Phil Simmons. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
CHENNAI: There will be a few rule changes when international cricket resumes on Wednesday with the three-Test series between England and the West Indies. While the ICC has banned the use of saliva to shine the ball, the ECB has gone on to create a bio-secure environment to protect players against Covid-19, meaning the matches will be played behind closed doors.
West Indies coach Phil Simmons feels that playing in front of empty stands will affect the players mentally. “There will be a huge mental aspect involved when we take the field. Generally, the fans would support and cheer for you. Now, you need to create your own mindset and motivate yourself. We have to deal with the saliva ban too. But then, a bowler would always sweat even in cold conditions once he starts bowling. So we are hopeful that sweat will do the trick for us,” Simmons via a video call with select journalists on Monday.
Under the circumstances, Simmons said that his job as a coach was to keep the boys in the right frame of mind. A 39-member West Indies squad has been camping in England from June 9 to prepare for the series. “A month-long lockdown has been good for us. It has brought the squad together and helped us understand each other. The players have bonded well. Even though we couldn’t step outside the hotel barring outdoor practice sessions, we went to gym and did a lot of activities together in the team room. Particularly, the bowling group has come together,” the former West Indies all-rounder said.
The 57-year-old Simmons feels that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement – it gained momentum after former Windies captain Darren Sammy spoke about racism in cricket – will also spur the players. The West Indies and England players will also sport a BLM logo on their shirts in solidarity with the movement. “We are yet to decide on whether to take a knee or not. But the movement is important to us and motivates us,” he asserted.
While there has been a lot of talk surrounding the implementation of the new rules, Simmons feels the quality of cricket dished out by the teams will matter eventually. “These have been tough times but cricket could lift people’s moods and be a welcome distraction. I expect a record-breaking TV crowd and it will be good for the sport when Test cricket is struggling. So we should play quality cricket to make Test cricket entertaining again,” he concluded.