By virtue of being Sri Lanka’s former head coach, Nic Pothas has been part of a number of ODI battles against India. Having watched many India players achieve their peaks from close quarters, Pothas – who is now West Indies’ fielding coach – says it is the leadership system that is the reason for India’s success in the format.
“As I said, they’re a world-class team. I love the way they go about planning. I’ve got a good relationship with their coaching staff as well as some of their players. So I’m aware of how they go about planning and I love it,” Pothas said. “Their work on a day-to-day basis, how they plan into the future, and the standards that they expect of the team. This team is always going to look to improve. And it comes from Virat Kohli and from their coaching staff. Definitely, a role model type of leadership system. So you’re always going to see people improve.
“When young guys come into this team, they get comfortable really quickly. They get up to speed very quickly. Yes, they have the skill level to be able to do that, but that comes from coming into a winning environment where your senior players are your mentors. That’s the reason why they’re at the top of their game in all three formats and they will be for a long period of time.”
Having been brushed aside in the first ODI, West Indies had done phenomenally till they lost their way in the tied second ODI. In the next game in Pune, they caught India unaware with a clinical performance. With the series tied, however, they let up the pressure with a collapse in the fourth ODI that included two run-outs in a frenzied opening to the chase. Pothas conceded that on a long tour like this, fatigue could have crept in. Particularly with someone like Jason Holder, who is among the few players who were also part of the Test series.
“Jason is a world-class performer. We want to have him on the field every day for 365 days of the year.”
“It’s a possibility,” Pothas said. “Travelling to India is always wonderful. It’s a great tour to judge yourself on, [both] as a player and as a coach. You know it’s going to be tough when you come down here, I was fortunate to tour here last year with Sri Lanka. So I’ve had the experience before. Every time we walk onto the field, we’ve got to make sure our routines are good, our processes are good. You’ve got to compete. So yeah, fatigue is a possibility, but today is a great rest day for us, and our guys are professionals.
“Jason is a world-class performer. We want to have him on the field every day for 365 days of the year. 24X7, if we could. [But] he’s a human being, not a robot. In India, England, Australia, you can rest players as you have real quality coming through behind them. Unfortunately, we’re not at that place where we can rest players when we want to, but, we’ve got to be realistic as well. Jason plays a lot of cricket and it’s not just what he does on the field. As a leader and as a captain, he’s doing a lot of work off it as well.”
West Indies have already performed at a greater level than was widely expected of them before the series, and a 2-2 result would be a relative success if they were to clinch the final ODI at the Greenfield Stadium. But getting through India’s top four has been a particular challenge so far. Pothas, however, said they had plans.
“Look, if I had special plans – which I do – I’m certainly not going to put them out in the media! But having said that, they’re world-class cricketers. You can’t go without mentioning guys like Shikhar Dhawan. Rayudu is in form. Lots of fantastic players – that’s what you get with such a strong team. They’re a great team to learn from. We don’t just play against India, we learn from them too. These are great opportunities when you come and play against teams of this quality.”
West Indies are in the late stages of building up for next year’s World Cup and are yet to comfortably escape their long-standing battles with player availability. In that scenario, they’ve had to fast-track several young players into their squad. Before the start of this series, West Indies had named nine players who had played fewer than 20 ODIs.
“It’s a very young team,” Pothas said. “Not just from an international point of view but a volume of 50-over cricket point of view. I think when you play at this level, whatever sport it might be, it’s always going to come down to execution over a long period of time. We’ve seen that we can execute for short periods of time.
“The challenge is always going to be to execute over a 100 overs. If you’re going to beat India or England or Australia or Pakistan, you’ve got to execute for a 100 overs. And it takes physical ability, it takes skill, it takes mental ability. And fitness certainly comes in too. We go to Bangladesh next, we have a little break and we play England in the Caribbean. It’s a lot of cricket coming up. So physical fitness is always going to aid your recovery, it’s going to aid your decision-making and it’s going to aid your execution. So our young guys are learning all the time and they’re having to learn at the international level, which is never easy. But they’re getting better all the time and most importantly they’re open to that learning. So we’re very positive on them.”