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    'West Indies competitive under Sammy'

    Stewart said that despite the lowly state of West Indies cricket, the team is shaping up well.

    London: Former England skipper Alec Stewart has praised the development of the West Indies side under current skipper Darren Sammy. Stewart, who captained his country in 15 of his career spanning 133 Tests, said despite the lowly state of West Indies cricket, the team is beginning to turn their fortunes around.

    "West Indies cricket has undergone a steady decline over the last 10 years, but there are signs that the current team is capable of lifting them out of the doldrums. Under the guidance of captain Sammy, they have become more competitive and, although they lost 2-0 to Australia in their most recent Test series, they made Michael Clarke's men work hard for their victories," Stewart said.

    Sammy has come under fire as captain ever since taking over from Chris Gayle for the tour of Sri Lanka in late 2010. Despite the team's losing slide, Sammy has steered West Indies to the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup, a drawn Test series against Pakistan in the Caribbean a few months later, and a decent show in the recently concluded one-day and Twenty20 series against Australia.

    "Sammy is a bread and butter cricketer but he marshals his troops very well and all the players respond to his style of captaincy. West Indies can be a difficult side to captain because there is a lot of inter-island rivalry, but Sammy has taken on that responsibility and he is starting to guide West Indies cricket towards where all of the Caribbean would want them to be,” Stewart said.

    He also said, "Their strongest suit is their bowling where Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Sammy provide some strong seam options, while offspinner Shane Shillingford impressed with a 10-wicket haul in the final Test against Australia."

    Stewart, however, said there was a big question mark over West Indies' inexperienced batsmen in testing English conditions. "My biggest concern is how their batsmen will cope on pitches that offer sideways movement both through the air and off the pitch. The likes of Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo have good batting averages early in their Test careers, but have they got the technique and temperament to battle it out against one of the best bowling attacks in the world?

    "Will they score enough runs to allow their bowlers an opportunity to bowl England out twice?" Stewart said.

    West Indies arrived here on Wednesday for the Test and ODI tour against the world number one-ranked England and will begin their tour with a three-day match against Sussex at Hove on Saturday.