For a while when West Indies trained on Tuesday, the men designated to put up sponsor boards around the edges of the first tier above the dressing rooms waited and watched to see if the batters would stop hitting the ball in the direction. After a while, it became amply clear this was part of a skills-specific training routine. They stopped and enjoyed a power-hitting show for a good 40 minutes, before they got to work again.
Big hits routinely flew off the blade, one after the other. If Nicholas Pooran tried to hit them 80 meters, Odean Smith went 85. Romario Shepherd gunned for 90. The white-ball destroyers who've thrilled audiences around the world surfaced. Balls were disappearing into the empty stands routinely.
After a while, Kieron Pollard walked out with his weapons and whacked them big. Over the past week, he's worked on repairing his ankle that was sore due to fluid accumulation. On match-eve, he declared himself fit, and even proved it by not just flexing his muscle in hitting big but also completing regular drills. If the weekend was about relaxing and soaking in multi-million-dollar bids at the IPL auction, the last two days have been about training hard and ironing out areas they want to focus on. Two long sessions later, West Indies are confident heading into the series opener on Wednesday.
"It's down to execution," Pollard asserted. "That's the conversation we're having. Being precise in what to do and being as accurate as possible. We're clear and have worked on specific things in the nets. Skill-sets of the group are different. One thing you can be rest assured of, we have put in the work to get it right."
Barring Kyle Mayers, Dominic Drakes and Shepherd, the allrounders, the rest of the squad have had a taste of conditions in India, either from earlier or during the ODIs. They may have been thumped in the ODIs, but Pollard insisted every bit of learning has been taken onboard and there are no hangovers from the IPL auction euphoria.
"Every time you get an opportunity to represent your team, you want to do well," he said. "The IPL auction is done and dusted. To be selected there, you should have done something great on the field. When the IPL comes, we will deal with that. For now, it's about representing the West Indies and putting our best foot forward. From a one-day perspective, it didn't go how we wanted it to. Come tomorrow, hopefully we can deliver the plans we have."
West Indies have now lost back-to-back ODI series, to Ireland and India, but go into the T20Is with the confidence of having beaten England 3-2 at home. Pollard termed it "confidence boosting", but felt there were weaknesses they got away with.
"For us, it's about consistency," he said. "We had a good series against England. A couple of times with the bat and at the back end of the innings, we could have been better at executing. Our fielding performance, we can take it up a notch. That is an area we need to improve. And try to be as consistent as possible from a batting perspective. We have not been consistent at all. That's a fact. We want to put it right in the limited opportunities in the shorter format of the game. It's about continuing to improve in all facets and executing to the best of our ability."
Pollard hinted at continuity at the top, which means Mayers could line-up to open alongside Brandon King. Mayers, who made his mark in a record-breaking Test match chase in Chittagong last year on debut, is just four T20Is old, but brings multi-dimensional skills with his ability to chip in with a few overs of medium pace.
"I'm very impressed, he's aggressive in nature and is doing tremendously, and has improved a lot from the first time I interacted with him in the 2013 CPL," Pollard said of the 29-year-old. "He'd done well in the Test arena, in a couple of T20s too. We want that to continue, for him to give that impetus. He is clear what he has to do for the team. We look forward to consistent performances. We know he can give us a few overs with the ball as well."
Some captains don't like talking about individuals, particularly if they aren't chosen. Pollard is the exact opposite. He was asked what it would take for Shimron Hetmyer to make a comeback. The big-hitting Guyanese batter was signed for INR 8.5 crore last weekend by Rajasthan Royals, but finds himself out of the white-ball setup on fitness grounds. Coach Phil Simmons has made it clear he will only return if he passes the required parameters.
"I think the coaches have spoken on their assessment of Shimron," Pollard said. "I miss Shimron when he is not around. He is a young player and a superstar in his own right. He will get it right and get back to the West Indies squad pretty soon. I will be looking forward to having him. We know what he can do as an individual and he has a bright future. You can never write off a guy who is 25. My love for Shimron is paramount, and he knows that, and we all know that. It is a matter of time for him to do all that is necessary to get back to the team. We will welcome him with open arms."
"I miss Shimron when he is not around... He will get it right and get back to the West Indies squad pretty soon. I will be looking forward to having him. My love for Shimron is paramount, and he knows that, and we all know that."
Kieron Pollard on Shimron Hetmyer
What about Pooran, another big name with a big reputation, but with the kind of returns that may make you tear your hair out. "He is still trying to find his foot to become consistent and perform as an individual before thinking about leadership," Pollard said. "He is in a good space. We have had a lot of conversations. He has got different opportunities at different times. We can see what he can do, and that is exciting."
The T20 set up has long been about the Gayles, Pollards, Russells, Bravos and Narines. Pollard, however, sees big things going forward with what he terms an "exciting group" that is ready to step up and take over the mantle.
"What I see is that these guys are all wanting to do well," he said. "Odean Smith, Drakes, Hetmyer, Romario - these are the guys we look to, to take our cricket forward. Some of the guys are selected in IPL and if they can use that experience to enhance their cricket, and get some expertise from the coaching staff, it augurs well for us in that aspect. They will be soaking in the knowledge, so it is exciting times for us going forward."