The full reign of West Indies head coach Philip Verant Simmons starts in real earnest next month with the West Indies tour to Sri Lanka, followed later by another to still wounded Australia which had been so dumfounded and discombobulated by England recently. Recently, Sri Lanka has held its own well against India, another of the “Big Three”. Australia, with retirements and refurbishments after embarrassments in England, will want to show that its last English tour was just a sour blip.
The big WI question would be to ascertain if the WI head coach position is indeed the poisoned chalice as has been suggested by many in the past, some even lamenting that “WI cricketers are un-coachable.” That simply cannot be true.
WI’s team to Sri Lanka has been named, the most obvious change and massive surprise being that recent captain Denesh Ramdin has been demoted to being just player, wicket-keeper and tourist, while Jason Holder, justly, with visages of WI’s future, has been elevated to Test captain.
Veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul has also justly been omitted, as has, somewhat unluckily, left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul. Their Guyanese counterpart, right-arm leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo got the nod. Newcomer, Barbados’ Jomel Warrican, is preferred to Permaul to provide contrasting left-arm orthodoxy, these selections being gambles worth taking right now.
As head of WI dressing rooms for the first time, Simmons would have recently seen how his charges performed while playing England to a 1-1 Test series tie and a 2-0 drubbing by Australia. He must know by now how he plans to bring out his players’ best endeavours.
Simmons must also acknowledge that his job will not be easy and that all hopeful WI supporters at home or in the diaspora would be viewing, reviewing, questioning his every move, selection, injection and overall man and match management skills.
But “Simmo” is nobody’s fool. He is definitely, maybe uniquely, in the right place at the right time, with his vast playing experiences for WI and other entities including T&T and Leicestershire in UK, and his highly successful coaching stints in Zimbabwe and especially Ireland. As regards the latter, he might even be considered “St Philip”!
Phil’s biggest obstacle would not be his actual input, but as to whether his charges would be able to fully comprehend his stated objectives, thus bringing their determination and abilities on-line to be fully tested, assimilated and actioned by his directives. That will not be easy.
The jury is still out as to if last head coach Ottis Gibson’s abilities allowed for his players to be the best that they could have been. Sometimes joints and patches just do not match. Since returning to the English fold as bowling coach, a position he had held previously with spectacular successes, Gibson’s more recent disciples, including very experienced bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who bowled out of their skins against Australia, have shone as never before to help beat the Aussies. Gibson must be doing something right there!
Before Simmons, Gibson was only the most recent of a long line of coaches who seemed incapable of ensuring that WI not only played well but won consistently, even dominate. Since 1995, when WI lost its Test crown to Australia, WI has had many illustrious, supposedly competent personnel in that head coach position. Clive Lloyd, (Sir) Vivian Richards, Roger Harper, Gus Logie, Bennet King and John Dyson are just a few of many.
Yet, if anything, WI’s fall has been transformed from being just gradual to being precipitous, almost vertically downwards. Something has to change!
One must believe and expect that anyone who plays for WI teams wants to do well, if only for personal aggrandizement. Therefore, it could have been that, overall, WI players could not comprehend Gibson’s methods or execute his wishes or both, as their collective results left very much to be desired, Gibson being considered a dismal failure overall. Simmons has several younger, budding players, others experienced but not as influential with bat or ball to date as has been expected, and some older heads too to manage.
That mix, combined with correct amounts of confidence, determination, guile, planning and execution, while maximising abilities, could create continuous winners for a region starved of success, many having forgotten how it feels to rule the roost of any form of international cricket.
Team veterans Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Marlon Samuels, Devendra Bishoo, Denesh Ramdin and Darren Bravo must provide much needed leadership and universal stability. Young, exciting, astute new captain Jason Holder, Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite and Shannon Gabriel have abilities to perform well beyond the call of duty, even if their experiences are still somewhat limited.
Shai Hope, Shane Dowrich, Carlos Brathwaite, Rajindra Chandrika and newcomer Jomel Warrican must not only learn and absorb as much as they could, but also understand that they have responsibilities of carrying the future of WI cricket on their young, inexperienced shoulders. But still the catalyst for whatever success WI may hope for in Sri Lanka, before that later tour of Australia, must be head coach Phil Simmons, whose ambitions must now be enhanced. Enjoy!