OTHERS

Gillespie is back, more trouble for the West Indians

BRISBANE, NOV. 27. It may not seem possible but life is about to become even more difficult for the inept West Indian batsmen.

Jason Gillespie has been declared fit for the second Test in Perth, beginning on Friday, and will start if the selectors are true to their philosophy of playing this young talent every time he is fit.

Gillespie has been added to the XI which thrashed the West Indies by an innings and 126 runs in Brisbane in just two and a half days, leaving two interesting scenarios.

Either way the four-man selection panel of chairman Trevor Hohns, Allan Border, Geoff Marsh and Andrew Hilditch will be forced to make a decision of some precedent.

They will retain Andy Bichel at the expense of leg- spinner Stuart MacGill and uncomfortably play four fast bowlers or afford MacGill the Shane Warne courtsey of playing on the fast bowler- friendly Perth pitch.

After a thunderstorm robbed MacGill of the chance to bowl Australia to victory against England in Brisbane two years ago, when Warne was last injured, MacGill was unceremoniously dumped but returned to finish as the highest wicket-taker in the series.

Warne is hopeful of bowling for Victoria again by the middle of next month but given the extent of the unlucky injury to his spinning finger and his size and comfort in the commentary box, the selectors are unlikely to rush him back into the national side.

They made this understandable mistake when Warne returned from a serious shoulder operation two years ago. It unsettled the side and Steve Waugh's just-inherited captaincy in the West Indies early last year.

Warne's aim should be to arrive in great shape at the airport for the Indian tour beginning in February. Steve Waugh knows this is his last frontier if Australia is to be considered amongst the greatest teams of all time.

Australia has been thrashed in all five previous outings against the West Indies in Perth but with Gillespie back in the side the locals will have a serious pace advantage for the first time in a generation.

That hardly seems necessary given the damage Glenn McGrath inflicted in the first Test. He took the most miserly 10- wicket haul in Test history, 10 for 27 from 33 overs. His four for 10 in the second innings came from 13 overs, highlighting just how mentally shot the West Indian batsmen are against his relentless accuracy.

McGrath now needs only two wickets to become just the third Australian with 300 behind Warne (366) and Dennis Lillee (355).

Even the players are starting to admit they have already broken some of the West Indian batsmen. One of the great hopes from the next generation, Ramnaresh Sarwan, made a pair to follow his pair in the lead-up match against Victoria.

``We wont be easing up,'' McGrath said. ``If we play as well as we can there's no team that's going to get close to us.''

While his team-mates were celebrating their ridiculously easy victory on Saturday Gillespie was bowling on the centre wicket as the second half of a fitness test which convinced him and physiotherapist Errol Alcott that everything was okay.

The luckless South Australian paceman is hopeful of being given another opportunity in Perth after a minor hamstring strain kept him out of the Brisbane Test. ``If I was on tour and there were no options, if I was the only person left, then I probably would have played. It was a touch and go thing and we erred on the side of caution.''

This was an exceptionally tough decision because it is 14 months since he last wore the baggy green. A broken leg from that terrible clash with Steve Waugh in Kandy forced him into the role of reluctant spectator.

Balancing the side with McGrath, the effervescent Brett Lee and Gillespie may not be as easy as it first appears given that half the overs must be bowled into the persistent Fremantle Doctor.

However, Gillespie said he has done that job before and is happy to do it again. While he rightly always gets the pick of ends for South Australia, Gillespie has no expectations of such luxuries in this star-studded Australian side.

Damien Fleming can push up the draft blindfolded in Perth but after recovering from troublesome knees then a broken finger the swing bowler has yet to take many wickets for Victoria this season.

Gillespie conceded without hesitation that Brett Lee was now the quickest bowler on the country, possibly the world, but that will not stop Gillespie from giving every ball his best shot. ``I don't hold much back,'' he said.

Just what the West Indians needed to hear as they plunge rapidly towards justifying their reputation as the worst side ever to represent their collective cricket nation.