West Indies must draw on Headingley spirit - Phil Simmons

The head coach says the West Indies cannot afford the batting debacles that have undermined its previous tours of England.

Shai Hope (left) with team-mate Kraigg Brathwaite on Day Five of the Headingley Test of 2017. West Indies won that Test by five wickets, chasing down 322.   -  AP

West Indies coach Phil Simmons says his side cannot afford the batting debacles that have often undermined its tours of England when the series starts behind closed doors next week.

The first of three Tests begins at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton next Wednesday and Simmons says making sure the team is mentally ready is the most important task.

Three years ago it suffered a dreadful start when England won the first Test by 209 runs inside three days.

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While a bowling attack featuring the likes of Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Shannon Gabriel, together with Bajan right-armer Chemar Holder and Jamaican quick Oshane Thomas, looks dangerous, the batting order is a concern.

“I think the batters have worked hard on getting to a mental stage of where they need to be because most of them have scored runs here,” Simmons told the “Cricket, on the Inside” webinar in conjunction with the Lord’s Taverners and Black Opal, on Friday.

We’re trying to bring back memories of Headingley and get the psychology right.

“[Shay] Hope has got back-to-back hundreds here. It’s about getting to the mental stage where you are prepared for a Test match in England, because it’s different to many other places. The next three days of practice is about sharpening up the skills. But mentality is the big thing.”

Simmons said West Indies is drawing strength from the way it hit back from that first Test thrashing at Edgbaston in 2017 to claim a stunning victory in the second Test at Headingley when it chased down 322. “We are drawing on that. The Test match before Headingley we were horrible and that seems to be like that most times we go on tour. We are trying to make sure that bad match is taken out of the equation and we start properly.

“We are playing against one of the best Test teams in the world and we need to start on the front foot. We’re trying to bring back memories of Headingley and get the psychology right.”

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Next week’s Test, and the two after, will be played in empty stadiums with strict health protocols because of the coronavirus pandemic that shut down cricket across the world. But Simmons says it might not worry his players.

“I think maybe ... the senior guys it might affect a few of them because they are used to sold out matches in England,” he said. “But in the Caribbean there’s not much crowds for Test so we are kind of accustomed to that.”

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