Simmons wants West Indies batsmen to pull their weight
- Underscores importance of scoring 400-450 totals consistently
By Akeem Greene
West Indies Head Coach Phil Simmons is adamant his batmen need to increase productivity and be more consistent to enhance their chances of toppling England in the historic three-match Test series, starting July 8.
West Indies, current holders of the prized Wisden Trophy, have decided to tour England amidst concerns over the prevalence of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. The two teams are poised to play the the first International series since the lockdown in a biosecure environment.
The visit in 2017 produced mixed results with the most gratifying aspect being the ‘Headingly miracle’ where Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite crafted an extraordinary tale, which resulted in a thrilling victory.
Indecently, that was the only match West Indies’ batsmen scored centuries in the three-match series which they lost 1-2.
Of the current squad, no batsman averages 40 or more in Tests- Sharmarh Brooks, with just three Test matches, has a best of 34.80 followed by opener Brathwaite (33.29) and all-rounder Jason Holder (32.72).
Over the last 15 Test matches, West Indies players have scored only eight centuries and 21 half-centuries.
Additionally, during the said period, West Indies have only surpassed a total of 400 thrice – their highest being 415-6 declared against England in 2019 at the Kensington Oval. The other occasions were against Sri Lanka (414-8 declared) and Bangladesh (406).
Responding to a question from News Room Sport on Saturday via a virtual press conference, the Head Coach indicated he desperately wants a vast improvement in batting.
“That’s the important part of this tour; there is a lot of pressure on the batsmen to perform because the bowling unit has been carrying the Test team for a while now and it is something we are harping on a lot. We need to get that total of 400 or 450 in order to give this bowling unit which I think is a top-class bowling unit as far as the fast bowlers especially…we need to get that on a regular basis in order to give ourselves a chance in Test matches.”
They will start on the back foot in such an endeavour, without a combined experience of 70 Tests from usual first-choice picks Darren Bravo (54 Tests) and Shimron Hetmyer (16 Tests), both of whom toured England before.
The talented duo along with Keemo Paul opted not to tour owing to safety concerns, and it leaves a big hole to fill.
Hetmyer, who was a part of the 2017 squad, did not play in the three Tests, but scored 128 from 120 balls in a two-day tour match against Leicestershire, while Bravo previously toured in 2012, but came away with a tour average of 16.20.
“We know the quality of these individuals and know what we will be missing. In situations like these, we have to work hard with the guys that are here and just make sure the work we are doing is putting them in a position to fill those shoes for the series and hopefully whoever fill the shoes for the series can go on and be as great as they want to be,” Simmons indicated.
Jermaine Blackwood, who toured in 2017, was given a recall, while the uncapped player in the batting department is fellow Jamaican Nkrumah Bonner.
Though playing away from home has become increasingly difficult in Tests, moreso in England, Simmons is slightly optimistic the standstill on international cricket due to COVID-19 could make the start of the tour a level playing field as opposed to normal circumstances where England would have fully activated their home season.
“It is a plus because England has not come from a tour or two tours recently and we have just been playing cricket at home. In a normal situation, we would have just been coming from camps and England would have been halfway through their season and the series would have been going on right now…it’s plus for us that they have not been playing competitive cricket for a while also.”
West Indies will play two practice matches at Old Trafford on June 22 (Three-Day) and June 29 (Four-Day); it will be solely among the 25 players on tour.
Simmons further indicated, should pacer Shannon Gabriel display a return to optimum fitness, he can force his way into the first Test on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl.
Test Squad: Jason Holder (Captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach.
Reserve Players: Sunil Ambris, Joshua DaSilva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shayne Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas and Jomel Warrican.