PROVIDENCE, March 20 – England are keeping a close eye on the fitness of their captain Andrew Strauss ahead of Friday's opening One-Day International against West Indies at the Guyana National Stadium.
The tourists are hoping that Strauss recovers from a hamstring problem he sustained during the Twenty20 International on Sunday in Trinidad.
England will be keen for Strauss to prove his fitness not only to lead the side, but to add greater substance to their batting.
Strauss himself will be eager to take his rightful place in the side to mark his return to this form of the game for the first time in two years.
Ironically, his last ODI was against West Indies at Kensington Oval in the World Cup staged in the Caribbean.
Paul Collingwood has been placed on standby and will lead the side should Strauss be unfit to do so.
Collingwood resigned from post of England ODI captain last August, on the same day Michael Vaughan relinquished the Test role, to concentrate on his batting, after leading the side to 10 wins in 24 ODIs.
England will be looking for some inspiration from either Strauss or Collingwood in their pursuit of a first international victory on their winter travels.
After a confident 4-0 series victory over South Africa at home late last summer, England were mauled 5-0 in India in the autumn.
England’s batting on the trip to the Caribbean has been quite sound, but it is their bowling that has been the weak link, and it will be interesting to see what combination they choose for the match in typically flat conditions.
Andrew Flintoff would definitely give the bowling an edge, but he is not expected to take the field until the third ODI, following his hip injury.
Steve Harmison could be another option, although England may toy with the idea of using medium-paced bowlers like Ravi Bopara and Dimitri Mascarenhas to make run-scoring difficult.
The West Indies too, have had concerns about their captain, but Chris Gayle has recovered from the strained right hamstring he sustained in the final Test in Trinidad and was named in the 13-member squad.
Gayle was sidelined for Sunday’s Twenty20 International which the West Indies won by six wickets at Queen’s Park Oval.
He is one of three changes to the West Indies’ squad with Nikita Miller replacing fellow left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, and Daren Powell coming in for fellow Jamaican Jerome Taylor, who was not considered for selection because of a left calf strain that forced him to miss the fifth Test and the Twenty20 International.
A place has also been found for Dwayne Bravo, after he played Sunday’s Twenty20 International with little complaint.
It was his first international match for the West Indies, since an operation on his right ankle last November.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle (captain), Lionel Baker, Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fidel Edwards, Nikita Miller, Kieron Pollard, Daren Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Devon Smith
England (from): Andrew Strauss (captain), James Anderson, Gareth Batty, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Steve Davies, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan, Dimitri Mascarenhas, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah.