KARACHI: Phil Simmons had no hesitation in coming to Pakistan. In fact, he’s happy to be here. The same goes for the players who have arrived in the country for the white-ball tour starting next week, the West Indies coach said.
But this is a West Indies team missing several of its top players. Jason Holder was rested while four others, including Simmons’ own nephew Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell, Shimron Hetmeyer and Evin Lewis, opted out due to personal reasons.
Both Lendl Simmons and Russell have been part of the Pakistan Super League, but have never featured in a match of the Twenty20 tournament when it has been played in Pakistan.
In 2016, Russell had said in an interview he’d be ‘scared’ but willing to travel to Pakistan.
That was never a concern for the former West Indies all-rounder Simmons even though his team is the first to tour Pakistan since New Zealand abandoned their tour and England cancelled theirs earlier this year due to “security” and “mental health” issues.
“There wasn’t any hesitation,” Simmons told a virtual news conference on Friday, three days before the start of the T20 International series which will be followed by the One-day International series with all the matches being played in Karachi.
“Once we got the clear from the security [consultants], we had a call with the players and we are happy to come.”
He, however, admitted the situation — also in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic — is different from when he toured with the West Indies as a player back in 1997.
“There is a lot of security … very different from when I toured Pakistan last time,” he said. “We can’t go out and see what Karachi is like.”
The T20s against Pakistan will mark the first competitive action for the West Indies since they relinquished their Twenty20 World Cup title without a whimper in the UAE. They were then in Sri Lanka for a two-Test series where they were swept aside by the hosts.
Simmons admitted this was a rebuilding phase for his side, about trying new players, a process of evolution. And he was wary of Twenty20 World Cup semi-finalists Pakistan who head into the series buoyed by a 3-0 T20 series sweep in Bangladesh, which preceded a 2-0 Test series sweep.
“Playing Pakistan in Pakistan is pressure,” he said, adding that the T20 series will help West Indies in building their side for next year’s Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
“We will see who puts up their hands to be a major player. We have an idea what they can deliver but we want to see how they fare in matches like these, against a side like Pakistan. We need to transform what we’re doing off the pitch, onto the pitch. We want to see how we evolve.”
Simmons said his side had a plan in mind for Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who has a knack of ripping through the oppositions’ top-order.
“Shaheen has been brilliant for Pakistan,” he said, “but we have a plan for him and we’ll see how it goes.”