Jason Holder, West Indies' captain, has thrown his "full support" behind Shai Hope as the tourists contemplate whether to make changes for the deciding Test of the series against England. Hope has scored 57 runs in four innings with Phil Simmons, the team's head coach, admitting that he was concerned by the batsman's lack of form after defeat in the second Test.
Since his twin hundreds at Headingley three years ago, Hope has averaged less than 25 in Tests, leading to calls that he has had more than enough chances. Curtly Ambrose, the former West Indies fast bowler and coach, said that things had "gone terribly wrong" for Hope in Test cricket and suggested he be taken out of the firing line.
"He is a much better player than what he is showing at the moment and is obviously very low on confidence," Ambrose told Sky Sports. "Maybe in the next game we should rest him so he can regain some confidence. If you keep playing him and he keeps failing it will only get worse. You are going to destroy him if it continues like that."
However, West Indies' only batting option is the uncapped Nkrumah Bonner and Holder gave his team-mate staunch support when asked about Hope's poor returns, saying he has "full confidence in Shai to get some runs" ahead of the third Test, starting at Emirates Old Trafford on Friday.
"All our players have got my full backing, they know how I personally feel," Holder said. "Some of them haven't been getting the runs they would like but more or less it's just giving the lads full support, 100% Shai. We all know what Shai can produce at this level. He's arguably one of the best one-day batsmen in the world.
"We know the calibre player he can be, you know, so I've got full confidence in Shai to get some runs, he's got starts so far in the series so he's not far off converting the starts into something really special for us. So he's got my full support."
Holder said that West Indies had yet to make a decision on their XI, preferring to wait until seeing the pitch in the morning, but confirmed that they would only be selecting from the players in the official 15-man squad, rather than looking at options such as Joshua Da Silva or Oshane Thomas from the reserve party. That may mean another chance for opener John Campbell to impress, after scores of 28, 8*, 12 and 4.
One player pushing for selection is Rahkeem Cornwall, the towering offspinner who could help spread the load after West Indies' four-man pace attack got through 133 overs in the second of back-to-back-to-back Tests. There was turn on offer at Old Trafford, where Roston Chase took a five-wicket haul in the second Test, and Holder described Cornwall as likely to be "the best spinner" on either side should he be picked.
"If he does come in he's a wicket-taker, and he's proven to be a match-winner, not only at regional level but his last Test match he got 13 wickets," Holder said. "I think he is a quality offspinner. To me, he would be the best spinner on show in this series. So yeah, he's always a wicket-taking option for us but not only a wicket-taking option, he brings a bit more slip-catching, batting as well. And then obviously brings a lot of control."
"These guys have backed up Test matches before," he said. "Yes, to turn around, this one's been a little shorter. But these guys have done it before. So yeah, I'm not too worried."
With Holder's men still in with a chance of becoming the first West Indies team to win a series in England since 1988, he said he wanted them to "right the wrongs that we had in the last game", which included a below-par effort in the field and the failure of the batsmen to convert any of their five fifties into a century.
"I'm really proud of the guys so far on this tour, you know, we've done really well," he said. "It's just a matter of just pushing it to the next level. We have done reasonably well as a Test side in the last two to three years. We're slowly but surely getting there, in terms of what this team can produce. And I have full confidence in this team to turn things around for West Indies cricket. So it's just a matter for us to stick together, continue to learn, and grasp those opportunities in different countries around the world.
"I didn't think we fielded very well in the last game. So that is definitely cause for us to really lift and put in a much better effort in the field. I think we're pretty competitive on the other two fronts. Yes, we'd like to convert a few more starts, we're yet to get a hundred so far in the series. So, again, it's a perfect opportunity for our batters to step up and get a hundred."