeat in January 2011 that led to significant changes in their structure and approach to the game. It also saw a change to the playing organization with Michael Clarke taking over from Ricky Ponting as captain and South African Mickey Arthur installed as coach.
"As a playing group we can take a lot of confidence out of beating India 4-0 in Australia but conditions are a lot different here," said Clarke ahead of the first Test which starts at Kensington Oval on Saturday. "The hardest part of playing international sport is beating teams away from home in conditions that you're not as used to."
Despite their woeful recent Test record, there are signs that the West Indies may be closing the gap. They played well in both the recent Twenty20 and ODI series with neither team getting the upper hand as both series were tied.
"For me as captain getting the guys to gel well and to execute the team plan, the more results we'll get," said West Indies captain Darren Sammy who believes that attitude was important in the recent performances in the ODIs and Twenty20s.
"The fact that we could go out on the field and look like a unit and play together and that 'never-say-die' attitude. You could see that the team is improving," added Sammy.
The changes for both teams in the last four years have been significant. Of the team that won the final Test at the Kensington Oval to clinch the series 2-0 four years ago, only Clarke, Ponting and Michael Hussey remain in the Test set up. It's one fewer for the West Indies with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Fidel Edwards the only players from that side to have been included in the latest squad.
Australia won their only warm-up match in the longer form of the game beating the West Indies Cricket Board President's XI by eight wickets. Several changes to the side that played in that fixture can be expected as David Warner and Michael Hussey were rested while wicket-keeper Matthew Wade will almost certainly put on the baggy green for the first time.
West Indies named a squad of 13 for the first Test, with only opening batsman Kieran Powell and wicket-keeper Carlton Baugh having played for the President's XI in the tour game. With Marlon Samuels playing in the IPL there have been returns to the squad for Narsingh Deonarine and Ravi Rampaul.
It's an important series for both teams as they look to consolidate on their recently improved performances. Australia want to extend their run of undefeated Test series to five with Clarke saying: "As a team we're trying to become a little bit more consistent with our performances and this is going to be a tough Test for us but it's going to be a good indication as to where we are at with that consistency."
The West Indies will be seeing if they can take their success in the one day formats into the longer form of the game.