THE incoming head of English cricket has handed Phil Simmons a welcome key card prior to his first series as West Indies head coach. Colin Graves, who takes over as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman on May 15, told BBC Radio that he would “certainly be disappointed if we don’t win the West Indies series because I am pretty sure the West Indies are going to have a mediocre team”.
He claimed that “a lot of their stars are going to be playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) anyway, not in the Tests, so we should win that series.” The reality is that there are six West Indian “stars” in the IPL that conflicts with the three England Tests.
Chris Gayle’s creaking back led to his withdrawal from the England series; he has already missed four of the West Indies last five Tests. Dwayne Smith has retired from red ball cricket, Andre Russell’s solitary Test was more than four years ago, Lendl Simmons’ eighth, and last, in 2011, Dwayne Bravo’s last of 40 in 2012.
Sunil Narine is a master of the short form game yet has just 21 wickets in six Tests at an average of 40 per wicket; what is more, he remains concerned over the legality of his action. The record confirms that the West Indies’ eighth position among Test teams is justified, with or without their IPL players.
Graves, head of the Coscutter chain of stores, has been described as “a straight-talking Yorkshireman”. His straight talk as the incoming boss of English cricket was denigrating disrespect for his team’s opponents. Like the infamous remark of captain Tony Greig, a straight-talking South Africa, that he would make Clive Lloyd’s team “grovel” in the 1976 series in England, it is enough to provoke retaliation from Simmons’ charges through performances on the field.
The 2015 West Indies bear no comparison to Lloyd’s combination of proven players and emerging superstars Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Andy Roberts and Michael Holding. The majority have just returned from a chastening examination in South Africa and the World Cup where they often buckled under pressure.
Yet there is nothing more infuriating for any sporting team than to be belittled by their rivals’ top man even before the contest starts. History is replete with examples of upsets triggered by such arrogance. It has the potential to add a few mph to the clocking of Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach and the other pace contenders and to the bounce of Jason Holder, to heighten the proven resolve of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Kraigg Brathwaite, to influence Marlon Samuels against repeatedly wasting his wicket, to sharpen their slack fielding.
If they aren’t fired up, as they should be in any case for a series against England, Graves’ assessment, however condescending, would prove to be spot on.