Activate discovery+Sep 23
The first Test match of the Australian summer begins on Wednesday in Perth, where deposed coach Justin Langer is immortalised with a stand named in his honour.
The grudge between Langer and Cricket Australia took a new turn last week when he branded some of his former players “cowards” for making comments about him in the media.
He has since rowed back, but his remark – the latest in a feud that has engulfed the sport since his acrimonious departure in February – still hangs over the Australian team as they prepare for a two-match Test series against West Indies.
Australia are the top-ranked Test side after following up a 4-0 Ashes triumph over England with a historic win in their first series in Pakistan in 25 years.
They then drew 1-1 in Sri Lanka, a nation in the depths of crisis, before focus shifted to white-ball cricket and the unsuccessful defence of the T20 World Cup.
New coach Andrew McDonald named a slimmed-down squad of 13 for the West Indies, with opener Marcus Harris returning after being overlooked for the tour of Sri Lanka.
Travis Head, player of the series and leading run-scorer in the Ashes despite missing the fourth test with Covid, also kept his place despite recent struggles in the Sheffield Shield.
There have been calls for Peter Handscomb and Matthew Renshaw to return after impressing for the Prime Minister’s XI in their draw against the tourists in Canberra, but neither feature in the squad.
Usman Khawaja opens alongside David Warner at the Optus Stadium, with Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith and Head completing the middle order.
Smith said he was “the best I’ve felt in about six years” after reaping the rewards of a technical adjustment in the recent one-day series against England.
“Where I’ve got to right now is the ultimate for me,” he said. “I feel like I don’t have to work as hard to access the offside with my body and my hands. I can just play with a nice flow.”
Cameron Green will also play his first Test in his hometown of Perth as he continues his unrelenting schedule as a cross-format player since his emergence in 2020.
The all-rounder has not played a single red-ball game in preparation for the Test summer after a gruelling spell but has become an important component in the side after a sensational rise.
Australia and West Indies squads
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Shamarh Brooks, Nkrumah Bonner, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Devon Thomas, Jason Holder, Kyle Mayers, Alzarri Joseph, Anderson Phillip, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales.
Alex Carey will continue behind the stumps, with captain Pat Cummins leading a bowling attack comprising of Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon. Ashes hero Scott Boland is another option after being retained from the Sri Lanka tour.
West Indies return to the Test stage after a dismal year in the shorter formats, hitting their nadir in the T20 World Cup when they were dumped out in the first round after losing to Scotland and Ireland.
Coach Phil Simmons resigned after the humiliating exit but remains in post for the Australia tour where he will look to oversee the Test side’s encouraging progress after wins over England and Bangladesh.
There have been clear signs of improvement, but they haven’t won a Test match on Australian soil since 1997 and face a stern test in their first red ball tour of the year.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul, the son of legendary batter Shivnarine, has been called up for the first time and is set to open in Perth after scoring 119 against a strong Prime Minister’s XI bowling attack in the final warm-up game.
Chanderpaul was the second-highest run-scorer in West Indies first-class cricket this year and he will partner Kraigg Brathwaite after John Campbell was handed a four-year ban for a doping violation.
Roston Chase and Shamarh Brooks are also in the squad, while spinners Rahkeem Cornwall Gudakesh Motie were overlooked.
They arrived in Australia with an exciting fast-bowling cartel led by the returning Jason Holder who sat out the Bangladesh series. He is joined by Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales, all looking to make their mark on pitches conductive to pace and bounce.
The battle between 21-year-old Seales, who has taken 36 wickets in his first nine Tests and consistently bowls around 90mph, and Warner should make for compelling viewing.
Speaking before making his return, former captain Holder believes the Test team are on an upward trajectory before the Australia tour.
“If you look at the nucleus of the Test side, I think we’ve been together for the last five, six years,” he said. “I think that is really important in comparison to the other sides... probably a little bit more chopping and changing.
“I think our long-format cricket has really developed, so it’s really good signs and a lot of our players are developing.
“We’ve been through a lot as a side and it’s not going to be an easy tour.”
With concerns that public interest is dwindling, Australia will be desperate to begin the Test summer with a resounding win and move the narrative on from the Langer saga.
Watch the first Test between Australia and West Indies from 2.15am on Wednesday 30 November on BT Sport 2.