Mumbai: The defiant performance of the Windies team in the ongoing ODI series against the No 2 side in the world, India, has come as a breath of fresh air for Caribbean cricket after a prolonged period of gloom.
In fact, they were handed a crushing 2-0 defeat in the two-match Test series by India before the 50-over series began. The result wasn’t a surprise but the disappointing part was how the team capitulated inside three days in both the Tests without putting up much fight.
Victories against higher-ranked teams have become a rarity for the giants of the sport, who dominated the world of cricket in the 1980s and 90s.
They won a Test against England in England in 2017 and defeated Pakistan in a Test in Sharjah in 2016, but the team hasn’t had a sustained period of success.
Their only two Test series wins in last four years have come at home against lesser-fancied Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. They last won an ODI series in 2014 against Bangladesh.
Former Windies head coach and ESPNcricinfo expert Phil Simmons feels the structure of cricket in the Caribbean needs a shake-up to bring back the glory days.
“They are going one step forward and two step backward. They did fairly well in England a year back and a couple of years ago against Pakistan and when we thought things are improving, it totally went downhill,” said Simmons in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.
“The whole structure of cricket needs to be dealt with and needs to be put in place to so that you get players to play Test cricket at home and abroad. Because abroad it’s not the same as playing at home.”
Talking about the changes required in Caribbean cricket in order to produce more quality cricketers, Simmons said, “We have to go back to preparation, to basic skill and see what is happening in the Caribbean, practice-wise, coaching-wise. When you come back, somebody needs to tell you next time when you face India, what is that you need. The coaching in the Caribbean needs to up-skilled and improved.”
Simmons added that there is no dearth of talent in the Caribbean, but the players need proper coaching and more consistency to perform better at the international level.
“At 19 and 20, we have talented players but the important thing is where to do we go from there? How do we develop the art of batting in a Test match because that comes from a four-day match. You need to look at the quality of bowling in domestic cricket, you need to see how many hundred and double hundreds are being made in domestic cricket. Because a double hundred only means 30-40 runs in Test cricket because of the difference in the quality of bowling in domestic cricket. So you, as a batsman, need to make constantly a fifty and a hundred in domestic cricket.”
Simmons was removed from his role as Windies coach in 2016 due to “differences in culture and strategic approach” with the board.
The shambolic Test performance against India was followed by calls of removing Jason Holder as the Test captain. The 26-year-old assumed captaincy in 2015 and Simmons feels before taking any decision Windies cricket needs to find the right alternative and back him to the hilt.
“Last few series, he (Holder) has not done well. He has been good as a player but his captaincy has not been good and people are looking at the results and saying that the results have not been good so the captain has to go. Which is how life is. But you have to ask the question, if he goes, who in that team is going to be your next captain? Who is going to lead the team forward?
“We had a situation like that in 1974 in Windies, when Clive Lloyd was made the captain. There was a situation in South Africa when a young Graeme Smith was made the captain. And those two captains did well. So, if you are going to decide that Holder needs to be relieved of captaincy, then you have to know who’s going to take over and you have to back him until he gets to where he wanted to be,” Simmons added.
The former Windies all-rounder, however, also opined that a captain is only as good as his team.
“It’s difficult to captain when you don’t have the quality that you need in the team. And you watch in the last couple of series before India, that bowling hasn’t been bad. They went to New Zealand, the bowling was okay but the batting struggled. If you don’t have runs on the board then you are on the back foot and most of the games that Holder has captained in, he never had runs on the board so that he can put the opposition under pressure. You need to consider that when you have to judge his captaincy,” Simmons said.