St. John's: For the first time since the controversial tour of India, a West Indies cricket squad left the Caribbean for an international assignment, when the Test team headed to South Africa for a three-match series.
Groups of players departed from St. Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica Sunday evening and will assemble in London Monday, before flying off to Johannesburg, reported CMC.
The Windies will also be playing a three Twenty20 matches and five ODIs.
The West Indies are scheduled to arrive in one of South Africa’s biggest cities Tuesday morning.
Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell will join the squad next week following the conclusion of the third round of matches in the WICB Professional Cricket League. He was asked by selectors to stay behind and represent Jamaica Franchise in order to prove his match readiness.
The tour, which was shrouded in doubt following the controversial decision by players to abandon the one-day tour of India, will see the West Indies play three Tests against the world number one-ranked Proteas.
Significantly, the 15-man Windies squad includes seven of those players who walked off the tour, and all eyes would be on the team chemistry in light of the recent fractious developments.
There had been speculation ahead of the squad’s selection that those players involved in the abandonment would be sacked. However, in announcing the squad, chief selector Clive Lloyd reiterated the selectors’ commitment to always choose the best team available.
The WICB also came under pressure from St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who sought and gained assurances that the players would not face censure because of their actions.
Gonsalves was at the centre of negotiations between the WICB, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the players, as the abandoned tour mushroomed into a full blown crisis.
The confusion erupted after the one-day team on tour of India claimed that the changes in their tour contracts would result in a significant reduction in their earnings.
With one-day captain Dwayne Bravo as their spokesman, the players lobbied WIPA and the WICB for a change to the contracts, without success. With no resolution in sight, the players quit the tour following the fourth One-Day International in Dharamsala, with the fifth match remaining in Kolkata, and the one-off Twenty20 International scheduled for Cuttack.
The decision by the players forced the WICB to cancel the subsequent three-Test tour, a move which infuriated the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and saw them slap the regional board with a $42 million claim for losses incurred.
Also, the BCCI suspended all bilateral relations with the WICB.
However, the WICB announced recently that negotiations were underway with the BCCI for an amicable end to the impasse.
President Dave Cameron had discussions with BCCI officials at an International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting in Dubai recently.
The first Test between the West Indies and South Africa bowls off Dec 17 at Centurion.
Squad: Denesh Ramdin (captain), Sulieman Benn, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sheldon Cottrell, Assad Fudadin, Shannon Gabriel, Christopher Gayle, Jason Holder, Leon Johnson, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Chadwick Walton.