After West Indies trained at the MCG on Wednesday, Phil Simmons was asked about the body language of his players so far on this tour. During the Hobart Test, hands were in pockets, intensity was lacking. David Warner observed that West Indies appeared to be just going through the motions. During their two-day game in Geelong at the weekend, Jerome Taylor was nearly hit by a ball at fine leg because he was facing the empty grandstand, not concentrating.
Simmons spent much of the press conference answering with body language of his own. There were looks of resignation and exasperation. There was the occasional shoulder slump, more than a few sighs, and wry smiles. This is the way coaching West Indies can make you feel. You can talk to the players till you’re blue in the face. In the end, it is up to them to bring to Test cricket the intensity required.
“Oh boy,” Simmons said when asked if he had spoken to the players about their poor body language. “We keep doing that every day. It’s part of it. Your body language always tells something to the other team. It’s something that especially Mr Ambrose [bowling consultant Curtly Ambrose] tries to preach to them. It’s part of the game and you need to show the other team you’re in this.”
Batting, bowling and fielding are, of course, the basics of the game, and Simmons was satisfied that his men had worked hard on their games since they lost inside three days in Hobart. But the big question is whether they can transfer that to the Boxing Day Test. After Australia plundered 75 runs in the first hour of the game, West Indies did their best to fight back with three quick wickets, but the tone had been set.
“That’s generally what happens with some oppositions, you sort of know how to try and take it to them,” Warner said. “We know the first session is crucial in every Test match. From our point of view it looked like they did go through the motions when we were batting on that day, when we batted big. But it’s a new game, it’s Boxing Day and we’re all fired up and ready to go.”
Are West Indies fired up? It is hard to tell. Simmons conceded that Warner’s comments were probably fair, but he insisted that the players had been stung by the criticisms of their approach during the Hobart Test.
“I think looking from outside it is a fair criticism, it looked like that,” Simmons said. “Of course it’s going to hurt. If it doesn’t hurt then something’s wrong. I know all the criticism we received before coming here has hurt. All I can hope is it pushes them as much as it pushes me to push them to do the work and pushes them to do well on the field.”
However, the indications during the two-day game in Geelong, against a modest Victorian XI, were not all positive. Most notable was the incident when batsman Jake Hancock hooked captain Jason Holder to fine leg, where Taylor was facing the wrong way and had to be alerted by his team-mates’ yells that a catch was coming his way.
“We did have a word with Jerome,” Simmons said. “Some things you have a word and then you leave it, because it’s not something that will be done over and over, it’s a mistake in that instance. We had a word with him about it.”
There was another resigned smile and sigh when Simmons was asked about the experienced Marlon Samuels, who appeared to be offering little assistance to the new captain, Holder, in the field during the Hobart Test. “We try to get to him and make sure that he knows he and young [Darren] Bravo are important parts of this batting line-up and the team itself,” Simmons said. “So we’ve done that.”
Simmons was full of praise for Holder who, at 24, is one of the younger members of the squad, but who faces the responsibility of lifting this West Indies outfit out of the mire in which it currently finds itself. Holder always presents himself well and sets a good example for his men, but there is only so much he can do alone.
“He knows there’s a lot of pressure from being West Indies captain and he’s taken it like a duck to water,” Simmons said. “He knows what he has to do, he speaks his mind to players when they don’t do what he expects them to do, which is what I expect from a captain, and he praises everybody when they do well. I think he has the right attributes and he’s coping with the pressure really well.”