DHAKA, Bangladesh – Head coach Phil Simmons said Tuesday he could not question the decision of any player who chose not to tour amid the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking for the first time since 10 first choice players opted out of the One-Day International and Test series beginning next week, Simmons said regardless of the decisions players made, they possessed the right to determine whether they were comfortable playing in the prevailing conditions.
“I can’t say if it was the wrong call for them,” Simmons told an online media conference.
“Everybody has their reasons and their opinions on things. Their choices were made in consultation with whoever they consulted with, and they think that’s the decision for them so I can’t decide what’s best for anyone else but Phil Simmons.”
He added: “All of our players were given that option [of declining selection] from the first series. Some chose it in the first series, some chose it in the last series and some in this series.
“People have different reasons for doing things and I can’t pre-judge or judge anyone’s reason for not going on a tour.”
Test captain Jason Holder and white-ball skipper Kieron Pollard were the two biggest named included in the exodus, due to what Cricket West Indies labelled “COVID related concerns or personal fears”.
Also included in the group were Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Shamarh Brooks, Sheldon Cottrell, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer and Evis Lewis.
The pullout by players came despite assurances from CWI that the series could proceed safely, following a report provided by Dr Akshai Mansingh, a member of its medical advisory committee, who carried out an overview of the protocols and facilities during a reconnaissance trip last November.
On Tuesday, health authorities in Bangladesh confirmed another 718 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 deaths, taking the overall infections to just over 524 000 and the death toll to 7 819.
West Indies arrived Sunday and have spent the last three days in isolation. All players and officials have so far tested negative and training is expected to get underway on Wednesday.
Simmons said the protocols to date had been a replica of recent tours of England and New Zealand last year.
“So far the protocols have been good. The first three days we’ve been in our rooms and were supplied with breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it’s the same protocols in the other two places we went to,” he pointed out.
West Indies lost the three-Test series to England last July, going down 2-1, and failed to win a single game in the Twenty20 International and Test series in New Zealand.
And though conceding the COVID-19 environment brought with it challenges, Simmons backed his players to be focused and ready to give 100 per cent on the current tour.
“It’s definitely not easy to be away from home in times like this for any of us but at the same time, the two series we played in once we got there, everything was given, every effort was put into the series and preparation was done in the right way,” he explained.
“We may not have had the results we wanted but we’ve put everything into it and it’s going to be the same for this series. No series away is easy these days but we’re here to give all.”
West Indies face Bangladesh in three ODIs from January 20-25 and in two Tests from February 3-15.
Meanwhile, Simmons urged players on the tour not to see themselves as replacements but to seize the opportunity to cement spots in the international side.
“My role and my message to all the players here: you’re not here to fill in, you’re here to give yourself a chance,” the head coach said.
“You have a chance now to seal your place in this team. If you do well here, that augurs well for you going forward.
“You come here, you do well in the three games (One-Day Internationals) and the two Test matches then you’re putting yourself in a place where nobody can move you, so you have that opportunity and only you have that opportunity.”
The 15-man Test squad features four uncapped players with Nkrumah Bonner, Kyle Mayers, Shane Moseley and Kavem Hodge finding favour with selectors.
Seasoned opener Kraigg Brathwaite will lead the side in the absence of Holder.
Nine uncapped players have been included in the 15-man one-day side which will be captained by Jason Mohammed, recalled after nearly three years out of international cricket in the absence of Pollard.
With a packed home schedule planned for later in the year, Simmons said fielding so many new players on the current tour would help expand the pool of players to choose from over the next 12 months.
“When we went to England [last year] we carried 25 players and we’ve seen a couple young players, including the two (Chemar Holder and Joshua DaSilva) that made their debut in New Zealand, come through from that,” Simmons explained.
“We’ve seen a few of the other young players that we know on this tour that we didn’t know before that so … this opens up the pool.
“As I said before, some of the places are in the players’ hands. If they do well here, they can put themselves in line to play most of these series coming up.”
Simmons said not only would selectors be monitoring performances but the general attitude of players, and how they adapted to the challenge before them.
“[We will be looking at] just the whole general attitude and performance. I think that’s the two things you look for in players when they come into a team,” Simmons pointed out.
“I think that’s going to be the two big pluses for everyone.” (CMC)