'Disappointed' cricketers arrive in West Indies

South Africa’s cricketers expressed disappointment that they will not face a full-strength West Indies side for the first match of the test series between the sides.

Former captain Brian Lara and at least three other top players have been ruled ineligible for the match, which starts March 31 in Guyana, because of a contract dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board.

Captain Graeme Smith, who arrived in Antigua and Barbuda late Thursday for a training camp along with the rest of the squad, said he would like to see the players included.

“You want to be playing the best versus the best and it would be disappointing if we can’t play against the best side available,” Smith told reporters upon arriving at Antigua’s international airport.

However, Smith said South Africa will not underestimate a West Indies team now led by Shivnarine Chanderpaul. “We want to come here and put in some really good performances,” Smith said. “We come to win two trophies (test and one-day international) and we are really concentrating hard on that to make sure we are really prepared.”

He said the absence of former South Africa captain Shaun Pollock’s with an ankle injury from at least the first two of four tests will hamper his team, but will open up a chance for one of younger fast bowlers.

“He’s a massive loss for us,” Smith said. “But in saying that, it offers someone else the opportunity to take the new ball and maybe stake a claim.”

Monde Zondeki, only the third black player to represent South Africa since 1991, will give South Africa another bowling option. His selection comes after the recent series against Zimbabwe, where he finished with a nine-wicket match haul in the second test at Centurion, including six for 39 in the second innings.

South Africa’s three-day training camp in Antigua begins Sunday.

Squad: Graeme Smith (captain), Nicky Boje (vice captain), Mark Boucher, A.B. de Villiers, Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Andrew Hall, Jacques Kallis, Charl Langeveldt, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Shaun Pollock (injured), Ashwell Prince, Jacques Rudolph, Monde Zondeki. - Sapa-AP