West Indies opener Evin Lewis has admitted it was hurtful to miss out on playing for the squad due to fitness concerns and reveals he took steps to ensure the incident did not repeat itself.

The 29-year-old was surprisingly left out of the squad last February, ahead of the team’s tour of Sri Lanka, after failing to meet Cricket West Indies' minimum fitness requirements.  Later in the year, the player turned down the opportunity to tour New Zealand citing injury and safety concerns.

A few months later, however, and Lewis has emerged from his time off in solid form.  The opener’s century, his fourth in One Day International (ODI cricket), against Sri Lanka in the second ODI, and blossoming partnership with left-hander Shai Hope was one of the highlights in a series which the West Indies dominated.

“I’ve been doing a lot of gym work and running. Due to the last (CWI) fitness test, before this series, I failed it. It hurt, to be doing so well and knowing my fitness was the problem,” Lewis told members of the media via a Zoom press conference.

“So, I went back home and did a lot of running and a lot of gym… Straight down until after the Bangladesh series, I’ve been training hard. I’m hungrier for it (WI selection) right now,” he said.

Ahead of the Sri Lanka series batsmen Shimron and all-rounder Roston Chase, along with pace bowlers  Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas all failed to meet the minimum fitness requirement for selection.  Chase and Hetmyer later passed the tests.

 

Former West Indies wicketkeeper and noted administrator, Jackie Hendriks, has expressed surprise at the selection of veteran batsman Chris Gayle for the T20 series against Sri Lanka, indicating he believes the batsman could be past it at this point.

The selection of the veteran pair of Gayle and fast bowler Fidel Edwards sparked heated discussions around the region, with some insisting that the players should have been overlooked for younger talent.  The 41-year-old Gayle was recalled to the regional squad for the first time in two years, along with the 39-year-old Edwards, who had not played for the team since 2012.

Neither player had a particularly strong series but have been playing in T20 leagues around the globe since last year, Gayle notably having a strong showing at the Indian Premier League (IPL), while Edwards showed up well for the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament.  For the Sri Lanka series, Gayle averaged 9 over three matches, with a high score of 16 in the second T20 match.  Edwards, in the meantime, took one wicket over the first two games but did not play the third.

Hendriks, while expressing confidence in the regional selectors, admits he was somewhat taken aback by both selections.

 “I was a little surprised that Chris was brought into the team at this stage,” said Hendriks, a former Jamaica Cricket Association president, told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“I wondered what the reason was but of course he has been a tremendous player over the years but it’s just his age in life I was a little surprised,” he added.

“I don’t know what things went on in their minds. I don’t know. I certainly would’ve thought he was a little past it at this stage and having youngsters around, I would’ve gone for them. But of course, selectors are on the spot and they know what they’re doing. “[Edwards was] another question mark in my books. I would’ve thought that was a little stretch but again, the selectors must’ve had some good reason for that.”

West Indies bowling coach, Roddy Estwick, insists the team must do more than just occupy the crease if it is to be successful against Sri Lanka in the upcoming series and in One Day Internal cricket overall.

Conventional wisdom has at times suggested that a team’s best chance of doing well in the format is for batsmen to spend as much time out in the middle as possible.  With ball change rules, shorter boundaries, better bats, and more attacking-minded batsmen ODI scores in the last decade and a half have risen steadily.  Scores in the region of 350 have become more commonplace.  In fact, the top five highest scores in ODI cricket have all come in the last 14 years.

As such, Estwick points out that just occupying the crease will not be enough and the team must find a way to score runs.

“It’s hard to say you are going to bat time, you still need to make sure you get around 300 runs.  We can’t just say we will sit back and bat time,” Estwick told members of the media via a Zoom press conference call on Tuesday.

“We got to come up with better game plans, we have to execute better.  You know that you have a certain strike rate and certain runs per over to go at in ODI cricket,” he added.

“To be safe these days you have to make around 340, 350.  It might not be that much in this series but remember we are preparing for 2023 that is when the World Cup is.”

