CASTRIES – At 27, left-handed middle order batsman Leon Johnson gets another chance to make his Test debut on Saturday when West Indies oppose Bangladesh in the second and final Dhaka Bank Test match in St Lucia.
The Guyana captain has been asked to join the squad since opener Chris Gayle is reportedly injured. Johnson travelled from Barbados yesterday where he is attending the University of the West Indies (UWI) and representing them in BCA tournaments.
Johnson, who has played three ODIs for the West Indies but none since 2008 when the regional team faced Canada at King City in North America, has two centuries and 19 fifties from 50 first-class matches after making his debut at this level as a 16-year-old.
The Guyanese recently played against Bangladesh “A” where he scored four half-centuries in that series in Barbados to earn him a place in the Test squad for the second Test against New Zealand in Trinidad but failed to make the final XI as Jamaican Jermaine Blackwood was given his debut.
Johnson was then dropped from the squad for this series but he said he was hopeful of playing on Saturday and was happy that he is still being looked at.
If selected in the final X1, Johnson, who hails from Kumauni Creek in the Demerara River, will become the 48th Guyanese to play Test cricket and the first since Veerasammy Permaul made his debut against Bangladesh in 2012.
“I just want to continue scoring runs as I have been doing and make meaningful contributions in whichever way I can to the team. I have been working hard on my cricket and my batting has improved,” Johnson, the only Guyanese to score a hundred in this year’s regional first-class session, said.
Johnson has a realistic chance of playing Saturday since Kirk Edwards has had a poor run of form and could lose his place in the side.
Meanwhile, West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin wants his team to improve in the fielding department and is hoping for a ‘greener’ pitch for the second Test.
West Indies won the first Test by ten wickets although five catches were floored at Arnos Vale by the home team with Mushfiqur Rahim, who scored his third Test century, benefiting most from the poor catching.
He got three lives – Chris Gayle dropped him at first slip on 10, Darren Bravo dropped him at gully on 25, Gayle again dropped him on 71, while Edwards also put down a simple chance offered by Mahmudullah when the batsman skied a catch off Gayle to cover.
“I think our team is in a good place. Our batsmen are getting runs and our bowlers are getting wickets. We hope the pitch in St Lucia will be a lot greener than the one for the first Test,” Ramdin said.
Ramdin said the dropped catches are a cause for concern.
“Our slip catching has hampered us in the past and in St Lucia we definitely need to hold all our chances.
“I think after the first innings, they came back and batted well in the second innings. They applied themselves. It was going to be hard following on, our bowlers had a good run in the first innings,” Ramdin said. “It was a good pitch and it got better as the game went along.
“Rahim came in and batted really well with Mahmudullah. I think that was the partnership that took it away a little from us. But we bowled in some good areas and created chances. We didn’t take our slip catching as well as we wanted to.”
“Kraigg Brathwaite is definitely growing from strength to strength and is displaying immense maturity. We hope he can continue on to bigger and better things. [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul also batted well to support Brathwaite,” Ramdin concluded.