Blooding young talent in the national side at the expense of consistent results has not proven to be a winning strategy, West Indies captain Kieron Pollard said on the eve of the first T20I against Sri Lanka. Pollard further said it was about time the team started winning matches on a regular basis.
Since their T20 World Cup triumph in 2016, West Indies have won just 16 of their subsequent 50 T20Is, losing 30 of them. According to Pollard, the team needs to "get back into the habit of winning," and bringing senior players back into the fold is one way in which they hope to achieve that.
"You look at some of the younger guys that have gotten the opportunities when we started off around 2019, and it hasn't really produced the results on a consistent basis," Pollard said.
"As a team we need to start winning cricket matches, win series. Because we can go down the line of saying 'we need to blood this talent, blood this talent', but some of you same guys will start talking about the results as well. So we have to strike that balance [between youth and experience], we have to start winning T20 matches, we're the defending champions, and we have to get back into the habit of winning. And if that means getting a couple of senior guys in to start that process, so be it."
Recalls for Chris Gayle and Fidel Edwards, 41 and 39 respectively, raised more than a few eyebrows, but head coach Phil Simmons had earlier stated both players had earned their spots in the side by virtue of their strong performances in franchise cricket. Pollard echoed this view, adding that he views a blend of youth and experience as very much the way forward ahead of the T20 World Cup in India later this year.
"These guys continue to perform despite their age. And one that thing that has been said throughout is that once you show that you can perform at the highest level, such as franchise cricket from the T20 point of view, the opportunity is still there.
"The way to go forward is having that sort of mixture in the team, youth and experience. The youthful guys can learn from the experienced guys, and these are some of the things that have been missing. From 2016 till now can we safely say we have put forward our best T20 team to go to any series or anything like that?"
With a hectic T20 schedule ahead in the coming months, Pollard also urged players in the domestic system to "stick your neck above the rest" to be selected.
"We have to start somewhere and this is a starting point for us. We have 18 games plus a whole CPL tournament before the World Cup, so guys can get opportunities and we can see where we need to be come October.
"[Fringe players must] continue to work hard and continue to churn out the numbers, and stick your neck above the rest.
"But you have to continue to do it. If you have to pick between guys scoring 150-200 runs all the time, and there's no one sticking out their head - I'm just talking in general, that figure is not relevant - scoring above that, then it just boils down to who you think is the best person at that point in time. And if the guys keep doing that then the opportunity will present itself.
"Look at young Kevin Sinclair, he's been economical in the couple of games he played in the Super 50 in the last couple of years for the emerging team, even this year as well in CPL. He gets an opportunity now. The opportunities are there, opportunities are going to come, things are being seen. You just have to be as consistent as possible, and not just walking around doing and saying things with a sense of entitlement."
In terms of the players that have missed out on the Sri Lanka tour, particularly Shimron Hetmyer - widely considered to be among the most talented batsmen in the West Indies set-up - Pollard refused to be drawn into the conversation, though he did say Hetmyer's absence left a "big void".
"He knows exactly what he needs to do, he knows the reasons why he's not here. And again we need to sometimes be open and honest and straightforward with each from different points of view, rather than just try to pamper certain situations all the way through. You're damned if you do, you're damned if you don't in certain aspects, but he has left a big, big void."