Alick Athanaze Debut Day
West Indies vs India at the Windsor Park Sports Stadium from Wednesday
As Alick Athanaze, the prolific Dominican middle-order left-handed batsman, prepares for his Test debut, Dominica's Windsor Park Sports Stadium (WPSS) is simultaneously getting a make-over as cricket administrators get the national stadium ready to host its first Test match in six years.
The excitement among Dominican cricket fans is palpable. The once-powerful West Indies takes on India, cricket's behemoth, from Wednesday, 12 July to 16th in the first match of the two-test series.
All Dominican eyes will be on Alick Athanaze, 24, whom the West Indies selectors named last week on a 15-man squad.
"India is a powerful side", said veteran cricket commentator Ossie Lewis. "Athanaze has his work cut out for him."
However, whether Athanaze makes the final eleven or not, Lewis believes the attacking batsman from Grandbay has tremendous prospects.
"He has a very bright future," Lewis said. "All the experts and commentators- Ian Bishop, for instance, have been singing the praises of Athanaze."
Moreover, Lockhart Sebastien, the former Windward Islands opening batsman, says he would be disappointed if Athanaze does not make the final eleven for the first Test because Athanaze virtually "picked himself" based on his outstanding performances over the past two years.
"His first claim to fame was when he announced himself to the cricketing world when he excelled in the Under 19 World Cup," said Lewis. "People's expectations of him are very high."
Young stars to shine
Athanaze has company on the West Indies side. West Indies has also named left-handed batter Kirk McKenzie in its squad for the upcoming series.
Brian Lara, the 53-year-old batting great, said the two youngsters have the right attitude and willingness to learn and can make it big in international cricket.
"Great capable players, young and of course, you would have loved if they had a lot more experience in the First-Class arena, but looking at their style of play and attitude, I believe they have what it takes to perform at the highest level," he said.
"It may take some time, but obviously, as an international cricketer, if you are entering this stage, no matter what age you enter, you got to learn very, very quickly. And, I think they have that sort of attitude to want to learn and (are) willing to listen."
Clement Marcelin, the president of Dominica's Cricket Association (DCA), is ready for Athanaze's big day as well as the island's first Test match since Pakistan played the West Indies here six years ago, in May 2017, the year that monster storm Hurricane Maria devastated the 12,000 capacity WPSS and almost all of Dominica.
"Everything is on course," said Marcelin. "We are putting in the last piece of the puzzle to ensure that everything is done, and we are looking forward to a good game."
Sebastien said he looked at the WPSS recently, and the wicket looks good.
From his experience, Lewis added, the WPSS wicket has neither "pace nor carry". "It's been a pitch that suits spinners," Lewis said.
What, then, is the most likely outcome of the match if the weather does not unduly interfere?
"Some people predict that India should beat West Indies with a day or two to spare," Lewis said. "They (India) are ruthless; they go for the jugular,"
Although Marcelin hopes for a bumper crowd during the five-day match and encourages all able Dominicans to attend, Sebastien and others believe that the poor state of the Dominican economy and the cost of tickets will certainly affect the level of attendance at Windsor Park.
The visit this week will be the India's cricket team's first to Dominica in 12 years having last played at the WPSS in July 2011.
West Indies squad for 1st Test vs India: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Alick Athanaze, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kirk McKenzie, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican.
Traveling Reserves: Tevin Imlach, Akeem Jordan