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West Indies 'batting quality not there' - Phil Simmons

Head coach worried about ability of players coming into side from domestic ranks

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Brandon King is among the next generation of West Indies batters  •  PCB

Brandon King is among the next generation of West Indies batters  •  PCB

Phil Simmons has echoed his limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard's analysis that West Indies "have a batting problem" but insists he is not worrying about his job as head coach after a shock 2-1 ODI series defeat at home to Ireland.
West Indies were bowled out for 269, 229 and 212 in their three ODIs against Ireland at Sabina Park in Jamaica, with Pollard describing their scores in the last two games as "totally unacceptable", adding that "overall, holistically, I think we have a batting problem".
Speaking from Barbados ahead of West Indies' five-match T20I series against England, which starts on Saturday, Simmons said that his batters were failing to translate their progress in training into results on the pitch, but stressed that scapegoating players already in the squad would only serve to mask the systemic failings to develop them at a domestic level.
"It's there to see: our batting quality is not there," Simmons said. "Everything comes from lower down: if you're coming into our squad and you're averaging 30s when you come to the top level, you're not going to average 40 or 50.
"The holistic approach means that all through the ranks, all the way from the Under-19s, we have to be looking at preparing people to play at the international level. Averaging 20s and 30s at the domestic level doesn't prepare you for the international level.
"How much the players are assessing the situation and playing the situation… it's not really happening. Yes, [Sabina Park] was a difficult pitch to bat on for all three days at the start [of the innings], but we got through most of the difficult period and then things went astray. It's about bad shot selection ... that's a huge part of the batting failure."
Simmons, who was re-appointed as head coach in October 2019 and oversaw West Indies' failed defence of the T20 World Cup he won with them in 2016, insisted that he was only focused on improving the players at his disposal, not his future in the role.
"If I start worrying about my job then I have problems," he said. "I am worrying about the success of the team and I am worrying about how we get players to be playing their roles. That's all I'm concerned about. You're always under pressure as coaches when the team's not doing well, in any sport you play, and when the team is doing well, the coaches are forgotten. That's the nature of the job.
"I enjoy it everyday. My role is seeing the players and working with them, trying to bring out different things in them. To be honest, when we practise, there's a lot coming out, there's a lot being shown. It's just how they adjust and assess the situation when they cross the rope ... because that's where it's falling down.
"Every ball is a situation in the game and we've got to be able to assess that situation and know how to play. If you're 20 for 3, you play differently to if you're 40 for 0. These are the situations that we need to highlight and need to assess properly."
West Indies' squad for the England T20Is contains only six players who made appearances during their Super 12s exit at the T20 World Cup, with a handful of young players including Dominic Drakes, Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith included. The trio all featured in December's 3-0 series defeat in Pakistan - where the squad was depleted due to a Covid-19 outbreak - and Simmons said that he hoped they would continue to bring "energy" to the group.
"There's a lot of difference from the World Cup, as you saw in Pakistan," he said. "Yes, we lost the three games, but there was a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm and that's the same with this group for this series against England. There's an influx of maybe six or seven guys who were not there against Ireland and there's a lot of energy coming in.
"It [would be] a difficult situation if we had the same team from the World Cup but we have a lot of new faces and a lot of guys who want to make an impression and be a part of the team going forward. From that point of view, it's not as difficult as it might seem.
"We as a cricketing nation always have players who have the ability to hit the ball over the fence and it's something I don't want to take away from my players, but I also want my players to be clinical. In situations where you don't need to do that, well, we must be able to get ones, to get twos.
"[I want them] to bowl yorkers at the end instead of missing them, and hitting them more consistently than we are right now. There's a few things that we haven't been doing properly and we're working very hard on them. The important thing now is for the youngsters to come in and hone their skills and be able to execute them in the middle, not just in practice."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98