West Indies coach, Phil Simmons, believes batsmen must avoid the temptation of being too tentative in looking to navigate the Sri Lanka spin attack, as the team looks to bounce back in the third and decisive T20 international, on Sunday.

The Windies took the opening match of the series with a comfortable four-wicket win, with 41 balls remaining.  On Friday, however, Sri Lanka came roaring back to claim the second match after a star performance from the team’s spinners.

Lakshan Sandakan and Wanidu Hasaranga proved particularly hard to negotiate, each claiming three wickets, with Sandakan boasting a miserly economy rate of 2.73.  In pursuit of Sri Lanka’s 160 for 6, the Windies were restricted before being bundled out of 116.  Things had not gone smoothly against the spin in the first match, despite the result, with Akila Danajaya claiming a four-for, including a third over hat-trick before being taken apart by Windies captain Kieron Pollard who smashed 6 sixes off his over.  The coach believes a similar approach could pay dividends in the decider.

“The key is playing them in the right way.  You can’t be too tentative when you are playing against good spinners,” Simmons told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Saturday.

“We have to still go out there and look to score against them and playing cricket how we know how to play cricket,” he added.

“All the guys who played IPL would have played against these spinners or even better spinners and done well, so that is what we have to make sure we do tomorrow.”

West Indies captain, Kieron Pollard, insists he is not surprised by a fierce response from Sri Lanka as the tourist levelled the T20 series at 1-1 following a 43-run win on Friday night.

After setting a fair target of 160 for 6, the Sri Lanka spinners, led by Lakshan Sandakan and Wanindu Hasaranga, spun a restrictive web that eventually had the Windies all out for 117.

On Tuesday, chasing a smaller target, the Windies had been able to smash through thanks in large part to a fierce 38 from Pollard.  This time, however, it was the Sri Lanka spinners who took centre stage.  Particularly Hasaranga, who accounted for Gayle and Simmons, in his 3 for 17, Sandakan accounted for Pollard.

The captain, however, had special commendation for the bowling unit who restricted Sri Lanka late in the innings after a fast start.  Danushka Gunathilaka, who top-scored with 56, partnered with Pathum Nissanka to put on a blistering 94 off the first 10 overs.

“If you told us we were going to bowl them out for 160 today, we would have taken that.  I just know that we did not assess the situation quickly and we had a couple of soft dismissals," Pollard said following the match.

“They got off to a flyer and scored 90 odd in the first 10 overs, but these things happen.  You don’t expect them to come and lie down and just roll over.  I thought the guys came back in the last 10 overs and really executed with the yorkers and slower balls, using the dimensions of the pitch and the ground,” he added.

 

Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga led a withering spin attack which left the West Indies scratching their heads as the host pulled level with a 43-run win in the second T20 international on Friday.

Batting first, anchored by a resilient half-century from Danushka Gunathilaka (56), the Sri Lankans posted a creditable 160 for 6 after winning the toss and choosing to bat first.  Gunathilaka and Pathum Nissanka put on a blistering 94 off the first 10 overs.

In response, the Windies were also off to a strong start at 45-1 before losing five wickets for just 21 runs.

 Chris Gayle, who made a first-ball duck on Wednesday in his first appearance in two years, didn’t comfortable in making 16 before falling to a catch by Ashen Bandara off Hasaranga.

Opener Lendl Simmons (21) was next out, lbw failing to pick a Hasaranga googly.

 Nicholas Pooran, Jason Holder, and Dwayne Bravo all followed quickly for single-figure scores.

Hasaranga ended with 3-17, off-break bowler Akila Dananjaya, who was the victim of Kieron Pollard's midweek assault claimed 1-13.  Wrist spinner Lakshan Sandakan took 3-10, including accounting for Pollard who made just 13.

Dananjaya earlier accounted for Evin Lewis who made six.  Hasaranga added Fabian Allan to his list of victims with the West Indies then struggling on 89-7 in the 16th over.

With more than 22 an over required, Sandakan then got the wicket of Pollard, who was caught in the deep for just 13 having surprisingly opted to bat at number seven.

