St Johns [Antigua], May 27 (ANI): West Indies' newly-appointed white-ball coach Darren Sammy said that his two priorities as a coach are to to get back star players like Shimron Hetmyer, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Evin Lewis back into the side and make sure that the team witnesses a rise in its rankings, adding that it is not "far off from being an elite team."Hetmyer recently declared himself available for selection for the upcoming 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, but the management chose to give a longer run to the players who had performed well in South Africa, where West Indies drew the ODI series 1-1 and won the T20I series 2-1. As a result, Hetmyer was left out of the squad. Lewis has not declared himself available for selection by the West Indies till after the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2023.
Russell last competed for the West Indies at the T20 World Cup in 2021, while Narine last represented the West Indies in August 2019. Narine has not shut down doors on his return to international cricket.
"Well, the first thing I would like to make it known is everyone who plays regional cricket is available or is indicating that they are available for West Indies selection. I have had conversations with both Hetty [Shimron Hetmyer] and Evin Lewis. Having played not too long ago and understanding the complaints of players - and the lack thereof of communication - I think it is important for us to communicate. It sounds simple but I understand that just clear communication makes the process better and it gives you a better understanding. So, yes, I have had in-depth conversations with Shimron and Evin Lewis about their mindset, their plans, and where they see West Indies cricket in line with themselves in [it]," said Darren as quoted by ESPNCricinfo.
"I must tell you that the feedback has been positive and I have also reached out to guys like Andre Russell. I have reached out to Sunil Narine and all these guys, too, to hear what their thoughts are. Because they still take part in some of our domestic competitions. But it takes honest and mature conversations, which is one I am not afraid to have with the players. I am encouraged by the discussions that we have had when it comes to West Indies cricket, outlining clear plans as to how we reintegrate because these players....look at the calibre of Shimron...I am sure it hurts fans to see him perform elsewhere and not in the maroon," added Sammy.
Sammy has coached teams in the CPL and PSL, St. Lucia and Peshawar Zalmi, respectively, but this West Indies job is his first as a coach in international cricket. Sammy intends to use his skills, having worked with previous West Indies coaches Ottis Gibson and Phil Simmons to his advantage.
West Indies won their first T20 World Cup under Gibson and Sammy in Sri Lanka in 2012, then four years later, in India, in 2016, they won a second T20 World Cup with Simmons and Sammy.
Sammy also has a great working relationship with current West Indies red-ball coach Andre Coley, who was an assistant to Simmons seven years ago when the West Indies won the T20 World Cup.
"For someone who did not have the desire to go into coaching, they are more of coaches I have worked with - whether in franchise cricket or the West Indies team or the different teams I have played. I have garnered so much knowledge that I could implement for myself. Ottis Gibson and I are quite close. We have always been in contact from way before he came into the set-up and we had a very good relationship in planning our cricket and how we presented to our guys.""I also worked with Phil and we won a championship together, so everybody has their own styles. For me, all what I have garnered and now putting all this into my style but my way is not the highway. It is incorporating everybody to pull in one direction and try to get results for our team. And try to inspire the next generation of cricketers and our fans," added Sammy.
Sammy's immediate emphasis is a three-match One-Day International series against the UAE in Sharjah in June, which will serve as part of his preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June and July. His long-term goal is to elevate the West Indies out of the lower half of the ICC rankings. They are now ranked tenth in ODIs and seventh in T20Is, but Sammy believes they are not "far off" from being a top international team.
"Numbers do not lie. We're No. 9  and No. 8  respectively. We are there for a reason, and we have not been consistent enough, but then when I look at the data ahead of me - what we have done in the last five years, where we have been losing games in different stages... Man, we are not far off, and that excites me. When I say I try to build an elite team, I look at what openers are doing around the world overseas, we are not far off. Different stages of the game where spin is killing us between overs 11-40, you know areas we could improve," said the former T20 WC winning skipper.
"When I look at the one percenters, if we could improve on certain areas and just be more aware of the situation, probably a different mindset and better skills and better execution, we are not far off. If we could build on these things and improve the small goals that I have for the team...we want to start improving on our rankings by the time our year ends. We want to finish in the top eight next year and start taking these little steps," concluded Sammy. (ANI)