West Indies head coach Phil Simmons has said having more seniors in the T20 side compared to the Test squad is a good feeling as it “makes things easy” for him for the two upcoming T20Is against India in Lauderhill, Florida. As opposed to the inexperienced Test side that lost 2-0 to India, their T20 squad features Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard among other specialist T20 players. They will also play under the new captain Carlos Brathwaite after Darren Sammy was dropped from the side.
“It’s good to have all the senior guys back and they make things easy for me because it’s a case of them doing all the work and they know this format inside out,” Simmons said on Thursday in Lauderhill. “So it gives me a chance to just enjoy them freeing themselves out there.”
Simmons also said being the T20 champions helped the side’s confidence, comparing them with the 1980s’ Test side, which dominated the longer format for years.
“In this context, I think it’s a case where we are world champions and it’s something we have made our own, similar to back in the ’80s when we made Test cricket our own. We always had the team to beat in T20 cricket so from that point of view we’ve got a lot better and all the guys are loving playing it. But it’s a stepping-stone to one-day cricket too.”
Brathwaite has played only eight T20Is so far and played only the first of the four Tests against India, scoring 0 and an unbeaten 51. While he had recently said the T20 players were “mature enough” to handle a change in leadership, Simmons said the objective of the new captain and the entire side would be to build on the World T20 win in India.
“I think his (Brathwaite’s) main mindset is that we have to continue where Sammy left us and the good work that Sammy did in this position,” Simmons said. “I think that’s the mindset of all players that we have to continue the work we did in the [T20] World Cup and before that.”
Even though their T20 squad is vastly different from the Test side, Simmons said there would be an “easy” transition in the dressing room because the T20 side has broadly remained the same since the World T20, which they won without Narine and Pollard.
“Yeah, it could be a bit different but I think there’s only three players here who played in that [Test] series,” Simmons explained. “So it is not that much of a transition because the three players know how to play this and one of them was the best player in the World Cup, you know, batting wise. I think we are easy with that transition.
“We still prepare for the two days here the same way we would have prepared before. It’s just that the Indian team has been together for longer but we are over here preparing and we will do that over the next two days.”
Simmons also emphasised on the kind of impact players like Russell and Narine could make in the shortest format. Russell recently struck a 44-ball 100 packed with 11 sixes and played a crucial role, along with Gayle, in taking Jamaica Tallawahs to their second CPL title. Narine took14 wickets in the CPL with an economy rate of 5.55, and also finished as the second-highest wicket-taker in the tri-series against South Africa and Australia in June.
“I don’t think there’s much to be said about Andre,” Simmons said. “From what he’s on the pitch, he just gives everything over there and he’s always going to be our main player for us. Once he starts, with either bat or ball, we are in a position of winning.
“I haven’t seen the surface properly yet but Narine played here for Trinidad & Tobago in the CPL and he has done well and adapted well. So I’d like the same from him.”
Their squad will also be bolstered by Johnson Charles, the second-highest run-scorer in the CPL, Andre Fletcher, Lendl Simmons and legspinner Samuel Badree, the No. 1 ranked bowler in T20Is, who had injured himself in the World T20 final. Simmons stated that beating India in T20s, just like they had done in the World T20 semi-final in Mumbai, was going to be a bigger motivation than their T20 ranking, which is third currently behind New Zealand and India.
“It (ranking) is motivation but I think, as in Mumbai, just to beat India because that’s always going to be the team to beat in T20 cricket because they’ve commanded the format for a long period. So winning against India is always going to be high on the agenda. Where we get after that, we are happy at that.
“The only thing that we are doing is that we will prepare as best as we can because India is going to be coming looking for revenge for the semi-final loss and we have to make sure that we are ready for whatever they bring to us.”
Simmons was also asked about the recent discussions the WICB held with the players during the WICB/WIPA Players’ Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and he barely commented on that, but sounded more excited about the coming matches at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill.
“I was there, and I’m happy that discussions were held,” he said. “It’s not about holding discussions; it’s about where you go from there. Let’s see where it takes us.
“This is an awesome stadium, awesome! Looking at the CPL, the wicket seemed to be very good too. So if the wicket is as good as it was in CPL in a stadium like this, we are in for a treat over the weekend.”