McWatt and ‘Reds’: Mayers and Simmons must justify WI retention; kudos to Walsh and WI Women

“[…] At stake during the series will be the continuation of several careers—those of the coaches as well as of a few of the players.

“[…] In 18 innings since Kyle Mayers’ outstanding double-century (210*) in the second innings of his debut Test against Bangladesh a year ago, he has registered just two half-centuries. Eight of those 18 innings have produced scores of under 10, including as many as four ducks…”

The following guest column on the upcoming West Indies Test series against England and the performance of the West Indies Women was submitted to Wired868 by Toronto-based Canadian Cricket’s media relations manager Tony McWatt and veteran West Indies cricket commentator ‘Reds’ Perreira:

Photo: West Indies batsman Kyle Mayers on the attack against Bangladesh on his Test debut in February 2021.
He scored 40 in the first innings and 210 not out in the second.

What a week of roller-coaster emotions this past one has been! The joy of an unexpected West Indies Women’s World Cup opening match victory, book-ended by the sudden and untimely passing of two Australian cricket legends within hours of each other—and just days after that of our own West Indian legend, Sonny Ramadhin.

On 3 March, cricket fans awoke to the very sad news of the passing of Rodney Marsh, aged 74. Later that same evening, many such fans abandoned their beds to watch televised coverage of the West Indies Women’s opening match of their 2022 World Cup campaign against tournament hosts New Zealand.

KFC Munch Pack

It was sleep well worth missing. The WI Women fashioned an exciting three-run, last-over victory over the Kiwis.

The joy experienced from that wonderful win was, however, quickly erased by yet another very harsh reminder of the frailties of life. Mere hours after Marsh’s passing, there was the even more shocking news of the demise of Shane Warne at the very young age of 52.

Photo: Iconic former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne died on 4 March 2022.

As WI fans try to come to grips with the sadness that would have been caused by the passing of two much admired and greatly respected Australian foes, their attention turn towards the forthcoming three-Test series against England, which bowls off on Tuesday at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.

Given all that will be up for grabs during the three matches, the series might now arguably be seen as one of the most important played by the West Indies in recent times.

At stake during the series will be the continuation of several careers—those of the coaches as well as of a few of the players. Recently appointed lead selector Desmond Haynes and his panel will also be under some degree of scrutiny, particularly as regards their choice of John Campbell as Kraigg Brathwaite’s First Test opening partner.

It was just one match, a single swallow does not a summer make and there are still some even more challenging matches to be played. However, the WI Women’s exciting World Cup opening match victory couldn’t have presented a more telling view of the contrasting fortunes of Courtney Walsh and Phil Simmons as the respective head coaches of our Women’s and Men’s teams.

Photo: West Indies batter HayleyMatthews in action against New Zealand on 4 March 2022 in the ICC Women’s World Cup.
(via ICC)

It’s been less than two years since Walsh’s October 2020 appointment as the WI Women’s head coach. Yet, in that relatively short period, Walsh has built a very balanced team and fashioned a healthy culture among his players. It is sufficient to have them publicly singing his praises.

The World Cup tournament opener victory is merely the latest example of the fighting spirit, most admirable camaraderie and willingness to play for each other that Walsh and his coaching staff have instilled among their charges.

By contrast, under Simmons and his coaching cadre, the WI men have had a rough time on the field of late. As defending champions, the WI failed to reach the knockout round of the Twenty20 World Cup last October/November. And they followed that up with another poor result, a home loss to Ireland in an ODI series in January.

They also suffered a recent 0-6 whitewash (three ODIs and three Twenty20 Internationals) at the hands of their Indian hosts.

Photo: India batsman Rishabh Pant (right) drives through the legside while West Indies wicketkeeper Shai Hope looks on during T20I action in India.
(Copyright BCCI)

Indeed, under Simmons, the West Indies have even been reduced to the status of qualifiers for this year’s T20 World Cup, the team’s supposedly most favoured and strongest format!

Simmons can now list the legendary Sir Andy Roberts among those publicly clamouring for his head. Such dismal results have raised the ire of the legendary former WI fast bowling great who has most recently joined the ever-growing list of those publicly calling for Simmons’ head!

“I don’t know if he should have got the job in the first place. I don’t think he has done anything that is working to keep him in his job. You first give him for two years and then assess his performance. He has been there for four years,” Roberts, one of cricket’s all-time greats, recently said.

As such, nothing short of a resounding series victory might now be sufficient to delay, albeit temporarily, the seemingly almost inevitable receipt of their pink slips by Simmons and his coaching cadre!

Photo: West Indies coach Phil Simmons keeps his eye on the ball during a team training session.
(Copyright AFP)

There will also be much at stake during the series in terms of the continuation of the careers of, in particular, John Campbell and Kyle Mayers among the batsmen and even possibly Kemar Roach as leader of the WI’s seam attack.

Campbell will be seeking to justify the faith that has been placed in his abilities by the Haynes-led selection panel. He is yet to score a century in his 15 Test matches and 30 innings thus far—an anomaly he should be seeking to address during the series.

Mayers, for his part, will be under even greater pressure. In 18 innings since his outstanding double-century (210*) in the second innings of his debut Test against Bangladesh a year ago, he has registered just two half-centuries. Eight of those 18 innings have produced scores of under 10, including as many as four ducks!

Just recently, Mayers’ fellow Bajan, Raymon Reifer, reminded the selectors of his own batting capabilities with a timely century (106) for the President’s XI in the four-day warm-up match against England.

Photo: West Indies bowling allrounder Raymon Reifer sends down another delivery.

Reifer’s more than useful left-arm seam would also provide the WI bowling attack with much greater variation than Mayer’s dibbly-dobbly right-arm medium pacers.

As the undisputed head of the West Indies seam attack, the soon-to-be 34-year-old Kemar Roach could also find himself under some degree of production pressure during the series. In the 18 Tests he’s played for WI since January 2019, Roach has produced match figures of five or more wickets in seven of those appearances.

More immediately within the past two years, however, he has had only two five-wickets-plus hauls in 11 matches. That is a somewhat worrying indication of declining productivity in terms of his wicket-taking ability.

Along with the all-rounder Jason Holder, three much younger and quicker seamers—Alzarri Joseph, Anderson Phillip and Jayden Seales—have also been included in the WI squad for the First Test. Roach could, therefore, be under some degree of pressure to perform at his very best during the series.

Photo: West Indies pacer Kemar Roach goes through his paces during a team training session.

On the very same day that the Test series gets under way, 8 March, the WI Women will also clash with their English opponents in their second match of the 2022 World Cup.

Hopefully, the results from both that match and the First Test will be sufficiently positive as to provide some comforting relief from the sadness caused by the sudden passing of Ramadhin, Marsh and Warne.

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