Phil Simmons returned to the managerial post of the West Indies three and a half years after he was controversially dismissed following the team’s World T20 triumph. Having led the Caribbean side to a dramatic last over victory over England, the man from Arima was let go by the previous administration led by David Cameron. Now back under new management, with a number of new players, he has given a renewed sense of optimism among West Indian supporters.
His second stint started against his former team Afghanistan of a three-match ODI series, a three-match T20 series and a one-off Test played in India. Below is a summary of each format.
West Indies Mixed Bag
1. One Day International:
The West Indies completely dominated the 50-over series as they swept the Afghans 3-0. They won by seven wickets, 47 runs and five wickets respectively, which in terms of victory of margin for two evenly matched teams was a fantastic effort.
A. Winning A Series:
Following the debacle of the World Cup this past summer, a revolution, or at least some changes were needed for the team, as they began the long road to the next one in India in 2023. This marked the first ODI series win for the two-time world champions in five years and that it happened away from home in conditions that will play host to the next 50-over extravaganza was a notch on the belt of Simmons and new captain Kieron Pollard.
B. Performing Both Batting First And Chasing:
Many teams have a preference to either set a total or pursue one, believing that one facet of their game may be slightly stronger than the other. However, with a fresh new set-up, the Caribbean boys were comfortable either way, with really just the last match being relatively close, as they got the victory with “just” eight deliveries remaining. Their ability to make the adjustment should be a source of reference going forward.
C. Continued Improved All-Round Ability Of Roston Chase:
With 145 runs and six wickets, the Barbados player was a constant threat throughout the contest in all areas of the field. His 94 in the first match in the run chase set the tone for his performances in the series and West Indies will need to rely on his play with the bat and ball over the next several years.
The shortest format of the sport (T10 does not count with all due respect), has been the strongest format of the game for the West Indies. Having won two of the last three World Cups and a semi-final appearance in between, the boys from the Caribbean are just made for T20’s. It all started so well as they triumphed in the first match but fell off quite significantly thereafter. A 30 run victory was followed by 41 and 29 run losses. With less than a year until the T20 World Cup in Australia, there is much work to do.
New skipper Pollard said that defending the title is a top priority for his reign, but watching events unfold, it almost seemed a case of complacency crept into the team after that initial win to open the series. It must be stated that the game that they did win, they batted first, while they lost the final couple of matches while chasing a total set. The concern going forward is not that they lost, but was that the defeats were heavy.
Any losses suffered by more than 10-15 runs in a T20 International can be considered crushing and that the West Indies lost twice in consecutive matches by such margins must be a “shot in the arm” that the team must use. The bowlers overall can’t be faulted for their efforts, as they used the conditions consistently enough, but the batting was woeful.
The experienced heads like Lendl Simmons, Pollard himself, Dinesh Ramdin along with the younger generation such as Nicholas Pooran, Evin Lewis and Brandon King all did not access the conditions properly. There were a number of solid starts by the batsmen, but except for that first match, when Lewis launched with 68 from 41 deliveries, the batting unit did not click.
In a match dominated by the bowlers, one man really stood out and that man was Rahkeem Cornwall. The Antiguan only made his international debut in August versus India where he picked up three first-innings wickets and it was a sign of things to come. At the Ekana Stadium, he grabbed an impressive 10 wicket haul to lead his nation to a nine-wicket victory.
Bowling his off-spin with consistency, helped by friendly enough conditions and with superb control, the 26-year old was at the batsmen constantly. With the use of a top spin that had the Afghan batsmen bamboozled, he snared a number of scalps in the slips as he kept hitting the part of the pitch that offered bounce and some appreciable turn.
However, while Cornwall grabbed most of the headlines, credit must be given as well to batsman Shemar Brooks, captain Jason Holder and yet again all-rounder Chase. In the West Indies first turn at bat (they really only barely batted a second time), Brooks made an accomplished “Nelson” of 111, with 15 fours and one six. The 31-year old from Barbados came in at a dice time with the team at 34-2 and went about his business busily.
He built an 82-run stand with John Campbell, who helped himself to a half-century, as they re-built the West Indian innings that laid the platform for the rest of the match. It was good thing that they did, as in an all too familiar occurrence in the last two decades, the batting fell apart. Both Holder and Chase made their contributions with the ball, as they picked up five and three wickets respectively, as the West Indies were set a target of 33, which they achieved with the loss of just Kraigh Braithwaite’s wicket.
So Simmons return as the manager for a second stint has started off solidly enough with some positives to take forward, but with some real concerns. This tenure should be viewed as a “work in progress” building towards big targets ahead and with a limited-overs series starting this Friday versus India, they will have an immediate measure of just where they are right now.