West Indies men's coach Phil Simmons is relying on his team's "enthusiasm and hunger" to overcome "clear favourites" Bangladesh in the ODI series starting next week. Several top West indies players opted out of the tour, their third since the resumption of cricket after the Covid-19 pandemic's onset. They have been replaced by nine uncapped cricketers in the 15-man ODI squad.
Simmons said that West Indies are aiming for a series win over a side that has beaten them in the last two bilateral series, played two years ago, and one that has won eight out of their last ten bilateral ODI series at home. For Bangladesh, Shakib Al Hasan returns after completing his ICC-mandated suspension last year. They also have in the mix Tamim Iqbal, who was appointed ODI captain and Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah, two of their most experienced players.
"Bangladesh is clearly favourites because they play well at home," Simmons said. "We can't argue with that. Sometimes experience plays a part but sometimes enthusiasm and hunger trumps experience. We do have a few experienced players. We left the Caribbean with the aim to win the ODI series. You might say that we don't have our full team, but at the same time we have a team here which is hungry, wants to do well, and eager to play, fight and scrap in these conditions."
Simmons didn't want to comment on the players who have pulled out. However, he had a clear message for those who are on this tour, particularly the younger ones from whom he expects performance and positive attitude, with one eye on the ODI World Cup Super League.
"It is the tournament to qualify for the [2023 ODI] World Cup, so it's a start. My rule and message to all the players here is that you are not here to fill in. You are here to give yourself a chance. You have a chance now to seal your place in the team," he said. "If you do well here, it augers well for you moving forward. You come here and do well in the three ODIs and two Tests, you are putting yourself in a place from where nobody can move you. Only you have the opportunity."
Simmons said that with a busy schedule coming up for West Indies over the rest of the year, particularly at home where they are slated to face Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and South Africa, the upcoming series against Bangladesh is a good chance to audition for an extended run with the side.
"When we went to England, we carried 25 players. We have seen couple of young players including the two that made their debut in New Zealand, come through from that. We have seen a few of the other young players that we know on this tour that we didn't know before. This opens up the pool," he said. "Some of the places are in the players' hands. If they do well here, they can put themselves in line to play most of these series coming up."
Simmons, however, said that they are not yet fully sure of who would slot into the playing XI come January 20, and that the final decision would depend largely on what they see at training, from January 14, including their solitary practice match on January 18.
"I think nine out of ten it will be on what we see as we go along. I think originally you will have somebody like the captain in the middle or late middle order and we will work out how we balance the team around him," he said. "I think we are here with a balanced team. We have three spinners and three fast bowlers. We have a seaming allrounder. We have balance all around. The decision on whether we go with three fast bowlers and two spinners, or two fast bowlers and three spinners, hasn't been made yet."
One of the interesting aspects of West Indies' ODI squad is the likely combination of newcomer Akeal Hosein, a left-arm orthodox spinner who starred in Trinbago Knight Riders' CPL 2020 triumph last year, and legspinner Hayden Walsh.
"Akeal has done well. He has played for Trinidad for a number of years now, but he has done well recently in the CPL. We saw what he can do in the Powerplay and latter part of the innings. He is also a brilliant fieldsman and hold his own with the bat. He is an allround cricketer. We hope he can settle and maybe form a partnership with Hayden," Simmons said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84