St John's (Antigua): Batting star Brian Lara and fast bowler Nixon McLean have been named in a West Indies 15-member squad for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) announced on Saturday. Lara makes his return to international cricket after recovering from the illness that struck him down during the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy Limited Overs Championship in Sri Lanka in September 2002, and kept him out of the West Indies' subsequent tours of India and Bangladesh.
For the 29-year-old McLean, who has played 44 Limited Overs Internationals for West Indies, his selection offers him a chance to revive his international career that appeared to have ended after playing in the 2001 home series against South Africa. "Having Brian back will be an added punch to what progress we might have achieved towards the end of the Asian tour and I think it is marvellous that he is back and we welcome him with open arms," remarked Viv Richards, chairman of the West Indies selection committee.
"It means we have some more depth in our batting and if we can get a few more things working, I think we have a great chance of going very far in the 2003 World Cup," added the former West Indies captain and batting maestro. "You will also notice that McLean is back after not being the squad, most notably in Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh this year, but he's had some experience of playing provincial cricket in South Africa.
"In general, I believe it is a team of 'horses for courses' because we have picked six fast bowlers knowing the kind of conditions that we may encounter in South Africa, where the pitches tend to offer plenty of bounce and movement." Commenting on the fitness of Lara and five others that had previously been identified with injuries or medical concerns, Rev. Wes Hall, president of the West Indies Cricket Board, disclosed that all of them were declared eligible for selection on the basis of medical reports submitted to the WICB. "Lara underwent medical tests in Britain, was given a clean bill of health, and cleared to take part in the World Cup by the doctors," he said.
"West Indies captain Carl Hooper underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his knees and the medical reports submitted to the WICB have also cleared him for World Cup duty. "Meanwhile, fast bowlers Mervyn Dillon and Vasbert Drakes, as well as batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan all received treatment from medical specialists for varying ailments and were declared fit to resume training for duties at the World Cup." West Indies departs for the World Cup on January 28 following a two-week training camp in Antigua. It plays hosts South Africa in the opening match of the competition in Pool 'B' at Cape Town on February 9. The other five teams in Pool 'B' are Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Kenya, Bangladesh and Canada. West Indies was twice World Cup champions in 1975 and 1979.
West Indies: Carl Hooper (captain), Ridley Jacobs (vice-captain), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Pedro Collins, Corey Collymore, Mervyn Dillon, Vasbert Drakes, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Jermaine Lawson, Nixon McLean, Ricardo Powell, Marlon Samuels and Ramnaresh Sarwan.