Sammy's checklist: get Russell, Narine, Hetmyer back and rise in rankings

Daren Sammy talks to Nicholas Pooran following the series loss Peter Della Penna

West Indies' newly-appointed white-ball coach Daren Sammy has had "in-depth conversations" with Shimron Hetmyer, Evin Lewis, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine about their reintegration into the national side.

Hetmyer had recently made himself available for selection for the upcoming 2023 ODI World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, but he was left out of the squad because the management wanted 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 took the T20I series 2-1. As for Lewis, he hasn't made himself available for West Indies selection until after CPL 2023. Russell hasn't played for West Indies since the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE while Narine's last appearance for West Indies was way back in August 2019.

In an interview with The Cricket Monthly last year, Narine, though, had said that he hadn't shut the door on a West Indies return.

"Well, first thing I'd like to make it known is everyone who plays regional cricket is available or is indicating that they're available for West Indies selection," Sammy said in his first press conference as the white-ball coach. "I've 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's 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've 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].

"I must tell you that the feedback has been positive and I've also reached out to guys like Andre Russell. I've 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'm not afraid to have with the players. I'm encouraged by the discussions that we've had when it comes to West Indies cricket, outlining clear plans as to how we reintegrate because these players….look at the caliber of Shimron…I'm sure it hurts fans to see him perform elsewhere and not in the maroon."

Sammy has been in charge of the St Lucia and Peshawar Zalmi franchises in the CPL and PSL respectively, but this West Indies assignment is his first as a coach in international cricket. Sammy hopes to draw from his experiences of having worked with former West Indies coaches Phil Simmons and Ottis Gibson.

Under Gibson and Sammy, West Indies lifted their first T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka in 2012 and four years later in India in 2016, West Indies won another T20 World Cup under the leadership of Simmons and Sammy.

Sammy also has a good working relationship with current West Indies red-ball coach Andre Coley, who had been an assistant to Simmons, when West Indies clinched that T20 World Cup title seven years ago.

"For someone who didn't have the desire to go into coaching, they're more of coaches I've worked with - whether in franchise cricket or the West Indies team or the different teams I've played," Sammy said. "I've garnered so much knowledge that I could implement for myself. Ottis Gibson and I are quite close. We've always been in contact from way before he came into the set-up and we had a very good relationship, in terms of 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've garnered and now putting all this into my style but my way is not the highway. It's 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."

Sammy: WI are not 'far off' from being an elite team

Sammy's immediate focus is a three-match ODI series against the UAE in Sharjah in June, which will form part of the preparations for the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe in June-July. His long-term focus is to lift West Indies from the bottom half of the ICC rankings. They're currently tenth in ODIs and seventh in T20Is, but Sammy feels they're not "far off" from being a top international side.

"Numbers don't lie. We're No. 9 [10] and No. 8 [7] respectively," Sammy said. "We're there for a reason, and we've not been consistent enough, but then when I look at the data ahead of me - what we've done in the last five years, where we've been losing games in different stages… Man, we're 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're not far off. Different stages of the game where spin is killing us between overs 11-40, you know areas we could improve.

"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're 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."