West Indies were always ‘team to beat’ in T20Is: Phil Simmons

Phil Simmons, the head coach of West Indies, said he is relieved that his team’s Twenty20 (T20) set-up consists of quite a few experienced players, which in turn ‘makes things easy’ for the think-tank to prepare for the upcoming T20 International series against India, commencing on August 27. In the recently-concluded Test series against India that the hosts lost 2-0, only Marlon Samuels had played over 50 Tests. However, the West Indies T20 team is strengthened by the inclusion of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Kieron Pollard.
“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 noted on Thursday (August 25) in Lauderhill. “So it gives me a chance to just enjoy them freeing themselves out there.”
Simmons also stated that West Indies have the required firepower and self belief to continue their dominance in T20s. He compared the defending T20 champions to the great West Indies Test sides of 1980s.
“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.”
Carlos Brathwaite, the Barbados all-rounder, will captain West Indies for the first time in the two-match T20I series. Despite the sturdy all-rounder having played just eight T20Is and 14 One-Day Internationals (ODIs), Simmons backed him to succeed.
He also said that Brathwaite was appointed as the captain in place of Darren Sammy as they were keen on building a team for the future.
“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 stated. “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.” The shortest format of the game is a familiar territory for many of the senior cricketers in the side. Incidentally, only Marlos Samuels, Brathwaite and Jason Holder of the players picked for the T20I games in Florida made it to the Test squad for the series against India.
Thus, Simmons said that it would be an ‘easy’ adjustment for West Indies to make for the eagerly awaited series. “Yeah, it could be a bit different, but I think there’s only three players here who played in that [Test] series,” Simmons said. “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.”
He also reckoned that the side consists of impact players, who can change the course of the game in a matter of minutes. He singled out Andre Russell and Sunil Narine as the key players in the side.
The Jamaican all-rounder has also been in prime form, having cracked a 44-ball century against Trinbago Knight Riders in the Qualifier 2 of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2016.
“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 and Tobago in the CPL and he has done well and adapted well. So I’d like the same from him.”
The current head coach of West Indies recollected fond memories of beating India in the World T20 semifinal in Mumbai and said that playing against top sides serves as a motivation to do well.
“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.”

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