Shamarh Brooks and Chemar Holder have been recalled in a provisional 17-man West Indies squad for the two-Test series against Pakistan starting in Jamaica on Thursday.
Neither Brooks, 32, nor Holder, 23, has played for the regional side since the two-Test tour of New Zealand last December.
However, middle-order batsman Brooks hit a hundred in a warm-up match last weekend while right-arm pacer Holder picked up three wickets, to make an impressive return from injury.
More significantly, Holder replaces seasoned speedster Shannon Gabriel who has been left out of the squad to focus on improving his fitness.
Gabriel joins experienced left-hander Darren Bravo who has also been given time off due to an extended period within the bio-secure “bubble of the West Indies camp. He has also had an extended run of poor batting form.
“Chemar Holder returns, having recovered from his injury,” said chief selector, Roger Harper.
“He will bolster the fast bowling department. Shamarh Brooks batted his way into the provisional squad by scoring an accomplished century. He will certainly add some depth to the squad’s batting.
“Shannon Gabriel has been given time to rehab fully and build his conditioning, so he was not part of the preparations for the Test series against Pakistan, which included the Best versus Best game.
“Darren Bravo has been part of the ‘bubble’ from the preparation camp leading into the Betway Test series against South Africa and has been given a break.”
The squad will be headed by recently appointed Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite and lack any real surprises, with the core of the unit retained from the Test series against South Africa last June.
West Indies clash with Pakistan in the both Tests at Sabina Park, with the second encounter scheduled to get underway August 20.
The hosts were soundly beaten 2-0 by the Proteas but Harper said he was anticipating a positive response.
“I expect the team to be highly competitive in every department while playing with passion, purpose and determination,” he noted.
“I look forward to the batsmen stepping up as they did in the series against Bangladesh and against Sri Lanka earlier this year in Antigua.”
Meanwhile, head coach Phil Simmons has expressed concern about the match fitness of the West Indies squad.
Since the two-Test series against South Africa ended in late June, the majority of the Test players have been largely dormant, and last week’s four-day warm-up match represented the first taste of action for most of the provisional 17-man squad announced Monday.
“As far as I know, none of the [practice] games were played and there wasn’t enough work done before the players got here,” Simmons told an online media conference today.
“Quite a few players said they didn’t get any work done in their home territories before they came to this camp and four-day game.”
He added: “It’s disappointing to know they’ve gone home and there’s nothing done. They have to come back and we’ve got to start from scratch when we get here so it’s a little disappointing.”
Of the 17-man squad, only all-rounder Jason Holder and batsman Shai Hope featured during the recent white-ball series, with Holder turning out in both the shorter formats and Hope in the one-day series against Australia.
Last week’s four-day match saw Shamarh Brooks hit a century while captain Kraigg Brathwaite, all-rounder Roston Chase and vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood stroked half-centuries.
Among the bowling group, off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall and left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permail both grabbed five-wicket hauls.
However, Simmons said the performances were no more than he expected, especially since the demands of the international level were quite high.
“I wouldn’t say I am impressed. I always looked for more guys at that level getting bigger scores and the 150s and bigger hundreds,” he said in reference to the batting during the four-day contest.
“You have to work to score 150 at the higher level so I would like to see more runs being scored at that level.”
He continued: “We want batsmen to be scoring 100, 150 runs on each occasion and [when] you have one out of your five, six batsmen getting a hundred then we’re doing the right things, and we’re getting the scores we need to give the bowlers a chance to bowl teams out.”
West Indies have had a mixed run this year in Tests, beating Bangladesh 2-0 away, drawing nil-all with Sri Lanka at home before being crushed 2-0 by South Africa, when their batting suffered a complete meltdown in both Tests in St Lucia.
And Simmons said the challenge against Pakistan would be to turn around the fortunes of the batting group.
“It’s the start of a new series and we’re looking and trying to the best of our ability to try and make sure things improve,” he stressed.
“There’s no hiding from the fact that our batting needs to improve and get to a healthy stage where we can score 400 in an innings on a more consistent basis, and the bowlers continue doing the job they’ve been doing well.”
SQUAD – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, Rahkeem Cornwall, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton, Chemar Holder, Jason, Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach Jayden Seales, Jomel Warrican. (CMC)