Nicholas Pooran, West Indies' white-ball captain, has expressed disappointment at his recent patchy form with the bat in ODI cricket, but hopes that a turnaround could ease the burden on Shai Hope and usher the team to "something special".
In six innings in Netherlands and Pakistan, Pooran managed just 81 runs at an average of 13.50 and a strike rate of 75. He last scored a fifty in the format almost 15 innings ago, against Australia in Bridgetown.
"For the last couple of years, he [Hope] has been the leader of our batting and he has been doing fantastic, but we definitely need to buff up on ourselves, myself especially," Pooran told CWI Media after West Indies were swept 3-0 by Pakistan in Multan.
"In the last 10-12 innings, I haven't scored [substantially] in ODI cricket and I'm very disappointed with myself as well. Looking forward to start scoring runs in ODI cricket and hopefully that changes as well. If I can start doing what I'm accustomed [to] doing in [the] middle overs for West Indies, hopefully the other guys can continue stringing partnerships and that could be the start of something special for us as a team."
On Monday, Pooran made a surprisingly significant contribution with the ball, bagging career-best List A figures of 4 for 48 in what was only his second outing with the ball in the format. After Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq struck up an 85-run opening partnership, Pooran matched himself up with Pakistan's left-hander-heavy top-order. Three of his four wickets were of left-hand batters.
"Today was amazing for me and if the guys are interested to know, I'm going to talk a lot about it, especially to pressure Akeal [Hosein] and Hayden [Walsh Jr.] [into] getting wickets for us because today these fingers worked, but I'm not going to get overconfident," Pooran quipped. "Hopefully, there are two left-handers in the next series, so I can bowl as well."
Despite the 3-0 series defeat, Pooran was enthused by how his side had dealt with the searing Multan heat after having just completed a 3-0 whitewash of Netherlands in much cooler climes in Amstelveen.
"The characters, the different characters shown by players, especially coming out here in 45-degree temperatures [was a positive]," Pooran said. "A lot of guys got sick as well. We keep fighting, we said from the beginning of the tournament that we're going to stick together and no matter what the result [is] we're going to stick together. That's what happened."
Two series in as full-time captain, Pooran has overseen vastly contrasting results, but he emphasised that the team was gelling well together and that there were quite a few takeaways. Alzarri Joseph dashed out of the IPL and bowled probing spells while Hope opened both the Netherlands and Pakistan tours with centuries.
"A lot of people would be upset that we lost and a lot of people would bash us as well that we lost, [but] to me, I felt we got really close as a team," Pooran said. "It's my second tour as captain and I felt we're actually building a family here and that's a positive we're going to take. Hopey leading with the bat again, Alzarri leading with the ball, and Akeal showing he's world-class and Shamarh Brooks is coming into his own. Keemo Paul is back in the team as well and he did well today and [so did] young Jayden Seals and Anderson Phillip. Despite the results, we had a good showing, especially [in] the first game."
Pooran, Bishop laud Hosein
Arguably, it was Akeal Hosein who had emerged with greater credit, following up his Player-of-the-Series effort in Amstelveen with all-round contributions in Multan. In the third ODI, Hosein came to the crease when West Indies were 93 for 5 and gave Pakistan a late scare with a sprightly 37-ball 60, which included six sixes. As far as his stronger suit is concerned, he is on top of the ODI Super league wicket-takers' list with 35 strikes, six ahead of his team-mate Joseph.
Former West Indies fast bowler and current commentator, Ian Bishop, was so impressed with Hosein's control of line and length that he felt Hosein had the tools to succeed in Test cricket too; although the spinner was overlooked for the forthcoming Test series against Bangladesh.
Pooran, too, was full of praise for Hosein, ahead of the third ODI. "Very happy for him. He's someone who is very hard working as well and it's not just the last series and this series, but he has been doing well for the last couple of months and he's a very hard worker again," he said. "It's nice to see him getting a lot of wickets and getting the best batsmen out and happy that we can throw the ball to him and ask him to do a job for us - whether it is containing or getting wickets - not only Akeal but the rest of the bowlers are putting their hands up and trying to [execute] what is required for the team as well."
West Indies' red-ball players will now have only four days of rest before they face Bangladesh at home in a two-match Test series. Pooran's message to them is pretty simple: "Get wickets, make runs, be smart. Coming from this conditions obviously, it took a toll on our every one of us. I wish the Test team all the best and looking forward to a series victory again against Bangladesh."