PHIL Simmons, coach of the West Indies cricket team, is not worried by the backlash that he and fellow team selectors (lead selector Roger Harper, Miles Bascombe and captain Kieron Pollard) have received over the 15-man squad picked for the ICC T20 World Cup, which will take place from October 17 to November 14 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
There has been heated debate in the media (mainstream and social), among past cricketers, journalists and fans, about the WI team who will be defending their title, having emerged victorious in India in 2016.
During a zoom media conference on Monday, Simmons said, “Nothing surprises me these days. Everybody has their opinion. When the four of us sit to select our teams, we’ll try and select the best team that we think is possible to win the tournament that we’re going into or the series we’ll be playing. We expect that there would be people that don’t agree with the selections.”
However, Simmons, who was also coach of the 2016 title-winning squad, is encouraging the West Indies fans not to give up hope.
“The only thing I can say is to back us in the things that we do,” said the former Trinidad and Tobago and WI all-rounder. “We need to be backed in the decisions that we have made. We need the good vibes from everybody because we’re going into a tournament in ten days’ time.”
The inclusion of ex-WI captain and T20 star Chris Gayle in the 15-man squad has been contentious at best. The 42-year-old left-handed batsman, who was representing Punjab Kings, left the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on September 30, citing bio-bubble fatigue.
Simmons said, “We have specific roles that we’ve put on Chris and we trust that he would be ready. Having had a short rest from the game, he’s going to come back fresh and ready to produce what we ask him to do.”
Another seasoned campaigner, all-rounder Andre Russell, has been out of the IPL since September 26 with an injured hamstring, which he sustained during a match between his team Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Chennai Super Kings.
“We’ve been in constant contact between our medical and KKR’s medical (teams),” said Simmons. “He’s been batting in the nets, he’s been running at a certain level, so he’s close enough to (full) fitness. He’s been progressing really well.”
On Sunday, legendary WI batsman and captain Sir Vivian Richards added his voice to the exclusion of the experienced all-rounder Jason Holder from the 15-man squad. Holder was named among the four reserves (along with Sheldon Cottrell, Akeal Hosein and Darren Bravo).
“It has been a tough decision,” said Simmons. “I am a fan of his ability. It was difficult but it was a decision that we got right in this case.”