Phil Simmons, the West Indies coach, believes their ODI batting needs quick attention. But he also doesn't have any quick fixes for the side after they slumped to a 3-0 whitewash against India. For now, he's "hurting" and "extremely disappointed" after they ended the series with scores of 176, 193 and 169.
"It does need urgent attention because it has lost us the last two games," Simmons said after the third ODI in Ahmedabad. "When you bowl India out for 230 and 260, you expect to chase it. Under a year ago, we were cruising to 280-290 against Sri Lanka who have similar spinners. So batting is a huge concern and people have to stand up now as we go into our next set of ODIs in June."
West Indies haven't batted out 50 overs for nine ODIs in a row, stretching back to August last year. It has left them in a precarious position with regards to qualifying directly for the 2023 World Cup in India. They are currently eighth but, significantly, have played a greater number of matches than Pakistan, South Africa and Zimbabwe, who are below them.
"We are a little bit further ahead with our batting assessments in T20s than we are in ODIs," he said. "The mode of dismissals are I think the biggest issue. It doesn't make for good watching. We can't keep going like this. We started putting things together last year when we played Sri Lanka and Australia, but this one is hard to swallow. Though I'm not someone who shows emotions outwardly, it's hurtful and the players know that."
In saying the batting performances aren't up to scratch, Simmons also doesn't think the issues with the batters are technical. He pointed to the Test hundreds made by the likes of Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks and Jason Holder to underline this. He believes game awareness and the ability to read situations better is missing currently.
"It's a simple thing, we've got to assess situations and play according to it," Simmons said. "Most guys batting in the top six have Test hundreds, so they can bat. We saw how Shreyas [Iyer] and [Rishabh] Pant batted when they were in trouble. They assessed the situation and batted for a while. We can't be 100 for 6 in 20 overs, that is the crux of the matter."
One of the areas hurting them is the inability to put in remedial work between tours. Covid and bio-bubbles have further added to their challenge. Within days of their ODI series loss to Ireland, they were facing England in five T20Is. And within a few hours of concluding an intense series they eventually won 3-2, West Indies were flying in halfway around the world to land in Ahmedabad. They went into the ODI series on the back of one full training session.
"That is one of the downfalls of us having closed down the HPC [High Performance Centre] and it's something that was working for us. But there have been discussions on getting something like that back up and running"
Another aspect that has come in for sharp scrutiny has been their decision to close the High Performance Centre in Barbados, citing high operational costs. Simmons acknowledged the issue and said it's a matter that is being looked at again by the WICB.
"That is one of the downfalls of us having closed down the HPC and it's something that was working for us," he said. "But there have been discussions on getting something like that back up and running. It's something everyone believes is needed in the Caribbean and it's in the pipeline, but as we know, the board is not flush [financially], so things take little longer to put together. We all know it's urgent. It's something that is needed in our cricket. Unfortunately, a lot of things are urgent, some more priority than the others. All I know for now is we all think it's urgent and it is being treated as that."
In an interaction where he touched upon the disappointments, there was also a pat on the back of the bowlers. Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach and Holder dealt vital blows from time to time, while allrounder Odean Smith, who came in for the second and third ODIs to replace the injured Kieron Pollard, bowled with brisk pace. He finished the series with wickets of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli.
"The positive is the fact that the bowlers have done what we've asked of them," Simmons said. For the record, no India batter made three figures, and in each of the matches, West Indies made quick inroads into the hosts' middle order.
"We've kept a strong batting line up to 230 and 260, which is a huge positive. The way we've gone about our task on the field when bowling and fielding has been a huge positive all around. I think the bowlers have been little more disciplined than the batters, sticking to the plans we've had."