Laurie Foster | Simmons’ work cut out for him
At the time of writing, in just over a week, the Windies cricket team will be embarking on a tour which will comprise a one-off Test match against Afghanistan along with a trio of one-day internationals (ODIs) and Twenty20 (T20) matches.
It will be the first set of encounters after the reappointment of head coach, Phil Simmons. That predictable announcement has come from the new Cricket West Indies President Ricky Skerritt. The Kittitian, by his previous appointments, seemed to be sending a message to all those who cared to listen, that his philosophy was clearly not going to be of the ‘business as usual’ nature. His mantra spoke to a house cleaning and replacements would be those who, in the opinion of his affiliates, would bring new fortunes to the fading image of the region’s cricket.
There are those who expressed the thought that Skerritt was somewhat hasty in removing the previous coach, Richard Pybus, from his position, especially since he had taken the team through a 2-1 victory against the England Lions in a recently concluded Test series, and also drawing the ODI series at 2-2. All three T20 matches were lost to the Englishmen. In the interim, Floyd Reifer was named and the Windies were back to their losing ways against the touring Indians in all formats of the game.
With all that now being history, it is left to be seen how well the team will do under this new coaching regime.
One of the things Simmons has going for him is that he had a successful stint while in charge of the Afghans, raising their image in the International marketplace. This, it is hoped, will be to his advantage, and by extension the team, as he will have intimate knowledge of the players’ skills and should be able to give his team the confidence which is needed to be triumphant. Afghanistan is sure to be looking to their spin bowlers to upset the Windies’ apple cart as the batsmen are more adept at playing the quicker stuff. Simmons, himself, seems to be confident that he can get the job done.
This columnist wonders where he hopes to find players who can assist in making a reality the dreams of all lovers of Windies cricket.
The likely Windies batting line-up for the Test should be Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, and Nicholas Pooran, to be followed by captain Holder, wicketkeeper Dowrich and then three fast bowlers. Out-of-form Darren Bravo was left at home. That is believed to be unfortunate, as it is suggested that he is the only current Windies batsman who can claim comfortability against quality spinners, as the Afghans will field.
The question should then be asked, “How will Simmons at the helm of a team so short of accomplished players of spin bowling fare in the Test? The coach is Trinidadian and, as such, he would have been brought up in the spin environment of which the country of his birth is known. He will have to call upon all the expertise he has seen in some of the leading batsmen against spin bowling from his own country.
A direct line to the great Brian Lara, would not be out of order. A batsman of that category, and who has conquered spin bowling all over the cricketing world, should be a constant companion before and during what should be a true test of the coach’s ability to triumph over the adversity of top-class spin bowling. Simmons’ fortunes could rest on his ability and willingness to absorb what a Brian Lara, given the short time, can impart. This should be a crucial factor to the outcome of the matchup with the Afghans. Foster’s Fairplay wishes the coach and his team the best of luck.
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