WEST INDIES 50-over captain Kieron Pollard wants to kick off the 2022 season with a series-win against Ireland in the CG Insurance three-match One-Day Internationals (ODI) which bowls off at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica on Saturday from 10.30am (TT time).
Pollard, who missed the team’s tour of Pakistan in December due to a hamstring injury, has fully recovered and is intent on making a positive start to the year.
The skipper said the maroon squad remains upbeat ahead of the matches against the Irish in Jamaica, which also features one T20 International on January 16.
“We’re looking to start the series on a high and get guys to get back in that zone of how we were playing 50-overs cricket before; guys understanding their roles, their responsibilities, being accountable to their team and getting off to that start," said Pollard.
“This is a build-up to 2023 (ODI World Cup in India) but a stepping stone for it. We still have to go play cricket and be disciplined in all three facets (batting, bowling and fielding) of our game.
“For us, it’s focusing on that and trying to improve every time as we go along. We’re not in a win-lose situation. We know what to expect and the guys are up for the challenge,” he said.
Pollard said the team has identified areas such as running between the wickets, communication and strike-rotation as key elements to help bolster their performance.
After a hectic year competing in bio-secure bubbles on the international circuit, Pollard believes his teammates are well-rested and ready for the challenge.
The West Indies ODI team is hungry for some action since their last three-match series against Pakistan in mid-December was postponed owing to several covid19 cases in the visiting camp.
“It has been a challenge (competing in bubbles) but the guys have come back (this year) and I can say their spirits are high and they want to perform. They did not get the opportunity to play against Pakistan so they are looking forward to it," Pollard noted.
“The last three days or so, you can see the enthusiasm and excitement. Hopefully they can transcend that on to the cricket field so we can start 2022 on a different level and set that template for us going forward,” he added.
Pollard however, spent some time during Friday’s media conference knocking some West Indian players for limiting the team’s potential to compete, owing to their inability to maintain their fitness levels between series.
The skipper faced a flurry of questions regarding player fitness; most of which stemmed from team coach Phil Simmons’ recent remarks on Guyanese batsman Shimron Hetmyer, who was once again left out of the WI team after another failed fitness test.
Hetmyer has failed multiple fitness tests over the last few years which led to him not being considered for selection. The left-hander recently took part in fitness drills with his Guyana Jaguars teammates back at home but also failed to meet their criteria.
Pollard said recurring fitness failure among players seeking selection remains an individual responsibility. He believes such inconsistencies limit the region from putting forward its strongest crop of players, which in the end, restricts the team’s overall competitiveness.
“It’s one (fitness) where I see, is an individual choice," Pollard pointed out. "The selection and fitness policies are there. Guys know exactly what is needed to represent the West Indies. Sometimes, as individuals, they tend to take things for granted.
“Yes, sometimes it has hindered the process of selecting the best available team at every time. And so has different other things that have happened, like the pandemic.
“I tend to say ‘yes’ that fitness has been one of the topical issues that has affected us in terms of trying to put our best team on the park more often than not. And sometimes it’s frustrating because you want to guys to be fit and available to represent.
“But this is an individual thing, as a professional you’re supposed pride yourself on being fit, performances and doing what is necessary for the team. When these things tend to happen, as an individual I’m sure, it doesn’t bode well with you,” he added.
The experienced allrounder said he will continue to instil the importance of fitness to younger players. He however, pointed out that players sometimes, serve as their own detriment.
“I think the difficult part is when the guys leave from tour (international) with responsibilities and instructions, and sometimes they don’t follow it, and then they come back on tour and we have to start from ground zero.
“At different times I can send a message here and there and get reports if guys are doing but we’re supposed to be professionals, adults and have pride in ourselves. There’s a lot of cricket being played in bubbles now and you have to be able to get up day-in, day-out,” he said.
Pollard said the team is as prepared as can be. They were able to get a couple days to practice and help refine their skills to understand what is needed going forward.
On his return to the helm of the ODI team, Pollard said, “I’m happy to be back. In terms of myself, I’ve gotten five or six weeks of good training, physiotherapy, rehab and I did some work behind the scenes and I’m looking forward to this series. I’m fit and ready to go.”
Following the ODI series and one-off T20I against Ireland, the two-time world champions (WI) then travel to Barbados to face England in five T20Is at Kensington Oval from January 22-30.
WEST INDIES SQUADS –
ODIs vs Ireland: Kieron Pollard (captain), Shai Hope (vice captain), Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Justin Greaves, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph,, Gudakesh Motie, Jayden Seales, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Devon Thomas.
Covid19 Reserves: Keacy Carty, Sheldon Cottrell
T20Is vs Ireland and England: Kieron Pollard (captain), Nicholas Pooran (vice-captain), Fabian Allen (England T20Is only), Darren Bravo (England T20Is only), Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Dominic Drakes, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, Jason Holder, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Romario Shepherd, Odean Smith, Hayden Walsh Jr.
Covid19 Reserves: Jayden Seales, Alzarri Joseph, Devon Thomas.