A sigh of relief went up from Caribbean cricket watchers when the promised return of the regional four-day tournament actually happened just ahead of the West Indies vs England three-Test series, which opens today in Antigua.
There were only two rounds of games for each of the six regional teams to begin with. Three more will be played in May, we are told. It’s a long drop from the 10 rounds of home-and-away four-day games we have become used to in recent years. But in these novel coronavirus pandemic times, I am grateful for small mercies.
Jamaican opener John Campbell and the 25-year-old Trinidad and Tobago fast bowler Anderson Phillip are without doubt grateful for the return of regional competition, having made the West Indies 13-man squad on the back of their most recent performances.
Campbell, 28, was the only opener to make a century in the regional games — an outstanding knock against Barbados in Bridgetown, watched by new chief selector Desmond Haynes. Cricket watchers will recall that Campbell had a decent start to his Test career against England in the Caribbean in early 2019, when the home side won the three-Test series 2-1. But the Jamaican left-hander fell away gradually, before being omitted after the drawn two-Test home series against Sri Lanka early last year.
Campbell’s recall means he was catapulted ahead of the unfortunate Trinidadian Jeremy Solozano who, without getting a chance to bat, was hit on the head and concussed out of the away series against Sri Lanka late last year, while fielding close to the bat.
Whether the attack-minded Campbell has overcome glaring technical flaws which have haunted him in his Test career so far, we are about to find out. If he has, Campbell is likely to enjoy a long partnership with Captain Kraigg Brathwaite, with whom he has opened for the West Indies since their days in age-group cricket.
I am very intrigued by the fast bowler Phillip who played a single white-ball game for the West Indies last year and now finds himself in the Test squad in the absence of the pacy, 33-year-old Shannon Gabriel, who we are told, is nursing a niggle.