Kieron Pollard as captain 'a step in the right direction' for West Indies - Brian Lara
Former West Indies captain and batting great Brian Lara believes appointing Kieron Pollard as the ODI and T20I captain is "a step in the right direction," but he has urged Cricket West Indies to focus more on developing players for Test cricket.
"He's got some good experience," Lara said of Pollard, who last played an ODI over three years ago, at the launch of a T20 tournament for retired players in Mumbai. "I also believe that a captain is as good as his team and the people who really support him. And I believe that he will get the support, that's half of your job done.
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"Practically, he has played cricket all around the world, he will understand what needs to be done. So it's not a bad decision. If he's committed to West Indies cricket for a long period of time, it's a step in the right sort of direction and let's see how it goes."
In Tests, the eighth-ranked West Indies recently lost 2-0 to India at home. They started the year in emphatic fashion by beating England 2-1 in Tests at home but against India in August, they were able to bowl out the visitors only twice in four innings and could not cross 250 even once in as many attempts.
"We came off about six months ago a win against England in the West Indies which was very promising," Lara said. "So you expected the team to maybe follow on after that. But there was a lot of one-day cricket and different things happening over the last five-six months with almost the same players. So the attrition level is something the West Indies cricket board and the management will have to see if they can solve that because some of the cricketers are understanding the shorter version of the game but the longer version they're missing some key elements.
"I think first we've got to get back to playing good and competitive first-class cricket in the Caribbean where the guys spend time in the middle as batsmen, bowlers bowl long spells and see if we can work from there."If you listen to any other teams in the world or captains, they're very wary of the West Indies. They never ever take us for granted, which is a good thing."
"But I still believe that the talent on show for West Indies is very good and promising. Maybe the entire batting line-up is in their 20s, you just want to know that if they're playing at the highest level that they are capable of performing well. I think learning the game at the international stage is not where you want to go."
West Indies' next assignment is a full tour against Afghanistan in India where they will play three T20Is, three ODIs and a one-off-Test over a period of three weeks. A short gap after that they will feature in another three T20Is and three ODIs against India in India. Lara emphasised on the importance of adapting to conditions on their tour of India, where spin usually plays a vital role.
"To be successful anywhere in the world you have to adapt very quickly," he said. "If you're playing in Australia, India, South Africa, West Indies…they're all different conditions. First and foremost, everyone that plays international cricket has a certain level of skill and talent to play the game. How you approach with your mental strength is key, adaptation of the environment you're in is key. Learning all these important things to be successful...to be a step ahead, not having any excuses. I think those things are key to making sure that you're successful playing anywhere in the world.
West Indies have been a much harder opposition to beat in the shortest format, ever since they won the T20 World Cup back in 2012. They are currently ranked ninth in the format but could pose a different challenge for oppositions in the format, banking on some of the CPL stars who have broken into the team recently. The next T20 World Cup is still over a year away and Lara said handling the talent coming through from T20s will be key for defending champions West Indies in the coming months.
"It's still quite a long way," Lara said of the T20 World Cup to be played in Australia in October-November 2020. "Whatever tournament the West Indies are going to, they'll never be favourites at this point in time…even when we won the two tournaments in the past. What we do have is the shorter version of the game. A lot of young players that are coming into the team, [Shimron] Hetmyer, [Nicholas] Pooran, they are very very good in the T20 version, in the limited-overs version of the game.
"The talent is there, and I've always said in the past that the West Indies have some of the best talents in the world coming through. What we do with that talent, how we harness that talent is the most important part. I reckon that the next eight-ten months before the World Cup there will be a lot of planning. You may even see some new faces coming through. If you listen to any other teams in the world or captains, they're very wary of the West Indies. They never ever take us for granted, which is a good thing. So hopefully we will make a good showing coming to the World Cup."