The final match of the series is on Sunday.

 

Former West Indies opener turned pundit, Philo Wallace, believes the poor performance of the Barbados Pride in the recent regional Super50 tournament provides even more evidence that selectors should stick with Kraigg Brathwaite as captain for the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka, as Jason Holder has ‘lost the art of captaincy.’  

Brathwaite received plenty of plaudits for leading an understrength Windies squad to an unexpected 2-0 Test victory in Bangladesh earlier this year.  Brathwaite, who had been axed as vice-captain the series before, was put in charge of the squad after regular captain Holder was one of 12 players to opt-out of the tour after citing health and safety concerns.

Since then, the debate has raged fiercely on both sides regarding whether the panel of selectors should return Holder to his original position or stick with the momentum achieved by Brathwaite in the unexpected win.  Wallace falls firmly in the camp supporting the latter.

“I believe that there is a shift with what Brathwaite did in Bangladesh, something happened in Bangladesh that brought a 2-0 victory for the West Indies and 2-0 defeat for Bangladesh at home,” Wallace told the Mason and Guest radio program.

“Kraigg Brathwaite and that management team did something right.  The head coach said he saw a difference in attitude.  He saw a different type of vibe with the guys.  Are we going to kill that vibe as we return to Antigua? Or are we going to rekindle that vibe and take it into the Sri Lanka series,” he added.

“Jason has lost the art of captaincy.  There are no tactical moves.  We just saw a Super50 competition he captained six games and we lost 5.  We had a team 87 for 8 and we could not crush them.  The captain who is 6ft 6’ could not take up the ball and bowl three devastating yorkers and bowl out the team for under 120.  That is what we call leadership, you take it up and you do it yourself.”

 

West Indies T20 captain, Kieron Pollard, insists the team will resist the impulse to chop and change without giving players enough opportunity to showcase their ability.

The regional team ending up beating Sri Lanka in the first T20 by a fairly comfortable margin, in the end, but things did not always look so straightforward.  Overall, a few of the players did not have the expected impact straight out of the gate for the Windies.  This was particularly the case with the batting line-up where three players, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran and Fabian Allen were dismissed for ducks.

In pursuit of the modest target of 131 for 9, the Windies were rocked in the third over by an Akila Dananjaya spell, which saw the dismissal of Evin Lewis, Gayle, and Pooran.  Gayle was batting in the unfamiliar third spot, which worked well during this season’s IPL campaign.

Pollard is adamant he is, however, in no hurry to change things around, particularly after one game.  In fact, he believes the practice is one that has hurt the team in the past.

“If we are honest with ourselves, that’s one of the problems that has plagued us over the years, the constant chopping and changing when things don’t go right after one or two games,” Pollard told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Thursday.

“We don’t expect miracles from people.  Sometimes you have to give them a chance and opportunities to fulfil what they are trying to achieve and after a period of time you can make a judgment call,” he added.

“After one game I don’t think we are even thinking of doing any changes or anything like that.  We need to get away from the fact that if a guy doesn’t perform, not exclusively using Chris for example, but any individual that has played one or two games, thinking they are not good enough and just be looking to discard them."

West Indies T20 captain, Kieron Pollard, hailed the role of the team’s experienced players in a four-wicket win over Sri Lanka, in the opening game of the three-match series on Wednesday.

In the end, the West Indies coasted to the line, in fairly comfortable fashion, with some 41 balls left, but at times the result had not always seemed like a foregone conclusion. 

With the ball, the team put in a dominant performance and restricted Sri Lanka to 131 for 9 at the end of 20 overs.  In response, things also got off to a flyer with openers Evin Lewis (28) and Lendl Simmons (18) putting on 52 for the first wicket.  However, following the dismissal of Lewis, by Akila Dananjaya, in the third over, the team found itself in a real instance of concern with a flurry of lost wickets.  Dananjaya took a sensational hat-trick removing big hitters Chris Gayle and Nicholas Pooran for ducks.  Simmons departed the very next over to leave the West Indies struggling at 62 for 4.  /a captain’s innings from Pollard (38), which included a savage 6 sixes off Dananjaya, however, went a long way to restoring the situation.  Jason Holder, who added a resilient, unbeaten 29 from 24 balls, safely carried the team over the line following Pollard's dismissal. 

