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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 14:09 GMT

Local knowledge benefits Windies pair
Pedro Collins & Vasbert Drakes
Drakes (r) arrives with the Windies squad in South Africa
It is not so long ago that Vasbert Drakes and Nixon McLean must have been writing off their chances of playing international cricket again.

Opportunity has knocked again, however, and they find themselves with a key role in the West Indies World Cup squad.

Their selection was certainly boosted by the retirement of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and injuries to Cameron Cuffy and Marlon Black.

But the selectors also took into account another factor - their experience of playing in South African conditions.

"In general, I believe it is a team of horses for courses," said the West Indies chairman of selectors Sir Viv Richards on naming the squad.

"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.

"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."

McLean, 29, has played for KwaZulu-Natal for the last two seasons.

And Drakes has made South Africa his second home since first signing for Border in the 1996/7 season.

But how much their local knowledge will benefit the West Indies remains to be seen.

McLean's 46 wickets in 44 one-day internationals at an average of nearly 37 is hardly a record to shout about.

He took 44 wickets at 16 in his first season for KwaZulu-Natal, but so far he has struggled to translate first-class success to international level.

One-day international records
Nixon McLean: 46 wkts at 36.76
Vasbert Drakes: 26 wkts at 25.65

Drakes' record is better - he bowled extremely well in India last year as the Windies won the one-day series 4-3.

And he followed this up with figures of 4-26, 4-18 and 4-33 against Bangladesh.

He also has an excellent record in domestic cricket in South Africa, but the jury is still out on his international pedigree in the twilight of his career.

The 33-year-old paid the price of choosing to play domestic cricket South Africa rather than in the Caribbean.

Until last year, the West Indies refused to pick players for the international side unless they played domestic cricket at home.

This policy led to Drakes being in exile between 1995, when he made his West Indies debut, and September 2002, when he replaced Cuffy on the tour of India.

He'll know the pitches and conditions in South Africa
Neil Smith on Vasbert Drakes

Former West Indies fast bowler Eldine Baptiste called for McLean to be considered for the West Indies World Cup squad when he signed the paceman again for KwaZulu-Natal last year.

"He would definitely be a great asset to them, especially with his local knowledge," he said.

And Neil Smith, who captained Drakes at Warwickshire in 2001, endorsed the Barbadian's selection.

"On a couple of occasions he showed that he could bowl quick and he is a very dangerous batsman as well," he said.

"He's the sort of guy you could put in anywhere in the order and turn the game in a matter of overs.

"He'll know the pitches and conditions in South Africa and that will be invaluable to the West Indies."

The West Indies arrived in South Africa meaning business and bristling with their intention to bring the World Cup back to the Caribbean.

They have gambled heavily on Drakes and McLean's local knowledge, and some locals who have seen the pair in action, view the West Indies as outsiders worth watching.

Links to more West Indies stories


Drakes back in the fold
04 Sep 02 |  Cricket

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