Simmons’ Firing Led To W.I. Decline – Says Keiron Pollard

Image of Kieron Pollard
Image of Kieron Pollard
Kieron Pollard

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Kieron Pollard has described as shambolic behind-the-scenes operations of the West Indies team in the recent Twenty20 and One-Day series against Pakistan, and has argued that the chaos resulted from the sudden sacking of head coach Phil Simmons on the eve of the tour.

The all-rounder said Simmons’ premature departure had been a “spirit-dampening moment” for the West Indies and had led to disarray in the camp and low team morale , with players confused over exactly who had taken over responsibility for the unit.

Pollard’s assertions come two weeks after fellow Trinidadian and West Indies teammate Dwayne Bravo claimed that Simmons’ axing had been a major factor in the side’s poor performances.

“I had to ask the question because I wasn’t sure who was in charge,” Pollard told I95.5 FM Radio here.

“From media reports before I got there – because the team got there before I did – they said that Joel Garner (manager) would be the head of the [delegation] and we’ll have the assistant coaches in Henderson Springer and Roddy Estwick … so you weren’t sure who was the head coach.”

Pollard, who played in both the T20 and the One-Day series, said with the management structure unclear, information was also difficult to come by during the tour.

“One person asked ‘coach, what’s the plan for tomorrow?’ We got no response but then we saw the cricketing schedule coming from the physio (CJ Clark) so we were in shock,” Pollard continued.

“And then at other times you asked questions to the management staff, the media guy [Philip Spooner] was responding to some of those messages.

“You were getting [information] in bits and pieces but then ok, if you had a problem and you say ‘Manage, what’s the scenario here? Then maybe you may hear from him and then you may [also] get it from someone else.”

West Indies produced limp performances as they suffered 3-0 drubbings in both the T20 and One-Day series to Pakistan earlier this month in the United Arab Emirates.

On the day of the squad’s departure for the tour, the West Indies Cricket Board announced it has sacked Simmons after just 18 months in charge, over what it termed ‘differences in culture and strategic approach.”

Bravo subsequently argued the move had demoralised the side, leading to their poor on-field performances and Pollard echoed similar sentiments.

“You know it was going to be difficult from the onset. Going to the UAE, Pakistan play really good cricket there, they are accustomed to those conditions and just before the team took off to Dubai, you heard that the coach was fired,” he pointed out.

“So that in itself was a spirit-dampening moment there because I think the guys started to build a really good bond with the coach.

“And when I say a good bond, at that level is not really about coaching but it’s about man-management. It’s about basically when you’re having trouble – it could be in our personal life – he is someone you can go to, you can talk cricket, you can joke.

“He will give you a different perspective, comfort your mind in that sense and take care of your mental state.”

He continued: “So going on a difficult tour and knowing now that he’s gone, put great doubt in the players’ minds and when you look back at it, this was the first thing that happened after the symposium that we had in Miami where we were supposed to be looking forward and going forward.

“Two immediate decisions [happened] after that – (Darren) Sammy got sacked and the coach going – so from the onset, the team was demoralised.”

The first sign all was not well in the Windies camp came when they looked anything but reigning T20 World champions as they slid to heavy defeats in the format in which they are strongest.

They went down by margins of nine wickets and 16 runs in back-to-back games in Dubai and then crashed to an eight-wicket defeat in Abu Dhabi three days later when they could only muster 103 for five from their 20 overs, batting first.

There was no respite in the ODI series as West Indies were distinctly second best in every department as Pakistan pulled off a second whitewash.

Pollard, who failed miserably in both series, said the team meetings were low-keyed affairs because of an element of fear in the squad.

“It was appalling in the sense that players are basically just there just sitting down and nothing much is being said,” he explained.

“The captain would speak, the coaches would speak and then that’s the end of it because I think the situation that presented itself, guys were afraid to talk, guys were afraid to say anything even in team meetings, or be frank.

“It’s either you say something and get it off your chest or you say nothing at all because you can see the pattern that is going on – as soon as you say something, the next thing if you haven’t performed well or even if you perform creditably well, you get sacked.”

He added: “Guys were tentative and you could see it from on the field of play as well. A lot of things transpired there, you wondered if this was an international team.”

West Indies are currently involved in a three-Test series against Pakistan where they trail 0-1 following a 56-run defeat in the opening Test in Dubai on Monday.

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