“The objective was to win the game and we did that, obviously there’s a couple of kinks to iron out, we have not played T20 cricket in a while. We had a couple of guys coming back into the set-up as well so we’ll take the win and have discussions about how we want to continue playing," Pollard said.

“In terms of the batting collapse we have had, we have seen that but what is good is that this time around we got over the line with the experienced guys like Jason, using all his Test experience, Bravo using his experience as well.  Having said that, well done to the openers for the start that they gave us, so we were able to cruise on the back end.”

 

 

West Indies T20 captain, Kieron Pollard, believes the team's current mix of youth and experience is an ideal balance and should be a blueprint going forward.

With the return of veteran batsman Chris Gayle and pace bowler Fidel Edwards, along with the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Jason Holder, and Pollard himself, to call upon, the West Indies has plenty of firepower to begin the series against Sri Lanka and build-up to the ICC World Cup, which will be held in India, in October.

With many of the above players forming parts of World Cup-winning teams, in the case of Simmons, Bravo, and Gayle on multiple occasions, the team has an unrivaled amount of title-winning know-how.

Added to the firepower of a younger generation, led by the likes of the explosive Nicholas Pooran, Fabian Allen, and Andre Fletcher the two-time World Champions could have the perfect ingredients for another powder keg.  With Gayle being the oldest members of the squad to face Sri Lanka, at 41, and Kevin Sinclair the youngest at 21, the average age of the squad is around 30.

“We’re excited to have certain individuals back.  We excited as well to have the younger players trying to get an opportunity as well.  I think the way to go forward is having that sort of mix,” Pollard told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

“In the team, we have youth and experience.  The youthful guys can learn from the experienced guys.  These are some of the things that have been missing throughout, from 2016 till now, can we say we have put out our best T20 team to go to any series or anything like that.  There was always different things happening in the midst of it.”

West Indies star batsman, Chris Gayle, has admitted he contemplated retirement from international cricket but could not turn down the call to don the colours of the regional team once again.

Gayle, now 41, had initially announced his intention to retire following the 2019 ICC World Cup.  The player then targeted the One Day International series against India, shortly after the World Cup, as possibly his final hurrah.  Following a standing ovation received following the series, the batsman seemed to have a change of heart.

Two years later, however, the batsman has found himself in fine form and, on the back of an outstanding IPL campaign for Punjab Kings, could once again prove a major force for the West Indies with the ICC World T20 tournament on the horizon.  As such, the player was recalled to the T20 squad as the team begins a series of matches that will lead up to defending its title in India.

“Back then I thought about actually walking away from the game and people said, no, don’t do it, stay and play for as long as possible.  I decided I would actually continue playing the game of cricket,” Gayle told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

“I wasn’t looking down this road.  I thought of playing franchise cricket and exploiting my talent to entertain the people as much as possible.  When I got the call and they asked if I was willing and interested, I said yes. Once I’m playing for the West Indies that’s where my heart is.  I’m never going to turn down anything pertaining to West Indies cricket,” he added.

“I decided I was full-on, I was actually in a tournament and they said ‘you know Chris this is the structure we have in place, so we need you to be a part of it, we need you to fit into what is basically set for the team, so I basically agreed to it.  I came back from Pakistan to be part of the set-up leading into the World Cup.”   

West Indies T20 captain, Kieron Pollard, has pointed to the fact that the senior players recalled to the team have consistently proven their value with high-level performances, which has not always been the case with younger players who got the opportunity.

The recent recall of veteran players Chris Gayle and Fidel Edwards, who are 41 and 39, respectively, caused consternation in some quarters.  Some argue the selection of such senior players may have taken opportunities away from younger players looking to secure places in the World Cup squad.

