Togetherness and respect key for West Indies white-ball captain Nicholas Pooran

Wicketkeeper batsman expects young team to improve and backs fast bowler Alzarri Joseph to raise the bar further

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West Indies have entered a new era with wicketkeeper batsman Nicholas Pooran as their white-ball captain following Kieron Pollard's retirement from international cricket.

The departure of Pollard leaves a huge void in the team but also provides Pooran an opportunity to mould a young squad into a competitive outfit.

Pooran, however, will have to manage with limited resources for now. Star all-rounder Jason Holder and batsman Shimron Hetmyer were given a break from the recent tour of the Netherlands and the ongoing ODI series in Pakistan.

But having the chance to work with a bunch of young players is an opportunity Pooran is more than happy to embrace.

"At the end of the day, you want to win. Doesn't matter whether you have an experienced team or not. Everyone wants to win and have a happy dressing room," Pooran told The National from Pakistan.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Pooran is not completely new to the job. He led the team to a 4-1 T20 series win against Australia at home ahead of the T20 World Cup last year. For the left-hander, having a cohesive dressing room is the main aim.

"Obviously, it is unexpected that 'Polly' gave up the captaincy. But it is also important to not make any excuses. I feel like I have enough experience now, and it's just about getting the guys together and trying to go in the right direction.

"I learnt that togetherness is key, and respect. Team plans helped us win against Australia last year and that's something we want to continue, getting good plans and trying our best to execute. If we don't, fine. We will review and go again."

It is a critical white-ball cycle for all teams, with the T20 World Cup to be held in Australia later this year and the 50-over World Cup in India in 2023. Finding and developing the right white-ball players is key, given the specific demands of limited-overs cricket. Pooran is happy to have found one such special talent - Alzarri Joseph.

West Indies pacer Alzarri Joseph impressed during IPL 2022 for  Gujarat Titans, bowling regularly over 150kph. Sportzpics for IPL

The right-arm quick has made steady progress in all formats since his debut in 2016, but took a massive leap forward during this year's Indian Premier League.

Playing for title winners Gujarat Titans, the 25-year-old quick impressed with the pace he generated during the nine matches he played, consistently clocking speeds of up to 150kph.

The Antiguan has already played 20 Test matches, and his new-found pace fills Pooran with confidence, especially as the T20 World Cup will be played in Australia where extra pace will be a potent weapon.

Joseph is the leading wicket-taker in ODI cricket among top teams over the last three years, with 49 wickets before the start of the Pakistan series. Now, he can provide the lethal edge in T20 cricket too.

As wicketkeeper of Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise in the IPL, Pooran saw first hand what extreme pace does. After all, he kept to and faced young pace sensation Umran Malik for months. Pooran is just glad to have someone similar in the Windies side.

"Umran Malik was wonderful to see. Being there, seeing someone bowl at 156, 157 [kph] consistently at a young age was wonderful. But also seeing Alzarri Joseph go about the way he did was impressive," Pooran said.

"Getting his speed up to 150 consistently ... we want to see Alzarri being consistent for us as well. Since the last ODI World Cup Alzarri has been tremendous for us. I think he is one of the leading fast bowlers in the world in ODI cricket and he continues to prove himself. I am very happy to have him in our team and looking forward this year to see how he goes about winning game for us and giving us the energy and momentum."

What Pooran will have to also contend with is an unflattering record in ODI cricket in the current cycle - eight wins and 10 losses. Automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup will be quite a task, with only the top eight teams earning direct entry to the 2023 World Cup in India. But he is not thinking that far ahead.

"I am not really thinking about qualification. We got ourselves in this position. Now we need to work harder to get into the World Cup. It's not a weight on my shoulders. That's also good for us a team. If we want to be in a World Cup, we need to work really hard and that will get us closer as a unit."

Updated: June 10, 2022, 3:42 AM
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