West Indies unchanged for T20 series against India; Hetmyer out on fitness grounds

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Captain Kieron Pollard and vice-captain Nicholas Pooran will lead a familiar squad in the T20I series against India in February. West Indies did not make any changes to the 16 that was named to take on England at home for the away series against India.

West Indies, at the time of naming the squad on Saturday, were leading that home series against England 2-1, with two games to play.

West Indies had announced their squad for the preceding ODIs against India on January 27, and 11 players feature in both the limited-overs squads: Pollard, Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith and Hayden Walsh Jr.

All-rounder Odean Smith keeps his place after a bizarre incident this past week which included claims of him being “victimised” after he was left out for the third T20I against England to make way for Rovman Powell.

The claims were made in a voice note sent to the media – by whom it is as yet unclear, though local media reported it was “a regional cricket commentator” – and duly rubbished by coach Phil Simmons. Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt termed the allegations “a malicious attack on the credibility of the West Indies Captain, designed to sow division within our team”.

West Indies’ tour to India is the first assignment for new West Indies chief selector Desmond Haynes. The tour comprises three ODIs in Ahmedabad starting on February 6, followed by the T20Is in Kolkata between February 16 and 20.

Shimron Hetmyer of the West Indies hits the ball towards the boundary during the Pakistan and West Indies warm Up Match prior to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at on October 18, 2021 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matthew Lewis-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)

Hetmyer still out on fitness grounds, Lewis yet to return post-COVID

Shimron Hetmyer was left out of the squad on fitness grounds once again. Earlier this month, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons was critical of Hetmyer’s attitude towards physical fitness, saying it was “heart-wrenching” to see him fail to reach the minimum standard.

Haynes, however, stressed that Hetmyer is still part of West Indies’ plans moving forward. The 25-year-old batter is currently part of the Quetta Gladiators squad at the PSL.

“What we need to do is we need to put our arm around these guys and let them know that we are interested in their development… to also [make them] understand that there’s a level of fitness that is required to play at international level,” Haynes said.

“But Hetmyer is in our plans. There’s no question about it. Hetmyer was ill this month at the beginning of the year and obviously we’ve got a squad of people here who are doing well at present in the T20 tournament. So, we decided we will keep them for the tournament going to India.”

As for opening batter Evin Lewis, he is yet to return to competitive action since testing positive for COVID-19, ahead of the Ireland series. While Haynes said that the selectors wanted to give the squad that is playing against England at home another go in India, he pointed out that Lewis, too, will be part of West Indies’ future plans.

“This year both Evin and Hetmyer had illness and I think Evin was recovering from COVID,” Haynes said. “I just want to let everybody know that Evin is still in our plans. Evin is not part of the T20 squad that was selected before I took on the role of a lead selector. We’ve done well against the England T20 team and I believe that it was right of us to give these guys a chance.”

Left-arm seamer Obed McCoy, meanwhile, is still recovering from the shin injury he sustained at the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE.

Rovman Powell became the third West Indian to score a century in T20 International (Photo: Getty Images)

Haynes impressed by Powell, Hosein

Dwayne Bravo’s international retirement after the T20 World Cup last year stripped the side of an experienced all-round option, but Powell and Hosein have since stepped up, impressing Hayes. Dominic Drakes, who had a breakout CPL 2021 and then got gigs in the IPL and T10 league, is also part of the squad for the T20I leg of the India tour.

Replacing Smith, Powell walloped a 51-ball hundred to hand West Indies a 2-1 lead in the ongoing T20I series against England. Left-arm fingerspinner Hosein, who had batted up the order for West Indies Under-19s back in the day, showed his batting chops in the second T20I, when he smashed an unbeaten 16-ball 44 from No.10 to give England a massive scare.

“Yeah, I’m very impressed with the guys,” Haynes said. “I liked the innings that Powell played – I think that was fantastic. Here was a guy who struggled to play spin, I was told, and then he came in and the first shot [with which] he got off the mark was a sweep for six. England then were planning to bowl a lot of googlies at him and he just paddle-swept. Also, he’s a strong guy too; when it was time to use his power coming down to the end, he played very well and I was very, very impressed with him.

“I was also very impressed with Akeal in that one run-defeat. He came in there and everybody thought it was over. He played exceptionally well and that’s what you want because in T20 cricket you want the guy batting up to No.11 to be able to hit a six.”

Squad: Kieron Pollard (capt), Nicholas Pooran (vice-capt), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Brandon King, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Kyle Mayers, Hayden Walsh Jr. (ESPNcricinfo)

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