Pollard, however, insists that several players have been given an opportunity in recent years and have failed to consistently provide what the team has needed.  With the reigning World Champions currently ranked at 10th in the ICC rankings and the World Cup just a few months away, Pollard believes it’s time to prioritise winning games.

“Some of the guys have gotten opportunities when we started off in 2019, I believe, and it hasn’t produced the results that we might have wanted on a consistent basis.  Guys were still in and out for non-cricketing reasons and stuff like that,” Pollard told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.

“These guys (Gayle and Edwards) continue to perform despite their age and one thing that has been said throughout is that the door is open to each and every individual, once you show that you can perform at the highest level,” he added.

“We need to start winning cricket matches, we need to win series…so we have to strike a balance.  We are the defending champions of the T20 World Cup and we have to get into that winning habit.  If it’s the case that we have a couple of extra senior guys to start that process, so be it.”

 

 

 

West Indies talismanic batsman, Chris Gayle, has stressed the massive importance of talented players like Shimron Hetmyer to the regional set-up and vowed to speak to the young batsman regarding staying focused on achieving his full potential.

The 24-year-old Hetmyer will miss the upcoming T20 and One Day International (ODI) matches against Sri Lanka after disqualifying himself from selection because of a failed fitness test.  The player, who recently took part in the Regional Super50 competition, will return to the team for the Test squad after subsequently passing another fitness test, along with Roston Chase.

Of concern, however, is the fact that Hetmyer also failed a fitness test administered at around the same time last year and a result missed out on some matches of an away series to the same opponents.

“It’s very unfortunate that he is out of the squad for fitness reasons but there is a protocol and things put in place.  It is beyond my control but it is up to him if he really wants to represent the West Indies and to really help West Indies cricket because he is such a talent,” Gayle told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Monday.

“West Indies cricket needs that type of talent, it’s just unfortunate and hopefully things work out and these guys take it seriously.  These guys are the future.  A guy like Hetmyer, with his talent, he is the future.  We need him, we definitely need his talent,” he added.

“We don’t want to lose such a talent, so if I see Hetmyer I will try and have a talk with him.  I’ve spoken to him before and I will do so if I get the chance again.”

 

When Joshua Da Silva dedicated his 92-run match-winning knock in Bangladesh to Andrea Bharratt, Ashanti Riley and other Trinidadian women who have been victims of violence, he did so in part because a recent horrifying incident made the matter personal.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) Director of Cricket, Jimmy Adams, has reiterated the fact that special consideration is given to players who could have physiological limitations or chronic conditions when fitness assessment tests or conducted, as is often the case in standard international practice.

In the light of the omission of batsman Shimron Hetmyer from the West Indies squad, ahead of the tour of Sri Lanka, based on the player failing to meet the requisite fitness standards, critics have pointed fingers towards other members of the team they doubt are able to meet the requirements.

While a few expressed doubts about legendary batsman Chris Gayle’s fitness level, the majority pointed to the continued inclusion of Rahkeem Cornwall.  The off-spinner is listed as 6’ 7” and 308 pounds but has performed creditably for the West Indies on a few occasions, most recently against Bangladesh.

“As is best practice around the world, there are going to be times when players for different reasons might be unable or incapable of achieving minimum standards either across the whole battery of tests or certain aspects of it,” Adams told members of the media via a Zoom press conference call.

“There are exemptions that are given to these players and the four main areas that are considered for these exemptions would be the player’s age, individual physiological limitations, their injury history, and also their training history.  This is standard across many high-performance environments and we are no different,” he added.

“There are quite a few players that have been exempted under one of these four headings and it is something that I think maintains robustness about the situation.  If I go back and look at an Indian spinner in the 70s who had a withered arm, if he were to have an upper-body strength test he would not be able to complete that test and therefore in that area he would have to have an exemption,” Adams said.

“It is there ensuring that we do not discriminate against players that have issues, injuries, long-standing chronic things that might prevent them from completing some of these tests.”

 

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