Lendl Simmons

FLASHBACK: West Indies’ Lendl Simmons in action during the first T20 of a two-match series aginast Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, in Kandy, last March 4. --Photo: AFP

Powerful all-rounder Andre Russell, along with openers Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis have opted out of the Twenty20 International tour of New Zealand, Cricket West Indies (CWI) confirmed Friday.

The trio were not part of a 14-man squad named for the three-match series from November 27-30, with embattled off-spinner Sunil Narine and veteran superstar Chris Gayle also missing the trip next month.

“Lendl Simmons declined the opportunity to tour at this time after discussions with his family,” convenor of selectors Roger Harper told a media conference last Friday.

“Evin Lewis, the same as well as he says he still has an injury that is troubling him, and Andre Russell said that he wasn’t really handling the whole thing (playing during the Covid-19 pandemic) very well and needed some time to clear his head and get himself together.

“He’s been going from one lockdown (bio-secure bubble) so to speak, to another.”

Narine, meanwhile, who was last week reported for a suspect bowling action in the Indian Premier League, was overlooked for the tour along with Gayle, who made his first appearance in a competitive game in ten months on Thursday in the IPL.

Despite their absences, Harper said both were still in the plans of selectors going forward, especially with the T20 World Cup on the horizon.

“Sunil is an experienced player. We all know what [he] is capable of,” Harper noted. “He’s a world class performer and I think that he understands the process of getting through these challenges because he’s done it in the past and we know that Sunil can do. As we build up to the T20 World Cup [next year] when Sunil is ready and available, fully fit and everything is in sync, he’ll be considered.”

Harper continued, “We picked the squad that we thought was the right one for this tour. Chris Gayle, like Sunil Narine, is a world class player. We know what he is capable of so going forward, he will be considered and is being considered.”

The absence of the five will rob West Indies of valuable experience but has paved the way for the maiden selection of attacking left-handed all-rounder, Kyle Mayers, and the return of veteran batsman Andre Fletcher. Mayers carved out 654 runs at an average of 50 during the recent first class season but also shone for Barbados Pride during last month’s Caribbean Premier League in Trinidad.

The 32-year-old Fletcher, who has not featured for West Indies in two years, produced handy knocks during the CPL to propel St Lucia Zouks to the final.

Seven players, including captain Kieron Pollard, are currently campaigning in the IPL and will join the remainder of the West Indies touring party in New Zealand after completing their franchise commitments.

Harper acknowledged that the tour would not allow for proper match preparation but backed the players to use their experience. “The T20I Team is now getting back into the groove after a nine-month absence from international competition,” he said.

“Fortunately, a number of players have been involved in the Indian Premier League and before that, the CPL, so they have had some competitive cricket leading up to this tour.

“The structure of the tour with the Covid-19 quarantine period does not give the team any real opportunity for match practice as a team but there are a number of experienced players in the team so, hopefully, they can adapt quickly.”

West Indies open the series at Eden Park in Auckland on November 27 before playing back-to-back matches at Bay Oval in Mount Maunganui starting two days later.

SQUAD: Kieron Pollard (captain), Fabian Allen, Dwayne Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Andre Fletcher, Shimron Hetmyer, Brandon King, Kyle Mayers, Rovman Powell, Keemo Paul, Nicholas Pooran, Oshane Thomas, Hayden Walsh Jr, Kesrick Williams.

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