Simmons wants West Indies batsmen to go big


Coach Phil Simmons is targeting another uplift in West Indies’ ODI batting returns when they face Australia in a three-match series in Barbados this week.

They put in three consistent displays batting second to beat Sri Lanka 3-0 earlier this year – which followed their 3-0 drubbing in Bangladesh during January – but Simmons is eager for the batting order to show they can kick on beyond 300.

That wasn’t required against Sri Lanka as, by batting second, they knew what was needed each time and paced their chases, winning with three overs, two balls and nine balls remaining respectively in the three matches.

There were top-order hundreds in each of those matches – from Shai HopeEvin Lewis and Darren Bravo – which was further encouragement for Simmons, but he knows there will be a need to post 300-plus totals on occasions and wants those at the top of the order to push on further.

“We are looking for the way we batted to continue and improvements have to be made in the middle overs from 20-39 in order for us to get from 280-290 to the 320-330 we’ll need against Australia,” Simmons said. “We’ve been discussing that since the Sri Lanka series so now it’s time to put it into action.”

Given the rate he naturally scores at, there is the potential for Lewis to turn his already sizeable contributions into huge scores as he did back in 2017 against England when he made 176 at The Oval.

Against Sri Lanka, he was dismissed for 65 in the 29th over and 103 in the 38th, indicating he has the chance to bat for much longer.

“It’s been great [that] in the last series the top three all got hundreds and what we are asking of them now is one of the top three carry on until the end so we get to that 320-330,” Simmons said.

Phil Simmons keeps an eye on a West Indies training session (Raton Gomes/BCB)

Lewis is one of the players who crosses over from West Indies’ T20 squad to their ODI set up, but while Simmons can see some advantage to that as they look to build on the 4-1 series win quickly, adjusting to the longer game will be important.

“Because there are some players from the T20 squad in this one some momentum can be taken over but there are other guys coming in,” he said. “We have to settle and play the way this format needs to be played. A lot more partnerships, bigger partnerships, things like that.”

Reflecting on the T20 series where West Indies responded impressively after the loss against South Africa, Simmons picked out the variety of match-winners as one of the most satisfying areas.

“The good thing about this series is that in different games different people came out as the ones leading. Dre [Russell] finished the first game, [Dwayne] Bravo took the mantle when he went up to bat, [Shimron] Hetymer had it, Chris [Gayle] had it in one game, [Sheldon] Cottrell came back in the last two games and showed what he’s capable of. And Fabian [Allen], he showed in South Africa games what he can do later in the innings and how his bowling has improved – he’s always been dynamite in the field – so they’ve all played their part.”

Simmons said he was hopeful that captain Kieron Pollard, who sat out the whole T20 series with a hamstring injury, would be able to take his place in the first match on Tuesday and also indicated the likely return of Jason Holder after he was rested.

Meanwhile, Australia are waiting on the fitness of captain Aaron Finch after he picked up a knee injury in the final T20. Ben McDermott and Ashton Agar are making good progress from their quad and hamstring injuries respectively.

If Finch is unavailable, there are a range of options for a stand-in captain including former Test vice-captains Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh, former ODI vice-captain Alex Carey, Sydney Sixers captain Moises Henriques and Matthew Wade who stood in for Finch in a T20 against India last year.

The visitors could hand out a number of new caps in the opening match with McDermott and Josh Philippe a chance of playing while leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson may come into consideration. As in the T20I series, Australia’s batting line-up in particular will be a long way from a first-choice top order.

Both teams have played just six ODIs since the World Cup Super League began last year due to the disruption of Covid-19 and though this series comes amid a heavy T20 focus, the points on offer will sharpen minds.

“That’s the only motivation you need, it’s points and it’s leading to World Cup 2023,” Simmons said. “The Australians are not going to be an easy target and they will be coming stronger after losing the T20 series.”

West Indies ODI squad: Kieron Pollard (capt), Shai Hope, Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Anderson Phillip, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd (ESPNCricinfo)

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