A more youthful, energetic West Indies take shape for 2022Saturday, January 08, 2022
As has been the case for sport since early 2020, COVID-19 is casting a long shadow as hosts West Indies face Ireland at Sabina Park for the first of three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) today.
The Irish have come with a weakened squad after the novel coronavirus not only cut short their recent trip to the United States but left them without two of their top players, including respected veteran Mr Paul Stirling.
Ireland have come at a time when the fourth wave of COVID-19 is on the rise in Jamaica. Indeed, at least three members of a squad called up by Jamaica's selectors for a warm-up 50-over match against the visitors earlier this week had to be withdrawn and isolated after testing positive.
The COVID-19 surge, believed to be spurred by the Omicron variant, had previously influenced the Jamaican Government to backtrack on plans to allow vaccinated fans into Sabina Park.
Readers will perhaps recall that two Test matches between West Indies and Pakistan in Jamaica last year were also played without spectators. As happened for the Pakistan trip, outside of broadcast crews, even vaccinated journalists are being barred from entering Sabina Park.
For the Mr Kieron Pollard-led West Indies squad, success against the Irish is vital after a dismal performance by a largely ageing side at the Twenty20 (T20) World Cup late last year. A follow-up white-ball trip to Pakistan with a young team, in the absence of an injured Mr Pollard, just before Christmas showed solid improvement, despite losing all games there.
West Indies Coach Mr Phil Simmons is certain to have cautioned his team to avoid complacency against the Irish who, while ranked lower than their hosts, are renowned for their fighting spirit and tendency to upset the odds.
Mr Simmons is well-qualified in this regard, having coached Ireland with considerable success between 2007 and 2015. During those eight years Ireland qualified for every major International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament and counted West Indies among their conquests in white-ball cricket.
Now in charge of a mostly youthful squad, Mr Simmons has stirred our interest with his stated intention to adjust the West Indian approach to white-ball cricket with more emphasis on basic efficiencies such as running between wickets and fielding.
“The way we started in Pakistan is the way we want to play now — a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm,” he is reported as saying.
We are all for that.
On-field cricket apart, cricket fans are soaking up news that the great West Indies opening batsman of the late 1970s, 1980s, and early '90s Mr Desmond Haynes, 65, has been appointed lead selector of the regional team.
He is joined by 41-year-old Mr Ramnaresh Sarwan, an outstanding middle-order batsman who played for the West Indies in all formats between 2000 and 2013. For sure, Mr Sarwan will bring first-hand knowledge of the fast-paced T20 format to the selectors' room.
Messrs Haynes and Sarwan have replaced Messrs Roger Harper and Miles Bascombe, both of whom came under strong criticism for team selection, especially in relation to the most recent T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
We wish West Indies cricket all that's good in what is certain to be a very challenging 2022.