‘We’re going to figure it out’ – Pooran says the best version of West Indies is not far away

West Indies have lost their last eight ODIs, but their captain Nicholas Pooran believes that they aren’t far away from identifying their strengths and putting wins on the board. Pooran drew confidence from West Indies’ first two ODIs against India where they put up 300-plus totals.

“We’re just starting to obviously put performances together,” Pooran said on the eve of the third ODI. “I don’t want to come to a conclusion and say our batting is our strength or our bowling is our strength. As a team we’re still figuring it out. We haven’t put a collective effort together yet, obviously the results haven’t shown that yet, but the more games we play as a unit, we’re going to figure it out and we’re close to crossing the line and actually figuring it out what is our strength as a team.

“I don’t want to be saying that our batting is our strength or bowling is our strength. I want both facets to be our strength, to be honest. That’s how we’re going to win cricket games. We’re just staying the moment, trying to learn as fast as possible and sticking through these tough times as a team.”

Pooran conceded that West Indies are still hurting after suffering heartbreaking defeats in the first two ODIs but backed his side to regroup and avoid a 3-0 sweep on Wednesday.

“The confidence level is there,” Pooran said. “The guys are obviously hurt. Those two losses obviously hurt us a lot but that’s another game and that’s another experience and another opportunity for us to learn. This game keeps teaching us different things and I’m just happy that we’ve had that experience. It’s difficult to obviously lose, I’m disappointed, but that’s where the learning takes place and as a group we understand that and we know that for a fact that it’s our time now.

“I keep telling winning and losing is contagious and at the moment in ODI cricket we’re losing and we’re finding ways to lose games, but in terms of the confidence level all the guys are ready for the challenge again. We’re ready to come out there and put our hearts and souls out there and perform together as a team.”

Shai Hope was particularly despondent after his century in his 100th ODI ended in vain for West Indies on Sunday. Hope’s career strike rate of 75.11, which is the lowest among the 16 highest run-getters in ODI cricket since his debut in November 2016, has probably divided opinion about his role in the modern era, but Pooran stressed that Hope’s ability to dig in and bat for long frees up the batters at the other end.

“His role has remained the same for the last five years,” Pooran said of Hope.” I think he just needs to bat and bat through. He doesn’t need to study about the strike rate or any other thing. He just needs to be out there for the team. We know once he’s there, he’s going to score runs for us and that is what matters the most, I think. He just being out there obviously sends a message and there’s a bit of a calm in the dressing room as well.

“We know at one end he’s holding up things and other guys just need to fine-tune themselves to do their job and do what the team is required of them at that moment. He’s very important to our team and he knows that. Time and time again, he keeps putting his hands up and keep proving to everyone how good he is as a player.”

Pooran was also wary of managing his workload as well as those of his team-mates as West Indies prepare for a hectic season. Just one day after the ongoing ODI series ends, West Indies will face India again in a five-match T20I series in the Caribbean and the USA. This will be followed by a visit from New Zealand for three T20Is and three ODIs.

Ten days after the New Zealand series ends, West Indies’ players will be in action in the CPL, which runs from August 31 to September 30. Then, just days after the CPL ends, West Indies will tour Australia for two T20Is, in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup.

“That’s a tough one because as a group we want to win and we want all our players to be available for us,” Pooran said. “But in seeing that we need to look after our players and that’s the key as a collective effort for the coach, chairman of selectors and myself, we need to determine… not only myself but the other guys who we believe need to rest.

“Obviously, that’s very important with eight T20 games coming up, four more ODIs and then CPL coming up and the addition of the SIXTY and the CPL, we definitely need to manage the players. How? I’m not too sure, but we need to figure it out and be smart about it as well. But, at the end of the day, we want to win, and we need to have all our guys to be available to us.”

Hetmyer passes fitness test
Pooran revealed that batter Shimron Hetmyer has cleared a fitness test and will be available for selection in the near future. Hetmyer, who had omitted from West Indies’ recent white-ball squads, had linked up with the ODI group in Port of Spain to work with the trainers and coaches. He had last represented West Indies in November 2021, in the T20 World Cup in the UAE.

“He [Hetmyer] passed his fitness test this morning, which is wonderful news,” Pooran said. “So, we expect him to see him back as soon as possible. I can’t tell you exactly when because I’m not sure, but as soon as possible and as soon as you can get him on the field.”

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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