The Brathwaite botherers: Every Test opener West Indies tried between Gayle and Chanderpaul, ranked
Tagenarine Chanderpaul’s maiden Test century against Zimbabwe ended a decade-long drought of centuries by West Indies openers not named Kraigg Brathwaite.
While too early to be certain, Chanderpaul Jr’s record-breaking double-ton in Bulawayo could well mark the end of a long and painful search for a second permanent fixture at the top of the order for West Indies. He is the tenth opener to pass 200 for West Indies and he has already passed his legendary father’s highest Test score having played just three matches.
With Chanderpaul already the most successful opener not named Brathwaite since 2013, the opening careers of those who fell in between make for grim reading. None of the eight names on the list average more than thirty and have collectively scored 11 fifties between 2014 and today – Brathwaite made eight hundreds and 22 fifties between Gayle’s retirement and Chanderpaul’s debut. Not included on the list is Darren Bravo, who only opened once in Tests after Brathwaite spent too long off the field to open the innings. Their stats are accurate as openers between September 2014 and today.
Ranked: The West Indies Test openers between Gayle and Chanderpaul
Jeremy Solozano (2021)
The worst of luck for Jeremy Solozano, whose Test career, if it is never resumed, will go down as one of the most unfortunate in cricket’s history. He was hit in the head while fielding before lunch on day one of his Test debut – a Dimuth Karunaratne pull shot doing the damage. After being stretchered off the field, he was replaced in the XI by Shai Hope with Jermaine Blackwood moving up the order to open. Guttingly for Solzano, he hasn’t found a place in the West Indies Test side since and with Chanderpaul looking like he’s here to stay, who knows when his next chance will be. He foots the list
Rajendra Chandrika (2015-2016)
5 matches, 140 runs at 14.00, HS: 37
In a less than ideal start, Rajendra Chandrika registered a pair on Test debut, the 40th player to do so at the time. Having replaced Marlon Samuels in the XI, he was dismissed by Mitchell Starc in both innings. The likes of Graham Gooch, Dean Elgar, Saeed Anwar and Marvan Atapattu showed that it is possible to recover from such a beginning, but Chandrika did not join the club. He made it three ducks in four innings in his following Test match, before reaching what turned out to be his highest score of 37 in the third match against Australia in 2015. Another dismal second Test against India the following year, where he again made two single-figure scores saw him dropped from the side. He hasn’t been picked again.
Shai Hope (2015-2021)
6 matches, 144 runs at 14.40, HS: 36
Despite starting his Test career as an opener in 2015, Shai Hope quickly dropped down into the middle order. He has sporadically opened in a couple of matches since 2015 but has played the majority of his Tests at No.3 and 4. Hope’s career to date has been another of unfulfilled promise. Regarded as one of the most talented batters in the Caribbean, he hasn’t kicked on after his memorable series against England in 2017 and hasn’t featured in a West Indies Test squad since 2021. As an opener, after 2015 he was never a long-term option to partner Brathwaite.
Devon Smith (2014-2018)
10 matches, 376 runs at 20.88, 3 fifties, HS 65
Devon Smith played at least one Test match every year from 2003 to 2011 and was brought back in 2014 following an injury to Gayle. He scored one half-century in the five Tests he played between 2014 and 2015 before he was dropped once more for another three-year hiatus. Back again against Sri Lanka in 2018, Smith managed two further half-centuries before he was dropped once more, this time for good. Smith’s continued inclusion in the West Indies side, despite an overall Test average of less than 30 in 43 matches, shows just how bare the opener cupboard has been for the West Indies over the last decade.
Leon Johnson (2014-2016)
6 match, 235 runs at 21.36, 1 fifty, HS: 66
A half-century on debut sharing a 143-run stand with Kraigg Brathwaite, Leon Johnson was another who made a promising start to his Test career. He followed up with a 41 in the second innings and scored another half-century in his fourth Test. But, in a puzzling decision by the team management, he wasn’t included for West Indies’ home series against Australia later in the year. Shai Hope was instead picked as an opener to allow Shane Dowrich to slot in as a No.4 batter. He demanded a recall in 2016 after a strong domestic season but made four single-figure scores in nine innings with a high score of 47.
Jermaine Blackwood (2021)
2 matches, 109 runs at 27.25, HS: 44
Only called up to open after a concussion to Jeremy Solozano on his debut Test against Sri Lanka, a 20 and a nine in each innings was enough for Blackwood to retain his spot at the top for the next Test. He made 44 and 39 as West Indies succumbed to a dismal defeat. Despite this, Blackwood dropped back down into the middle order again for last year’s series against England
John Campbell (2019-2022)
20 matches, 888 runs at 26.11, 3 fifties, HS: 68
After making a positive start to his Test career with a 44 and 33 in each innings of his West Indies debut against England, Campbell made his maiden Test half-century against Afghanistan in Lucknow later in the year. Despite never managing to definitively nail down a spot in the side, Campbell continued to do just enough to retain his spot in the XI until a poor series in Sri Lanka in March 2021 prompted the team management to look elsewhere. He returned for two series in 2022, scoring his third Test fifty against Bangladesh, but was handed a four-year ban for an anti-doping violation in October last year. Campbell played the most matches as an opener of anyone on this list.
Kieran Powell (2011-2021)
18 matches, 780 runs at 22.94, four fifties, HS: 90
At the top of the list, Kieran Powell has more scores of fifty or higher than any of his competitors, registering four half-centuries in 18 Tests. Powell debuted as a Test opener in 2011 and made his first hundred the following year against New Zealand. He followed up with back-to-back centuries in one Test match against Bangladesh later in the year, but those innings were to be his last Test hundreds to date. After dropping in and out of the side over the next few years and batting sporadically in all of the top four positions, Powell last played a Test match in 2021. Early promise gave a glimpse of a potential long-term option at the top of the order for West Indies, but Powell never managed to deliver after his three centuries in 2012.