India, NZ tour a tough duo - Gibson
Ottis Gibson, the West Indies head coach, believes the impromptu India series will be the most stern test for his team's progress since their T20 World Cup title in Sri Lanka. Gibson admitted that he was eager for the India Tests after many pundits failed to rate the West Indies Test victories over Zimbabwe and Bangladesh as noteworthy.
"If you look at the last six Tests we played, we won them. It's been good progress but I know people aren't considering them as big wins," Gibson said. "Against India however, we can really gauge the progress. I'd never discount wins against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh though because they are upcoming and talented but India will be an immense challenge and we're looking forward to it."
He alluded to Chris Gayle as a key factor for the upcoming series as he feels the team is stronger, especially with players like Sunil Narine garnering more experience. The IPL has also bred familiarity for his players on India pitches, which he hoped would boost their chances. "We were in India a couple of years ago and played good cricket, but didn't win. Now the team dynamic is different, and with Gayle back, we'll give a tougher run.
"Then, against New Zealand, we'll be looking to move to number five in the Test rankings as that's our aim. I want to put some distance between us and them but they gave England a tough time in the Tests, so it won't be easy. India into New Zealand is a tough duo to tour."
Gibson stated that while they weren't expecting the India series, he was confident they would be sufficiently prepared with a fitness testing at month's end and a small training camp prior to departure in October. With New Zealand looming after and a January return home for his charges, Gibson did add that rest was needed, as well as family downtime, for his players.
"It's a challenge. We were preparing for New Zealand and now everything gets fast-forwarded for the India series. It just sprung up and the guys will spend a long time away from home. We have to get the balance right, but we're preparing to get the cricket aspects right first. I'd like my players to have their family time, so we'll sort this out."
Gibson also warned that the T20 laurels needed to be put to bed for the time being to focus on the other formats. "Test cricket is getting exciting. We can't forget about the T20 World Cup defense but we need to park it for now as it's a little bit away. We'll defend that because we believe we have the best T20 players in the world. Once we keep the same core and mentality from the last World Cup, we'll repeat in Bangladesh."
He was more critical of their ODI performances and added that the selectors were moving closer to formulating a core 15 for the 2015 World Cup in Australia. "We know our ODI team is hit and miss at the moment so we, and the selectors, are concerned. We've changed leaders and we have time to prep for 2015. In the next six to twelve months, we'll assess and have a core unit. We have world-class players for various situations so we'll see how it goes."
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here