Gap between Test and domestic quality causing inconsistency - Simmons

Phil Simmons, the West Indies head coach, has expressed concern over the up-and-down nature of the team's performances over the course of the Test series against India

Phil Simmons, the West Indies head coach, has expressed concern over the "up-and-down" nature of the team's performances over the course of the Test series against India, and believes the inconsistency may have something to do with the quality gap between Test cricket and the region's domestic cricket.
"I think the series was a little bit too up-and-down," Simmons said. "We played well across maybe two hours, three hours sometimes, and the next two hours we would be down. And I think that was, for me, the major disappointment. We've shown that we can do things but not consistently enough. We batted well in Jamaica, but we went and did the same things we did in the first Test [again] in the third Test. It's disappointing that we weren't consistent enough."
Simmons said some of the West Indies batsmen might need to tighten up their techniques to be more consistent at Test level, but said the process should be happening in domestic cricket.
"I think in some cases you have to adjust techniques, which is a sad thing because it's something that we should be doing at a level below," Simmons said. "I think the same thing with mentality because when we come up here it's a lot harder to get runs and get wickets. I think at our domestic level it's a lot easier, that patience and that time at the crease and things, if we bat two sessions in a domestic game a lot of the guys playing here would have a hundred or more. But if you bat two sessions here, it might be 60 or 70, so the patience at the domestic level is not tested as much as up here."
Calling for a unified approach to lifting the standard of cricket, Simmons wanted the coaching staff of the Test team to meet the coaches of the domestic teams regularly.
"There's a lot of things that I have asked for, and it's not coming to fruition," he said. "I've asked for coaches to meet twice, maybe three times a year, and discuss cricket and so on. We need to make sure that whatever we're doing upstairs is going down to everybody.
"You and me might be two coaches and might coach differently but the same objective we have to have. If we don't have the same objective, then we spin it up in muddles. I think that's lacking. It's quite a few things to be fixed, but at the end of the day the quality of cricket that is downstairs is not good enough for the maturity of the players to be quicker."
Other measures, he said, would include improving the facilities all around the region.
"Things like our pitches and our practice facilities need to be better, a lot better, in order to produce players, not just fast bowlers as we're lacking now, but batsmen, because the better the pitches the better batsmen show themselves. Little things like that we need to put in place. The gap between [Test cricket] and our cricket needs to be filled, whether it can be done with an academy, which we don't have right now, A-team cricket, which we have one [series] a year, we should have two to three a year. Something has to be done to fill that gap, you know? We're missing a few things."
Only 22 overs of play were possible over the five days of the fourth Test at Queen's Park Oval, and there was no play on the last four days despite the ground receiving plenty of sunshine in that time. Simmons said he could not put his finger on why the outfield failed to dry sufficiently to allow play.
"Extremely surprised, because, as far as I know, in my years here, this has never been a ground like that," he said. "I don't know what is the position is over on the other side [the ground officials], but it was really bad and after two days of sun, and when I saw it yesterday morning, I couldn't believe how bad it was. I don't know what the position is there and what caused that, but I'm surprised and I never expected that here."
West Indies' next Test assignment is a tour of the UAE to play Pakistan, who were recently crowned the No. 1 Test team in the world. Simmons said it was important for the Test players to get some rest after the series against India, but hoped they would have adequate preparation ahead of the Tests in the UAE.
"I don't know about [whether we need an] extended camp because you just played four Test matches, well three-and-a-quarter Test matches, back-to-back, and we underestimate the power of rest after Test matches, but we also have two T20s [against India in Florida]. We also have a one-day squad and T20 squad for the first part of the Pakistan series.
"So from the point of view of being together, we're trying to get the Test team to the UAE early enough, so that we can have enough practice time before the first two-day game. And this is something that I keep trying to get when we go on tour because I think it's harder on tour. If we get two, sometimes three practice games before the first Test match, then that would be ideal.
"Some places we can't get it, but we have to keep trying to get that because we see that we improve [with warm-up games]. On the other side, it's a case of us trying not to slack off now as players and coaches, and make sure that players continue to do what we've been doing over the last two weeks, with their technique and temperament and everything like that."
One positive for West Indies from the Tests against India was the promise shown by some of the younger batsmen, notably Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich. When asked where that left the Test career of Marlon Samuels, who has averaged 25.80 since the start of 2013, Simmons hoped the performances of the younger players would push established players to perform.
"[Samuels'] Test career still stands there," Simmons said. "[Younger players] are pushing him which is nice because when you have people pushing you from outside, you either get pushed out or you lift your game. So, I think it's a case where you have youngsters pushing him now, and that's good for the team.
"Same thing with Shannon [Gabriel] and a few young fast bowlers coming out, Jason [Holder], everybody. You need that second team that's up to the standard to push people so that they continue to produce. The great West Indies team had that, the great Australia team had that, so that's what we need here."
Darren Bravo, West Indies' best batsman, had a poor series, with only one half-century in seven innings, and ended the series with his Test average dipping below 40. Simmons backed Bravo to come out of his lean patch, and said his career record reflected the state of the team when he came into it, without too many world-class seniors to share their experience with him.
"We talk about Darren Bravo, and we talk about him a lot because we see his potential and where he's supposed to be right now. But you look back at things and you look at all the people around his age and what they've come through, the help that they've had in the team when they came in...
"We talk about Virat [Kohli]. When Virat came in, look at the players around him. That's where you get that little bit of experience, little bit of help from. Bravo's had to turn up and be the senior player and I think sometimes that affects people. But no doubt about it, he's working extremely hard on trying to get his game together and trying to score runs, just as he did when he came into the team."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo