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West Indies limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard is unimpressed with his team-mates' commitment to keeping up their fitness levels.
The 34-year old is himself coming out of a hamstring injury that forced him into the sidelines for a good five-six weeks. He says he is feeling fit and fine once more, but he will be leading a team that has been shorn of at least one quality match-winner: Shimron Hetmyer was yet again dropped because he couldn't meet the fitness standards set by Cricket West Indies.
"It has been an issue that has been plaguing us for the last couple of years," Pollard said ahead of West Indies' first ODI against Ireland on Saturday. "One way to look at it is, the selection policy, the fitness policies are there. Guys know exactly what is needed to represent the West Indian team. Sometimes, as individuals, we take it for granted. Yes, sometimes it hinders the process of selecting the best players at the given available time.
"Things happened during the pandemic - security reasons - all these played a factor. But fitness has been one issue that has affected us in terms of trying to put our best team and sometimes, it's frustrating because you don't have the guys fit and available to represent the team.
"I will also say that it's an individual thing, they are supposed to pride themselves on being fit, performing and doing what is necessary for the team. When these things tend to happen, as an individual, I am sure it doesn't bode well to us too. Again, this is something I take very personally - fitness - and me being not able to participate because of injury - because that doesn't go too well with myself. Hence I got an opportunity to detour and recover and hopefully, I can stay with the team because I pride myself on that."
Sunil Narine's exclusion from West Indies' T20 World Cup squad was also attributed to a lack of fitness.
"For me, as an individual, the most I could do is try to make the guys understand the importance of fitness," Pollard said. "When we are on tour, I can safely say there is no issue as to when the guys have to do their stuff in terms of what is required for the team and when they have to train in schedules. We tend to have these conversations, but I think the difficult part is when the guys leave from tour with responsibilities and with instructions and, sometimes, they don't follow it. And then they come back on tour and they start from ground zero.
"From my perspective, I can send a message and get it posted in a group. We are supposed to be professionals and we are supposed to be adults, and supposed to pride ourselves on that."
West Indies will face Ireland over a series of three ODIs and one T20I starting Saturday, and while he was looking forward to it, Pollard did note that his team was in a slightly strange situation.
"The sad reality is that I don't believe that if we win these games - this might be taken out of context but that's not what I'm saying - if we were to win all three games, it's something that people will expect us to do. But if we were to lose, then that brings a different perspective." he said. "There's a no-win situation there.
"But hopefully, we can still hit the ground running and improve in the areas we need to. Small, small areas: running between the wickets, communication, rotation of strike, and continue to get better as cricketers. These are some of the things we've identified and want to execute. And from a bowling perspective, in the back-end of the innings, nailing our yorkers and on improving our skillsets as cricketers."
West Indies have slowly been building for the future and Pollard has one simple message for the new players that are coming in.
"Belief. You are here for a reason. Obviously you would have played a lot of cricket before that. Nothing much changes. Just the name and the level and maybe the consistency of the bowlers and stuff like that," he said. "You just need to believe in yourself, you just need to go out there with a free mind and not think about anything and carry any sort of baggage from wherever and just focus on, when you're batting, focus on that ball, focus on what the team requires, focus on your skillset and just have a free mind.
"At the end of it, all the other things become irrelevant when you're out there in battle. Some guys will be nervous, there's no doubt, but the faster that nervousness gets out, the easier it will be."