West Indies captain Jason Holder has expressed regret that coach Phil Simmons is not with the regional side in Sri Lanka.
But he has stressed that his team will be concentrating on the cricket played on the field against their hosts, as that was what they had control over.
Speaking publicly today for the first time on the controversy that has seen Simmons suspended for breach of confidentiality and bringing West Indies cricket into disrepute, Holder told a press conference held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo that the loss of Simmons had been a setback to the West Indies’ preparations.
“No doubt it’s a bit of a setback for us but at this present stage all we can do is to focus on our cricket. It’s out of our control. We just want to go out and play good cricket. Hopefully the situation will be resolved quickly because we [would] love to have him [Simmons] back; he’s an inspiration to our team.
“But again it’s up to us to play our cricket because it is the only thing we can control. We are a young group and a lot of them are looking to make their mark in Test cricket. It’s a stepping stone for them to focus in this particular series,” Holder said.
He told the press conference which was also attended by Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews that the strength of the West Indies side was their bowling but put it down to even-steven with the batting also performing well.
“In the last series we really bowled well against England. We also got some runs on the board. It’s pretty much even-steven with our batting and our bowling. We have to be consistent in the series. Whenever we bat or bowl we need to put the ball in the right areas; it’s the key to the series,” Holder noted.
With so many of the members in the squad touring Sri Lanka for the first time including Holder, the West Indian captain said the three-day warm up game against a Sri Lanka Board President’s XI starting at the Sinhalese Sports Club on October 8 was “really important”.
“It’s our first game since we have been here and we can gauge and see where we are in these conditions. Hopefully the rain stays away and we can get the practice we want ahead of the Test match. Our batsmen and bowlers need to spend some time in the middle and hopefully we can make use of this match and be ready for the first Test on October 14,” he said.
The West Indies and Sri Lanka will be competing for the Sobers-Tissera Trophy named after West Indies legend and former captain Sir Garfield Sobers and Michael Tissera. Tissera, a stylish right-hander and leg-spin bowler played in the same era as Sobers but his cricket was confined to playing unofficial tests as Sri Lanka were then not a full member country of the ICC.
Holder said playing for a trophy bearing Sir Garry’s name would be an inspiration for his team to play well in the series.
“It’s a huge honour to have a trophy named after Sir Garry. It will surely go a long way into the team dressing room. We got some pretty young faces in our squad and a lot of them look up to the past greats who played the game.
“I am sure . . . we’ll have an all rounder coming out of the series portraying the same things which Sir Garfield Sobers portrayed when he played and go from strength to strength. One thing I am interested in is unity and hopefully we can grow as a side and leave a legacy behind for everyone of us,” Holder stated.
Mathews said his players were keen to put aside their bad dreams and to strike form during the Test series which will be followed by three One Day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals.
“We are very much focused on this Test series and we are quite confident that the players will deliver the desired results on the field after a disappointing series against Pakistan and India.
“We know the West Indies are one the most nicest teams on and off the field and they are no doubt missing out some of their greats. But they are capable of turning things around and defeating any side on their day,” Mathews said.
The series could also be a tough one for Mathews whose batting skills will be tested severely following the retirement of the two legends Mahela Jayawardena and Kumar Sangakkara.
Mathews suggested that their absence would not play a part in his decision of where to bat in the Sri Lankan order
“As long as I score runs, that’s my job for the team. It doesn’t really affect me where I bat,” Mathews said, adding he hoped his bowlers would continue to bowl the way they did against Pakistan and India.
“The whole bowling unit has done extremely well in the past year or so. It’s the batting that hasn’t clicked. Hopefully we can rectify that in this series. If the bowlers continue to bowl the way they did we can put a lot of pressure on the Windies batsmen,” Mathews said.
The Sri Lankan skipper noted that the absence of opener Chris Gayle was a plus for his side. The big Jamaican left-hander has previously scored a Test triple century on Sri Lankan soil.
“Chris is a massive player for the Windies and he’s performed so well in the past [for] so many years. It’s going to be a great loss. But we can’t be complacent against the Windies because they can beat any team any day, we just have to play very good cricket to beat them,” Mathews said.