Phil Simmons: Sri Lanka series first step to finalise ‘make-up of our team’ for T20 World Cup

West Indies
Phil Simmons keeps an eye on a West Indies training session © Raton Gomes/BCB

West Indies coach Phil Simmons feels that the key to success during the T20I series against Sri Lanka will be to adjust to the dimensions – one side smaller than the other – of Antigua’s Coolidge Cricket Ground as soon as possible. All three T20Is of the series will be played at the same venue, which is hosting international cricket for the first time.

Simmons is also looking at this series as a step to start firming up the squad for the T20 World Cup later this year.

“The key to winning the T20I series on this size of a ground is how we can limit their batsmen,” Simmons said. “There are two sides here, there is a big side and there is a small side. There is breeze. How early we access that and how we bowl to that is going to be the key because on these grounds we have batsmen right down the order who can hit the ball and we need ensure that we bowl well and we field well.”

“When it comes to July or maybe the beginning of August, maybe the Pakistan series, we (want to) know exactly what the combinations are that we need to take to the World Cup because we have a fair idea of how the Indian grounds are what we are taking there”

Phil Simmons

The series will also mark the return of Chris Gayle and Fidel Edwards to the West Indies squad. Gayle last played for West Indies in the home series against India after the 2019 World Cup, while Edwards’ last international appearance was a Test in Bangladesh in 2012.

Before being named in the squad for the Sri Lanka series, Gayle had scored 107 runs in two innings at a strike rate of 167.18 for the Quetta Gladiators in the ongoing PSL. Prior to that, his contribution – 288 runs at an average of 41.14 and a strike rate of 137.14 – in the IPL 2020 had helped the Kings XI Punjab revive their sagging campaign.

The 39-year-old Edwards, meanwhile, picked up nine wickets in as many games at an economy of 7.66 in CPL 2020, where the pitches were mostly spin-friendly.

“We see what Chris Gayle did in his last IPL stint,” Simmons said. “He shows that both with the bat and on the field, he looks fitter and feels better and he is still hitting the ball as we want to see him do it. We’ve seen Fidel in the last CPL and we have seen that he can still muster over 90mph with his searing yorkers, both at the top end and at the back end of the innings, so it is great to have the two of them with us.”

While West Indies will have the experience of Gayle and Edwards to draw from, the squad also includes two uncapped players: spin-bowling-allrounder Akeal Hosein and seamer Kevin Sinclair.

“Akeal showed his ability in Bangladesh and he’s put himself up for selection, and young Sinclair has shown in CPL what he can do with the ball and even in this last Super50 here. It is good to have the youngsters in and give them a chance to show us what they can do.

Chris Gayle’s inclusion in the XI had revitalised KXIP in IPL 2020 © BCCI

“I have no plans to rotate [players] as such. We are going to pick the best XI for each game and then we’ll see how things work out. It’s a case of also trying to win games and win series, so we play it as we see it.”

One reason for going with the best XI could be the upcoming T20 World Cup in India. “We need to start seeing how the make-up of our team goes,” Simmons said. “We need to make sure people are able to do the job that we want them to do, whether it is at the top of the batting order, the middle, or the end. And it is the same with the bowling. We’ve got to identify as soon as possible who’s going to bowl our new ball and who’s going to bowl at the death and so it starts from now.

“So by the time we are playing Australia in some T20s in July, we must know who is our final 15 or 16 to go to the World Cup.”

West Indies have named four openers in their 14-member T20I squad. Apart from Gayle, they have Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis and Andre Fletcher, and Simmons expects them to be flexible about their batting positions.

“The batting, when we get to the game, for me there is no set position. People have got to learn to do what they have to do for the team wherever they are asked to do it and that is what these guys are prepared to do,” he said. “We are trying to make sure that our combinations, as I said when it comes to July or maybe the beginning of August, maybe the Pakistan series, we know exactly what the combinations are that we need to take to the World Cup because we have a fair idea of how the Indian grounds are what we are taking there.”

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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