CHATTOGRAM, Bangladesh (CMC) — Head Coach Phil Simmons has pointed to a culture change taking place in the West Indies Test set-up which is being driven by the arrival of new players with improved attitudes and the character necessary to excel in the international arena.
Speaking moments after West Indies completed the fifth-highest run chase in history to stun Bangladesh by three wickets in the opening Test, Simmons praised the side’s inexperienced players for the commitment shown in recent Tests.
Kyle Mayers struck an astonishing, unbeaten 210 and fellow debutant Nkrumah Bonner stroked 86, the pair putting on 216 for the fourth wicket to spearhead the successful chase of 395 at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium.
“The guys went about it in a way that even I, during the day, couldn’t believe these were guys making their debut,” Simmons beamed.
“And I must say, there are a lot of changes happening. We had two guys [Chemar Holder and Joshua Da Silva] who made their debuts in the last Test we played [against New Zealand] and showed the attitudes we want in this team, and then we have three guys here now making their debut and showing the attitude we want.
“So the attitude and the culture itself is changing, which is what I want to see — and I am happy to see it.”
He added: “[Character] is huge and the character is forming here.”
Selectors were forced to include four uncapped players in the 15-man squad after six first-choice players, which represented the core of the batting group, opted out of the tour for various reasons.
Debuts were subsequently handed to Mayers and Bonner, along with left-hander Shayne Moseley, in the opening Test which bowled off last Wednesday.
Given little hope of winning, especially after being set an imposing total in the final session of the fourth day, Simmons said the maturity shown by the group to win the match had been extraordinary.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Simmons said.
“To watch this team come from where we’ve come from, from all the negative talk we’ve had since we left the Caribbean and have a performance like this, it’s unbelievable. I don’t have words for it right now.”
Resuming the final day on 110 for three, West Indies appeared intent only on survival as Mayers and Bonner kept Bangladesh without any success for the first two sessions, reaching 266 without further loss at tea.
But with 129 required for victory in the final session, the Caribbean side lost Bonner in the first over after tea and Jermaine Blackwood (9) soon afterwards, but Mayers combined in a 100-run, sixth-wicket partnership with Da Silva (20) to revive the run chase.
Simmons said victory had never been off the cards in the Windies planning but it had been a matter of being strategic in each session.
“It is a case of working out — we have 90 overs — how are we going to section it off,” the Trinidadian explained.
“As long as we [didn’t] lose wickets early on, I knew that the power of Kyle and how he can hit the ball [would be a threat].
“So we just had to section it off and make sure that by lunch if we get 70, 80 runs, next session if we get close to a hundred runs and then in the last 30 overs if we’re needing three, four, even five runs per over, they [bowlers] would be tired.
“The wicket didn’t look like it was getting as bad as people were talking about and it still played well, and that’s all we had to do.”
Simmons also praised the leadership of interim Captain Kraigg Brathwaite, who he said had been inspirational.
“In this Test match I am happy for the captain,” said Simmons.
“He came down here the last time [in 2018] and got [beaten in the two-Test series], and he’s come back this time with the attitude and the grind. He’s given the players [the attitude that] ‘We must grind through this. I was here the last time and I’m not going to go through that again.’
“ So, I am happy for him that he got this victory too.”
Featured Photo: West Indies’ Kyle Mayers (left) celebrates with teammate Nkrumah Bonner after scoring a half-century during the fifth day of the first cricket Test match at Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong, yesterday. (Photo: AFP)