Wet weather keeps Windies waiting
There was relief as well as disappointment for West Indies when the first day of their tour was washed out - because they had only 11 fit players able to take the field.
Contrary to earlier impressions that a full 15-man squad were present and correct, three have yet to even set foot in the country this summer because of visa and travel issues.
A fourth, fast bowler Fidel Edwards, is still struggling with the back “niggle” that ruled him out of last week’s Test defeat against Australia in Dominica and may yet prevent his participation, not just at the PROBIZ County Ground over the next two days, but possibly against England Lions at Northampton too.
That would leave no cricket in the past month before the first Investec Test at Lord’s for a bowler who has a history of back trouble - including surgery which ruled him out throughout 2010.
If West Indies captain Darren Sammy is concerned about those implications, he was not showing it today after day one of three against Sussex was surprisingly called off at 1.40pm following heavy overnight rain but a dry morning.
Sammy’s insouciance over Edwards was perhaps understandable, given the more immediate problem of whether he still has 10 fit team-mates to take the field with him should the weather relent tomorrow.
If his and West Indies’ luck is in, it is just possible he may yet have everyone bar Edwards at his disposal.
Guyanese pair Narsingh Deonarine and Assad Fudadin are in Jamaica, awaiting visa clearance to travel, while Marlon Samuels is thought to be in transit following his Indian Premier League stint with Pune Warriors.
Sammy is optimistic the problems will soon be overcome, but other members of the tourists’ back-up staff were equivocal.
“We have 12 guys here right now, and I think the other three are coming in later this evening,” said the captain.
“It’s a little bit to do with visas. They’re going to be here, and they’re not missing anything right now.
“We’ve not named our XI. They’re batsmen, so they could come in and play straight away.”
There are options for emergency call-ups too, with a smattering of former West Indies Test players currently engaged - to good effect - in county cricket. As for Edwards, Sammy retains great faith in the fast bowler to put his body on the line for his country if humanly possible.
“Fidel is still carrying a niggle,” he said. “The physio is going to monitor him and give him some more time to recover.
“It’s not bad. We came here knowing Fidel would be rested for this game; he was rested for the last match. Come the 17th, everybody will be ready.
“Fidel is somebody I know what to expect from. I know what he’s going to give and whenever he plays will be ready.
“Last time he played a game at Lord’s he was very unlucky - a few catches went down - and I know he’s going to give us 100%, just like all my team-mates.
“Whether he plays the Lions game or not, I know when that bell rings on the 17th, he will be ready. He’ll be the first one to say ’give me the ball’.
“It will be up to Fidel himself to say how he feels, and what the physio recommends.”
In the shorter term, if the cavalry does not arrive overnight, the West Indies could well be struggling for a 12th man.
Edwards may yet have to be pressed into service as an emergency fielder, on necessarily light duties - unless tour manager and former Windies captain Richie Richardson - at the age of 50, and 11 years after his last first-class match - is feeling brave.