ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – The region’s best spin-bowling all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall has finally received his first selection to the senior West Indies team
The burly Cornwall looks likely to make his long-awaited Test debut on home soil after he was today selected in a 13-member squad to kick off the regional side’s campaign in the new ICC World Test Championship against India later this month.
West Indies and India will play two Tests – from August 22 to 26 at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Cornwall’s native Antigua, and from August 30 to September 3 at Sabina Park in Jamaica.
Cornwall has been rewarded for his impressive record for the Leeward Islands Hurricanes in the West Indies Championship and the West Indies “A” Team, since making his first-class debut just under five years ago. The 26-year-old has taken 260 wickets at 23.90 apiece in 55 first-class matches and is highly regarded among his peers as one of the most effective spin bowlers in the Caribbean.
Cornwall has also proven that he is a capable middle to lower-order batsman, averaging just under 25 in 97 innings, and good enough to have one hundred and 13 half-centuries in the first-class arena. He also has four List A centuries to his name and averages 32 in that format.
Interim chairman of selectors Robert Haynes acknowledged that Cornwall merited his selection and could prove impactful with both bat and ball.
“Rahkeem has been performing consistently over a long period of time and has proven to be a match-winner, so we believe his elevation to the Test squad is merited at this time.
“We believe he can provide an attacking option to our bowling attack with his sharp turn and extra bounce. He can also lend a bit of depth to the batting, so we are looking forward to him coming into the squad and making a valuable contribution,” Haynes said.
Despite his consistent performances, Cornwall has been repeatedly left out of the senior side due to weight and fitness concerns. But the burly all-rounder has been working on his fitness, has dropped pounds and is one of the safest catchers in the region. If the 26-year-old makes the final eleven he would form an effective spin duo with batting-all-rounder Roston Chase who also bowls off-spin.
The interim selection panel has kept faith with practically the rest of the squad that earned a sensational 2-1 series victory over England earlier this year in the Caribbean, except for injured fast bowler Alzarri Joseph and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican.
West Indies “A” Team captain Shamarh Brooks is the only other uncapped player in the squad apart from Cornwall. Fast-bowling all-rounder Keemo Paul, a replacement for Test captain Jason Holder when he was forced to miss the final Test of the England series, retains his place in the squad.
Haynes explained that the highly talented Joseph was not yet ready for Test cricket following a shoulder injury which he sustained in the Indian Premier League while playing his debut season for the Mumbai Indians.
“Alzarri is undergoing remedial work and we are monitoring his recovery, but we do not think he is ready yet to last five days of a gruelling Test match. He represents a key part of West Indies future and we do not want to rush him back. We have two important series coming up later in the year in India and we want to be very careful how his recovery is managed,” Haynes said.
The selectors have also kept faith with batsman Darren Bravo who has been struggling for runs within recent times. He has made one Test half-century since his return to the team following an impasse with former CWI president Dave Cameron. Bravo was also dropped from the playing XI during West Indies’ dismal ICC World Cup campaign in England. He has not featured against India in the Twenty20 Internationals or the One-Day International so far in the ongoing tour by the Asians.
The imminent series gives both sides the chance to win up to 120 points – sixty points for a win- in the new ICC World Test Championship league table. A draw will be worth twenty points with zero points for a loss. West Indies will play a further five series with the opportunity to qualify for the ICC World Test Championship final in 2021 if they finish in the top two in the league.
The Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Rahkeem Cornwall, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Shamarh Brooks.