Simmons optimistic after positive start with Windies

(REUTERS – West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes their third Test win over England can be the foundation for better things for Caribbean cricket, but warns next month’s Tests against Australia represent a sterner examination of his team.Trinidadian Simmons was appointed just before the three-Test series with England, which was drawn 1-1 after West Indies enjoyed an entertaining win in just three days in Barbados.

“It is a cause for optimism; you are talking about winning a Test match where we weren’t fancied to do anything in the series,” Simmons told Reuters in a telephone interview yesterday.
“It gives them good confidence that they were part of it. The biggest part of winning that game is what the youngsters and the team take from that.

”The former Ireland coach, who played 26 Tests for West Indies, clearly made a swift impact on a team which was credited with showing a renewed focus and discipline in the series.”
“The key message was that there is the ability there to play Test cricket and do well at Test cricket and we have to start looking and making sure we know exactly what we are doing and in what direction we are going and all the players are part of that,” he said. “I think application is a really big thing and it was something that we had talked about. It is a big game, a game of patience, like a chess game and everybody had to understand what application meant — and I think everyone came to the party as far as that was concerned,” added Simmons.
It was a youthful team which beat England at Kensington Oval.
The ages of the opening batting pair of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope are 22 and 21 years respectively while all-rounder Jason Holder and key middle-order performer Jermaine Blackwood are both 23.

With other young players emerging in the first class regional competition, there is a rare sense of positivity about the future in Caribbean cricket, but Simmons says having the raw talent isn’t enough.

“The talent becomes unimportant if you are not working. But if you have the talent and you are hard-working then you are going somewhere. I think the talent is there with a lot of them; we just have to make sure that we work hard with that talent,” he said.
The bowling attack has benefited from having Curtly Ambrose, who took 405 wickets in 98 Tests before retiring in 2000, in his role as a consultant, with the former paceman giving animated instruction to the bowlers before key sessions.

“He has been very important. He is a giant in the game when it comes to bowling and he has been huge in the dressing room with the bowlers and with everyone in general. His role is very important for the team,” said Simmons.

West Indies have had false dawns throughout their near two decades of decline and it will be tough to maintain the momentum in Tests in Dominica and Jamaica against Australia next month.

“No disrespect to England but it is going to be a bigger test, especially for the batsmen. Their quality of bowling and the bowling lineup that they possess is a better one than England’s. You are going to be tested more,” said Simmons.
“That is a good thing because playing the top teams early in your career teaches you what you need to be successful at this level. If they do well, they know that they are up there, if they don’t do well against Australia then they know they have things to work on.”

What had often undone progress in the past have been the frequent fallouts between the West Indies players and their board – the WICB. Last year, after a dispute over contracts, West Indies players went home midway through a tour of India prompting a threat of legal action against the board.

Simmons says he has asked his players to keep any problems they might have with the WICB out of the dressing room when it comes to business time.

“The players and the board have their issues, I try to make sure that those issues don’t come into my team when it is time to go and play cricket. You try to get them to make sure that they have all their issues sorted out before it’s time to go to cricket.
“I am not involved in that, it is not part of my job to be a mediator. I can just make sure that when it comes to cricket that they are doing the right things as players and the right things as a board for the team.”