Ian Bishop, former West Indies fast bowler and cricket commentator.

Former West Indies fast bowler and now cricket commentator Ian Bishop says West Indies cricket has questions to answer going into 2021.

Speaking to Guardian Media Sports in the build-up to the Twenty20 International (T20I) series against New Zealand last week, Bishop said he was “ambivalent” about the West Indies’ T20 World Cup chances next year, given the challenges which the pandemic has presented this year.

“There are a number of gaps that need to be filled so without being overly concerned or overly satisfied I would say, there needs to be the answer to some questions going forward,” the Trinbagonian said from New Zealand where he is currently commentating on the ongoing Test series.

The Caribbean side, skippered by Kieron Pollard, lost the three-match series 2-0, after falling to a five-wicket defeat under the Duckworth/Lewis/Stern Method in the first T20I at Eden Park in Auckland, then a 66-run defeat at the Bay Oval, the same venue where the final match was prevented due to rain, ending in a no-result.

Bishop also said given the curtailed cricket calendar in 2020 caused by COVID-19, it’s also difficult to grade Phil Simmons on his first year since returning as coach. However, he warned 2021 will be a pivotal one for the West Indies in all formats of the game.

The former regional fast-bowler said, “It’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions [on Simmons’ first year] so I think this tour of New Zealand, if the West Indies go to Bangladesh when they host Sri Lanka and someone else next year, then we will get a better gauge but Phil knows that T20 World Cup, they need to start moving upwards of that number nine position in the world rankings.”

While he did not downplay the size of the task West Indies faces on this New Zealand tour, Bishop said he understood why the selectors may have chosen to drop Shai Hope altogether as opposed to taking him with the West Indies A team.

He said, “Shai has had a long run. He has been a particular favourite of mine but he hasn’t come up with the numbers that he should be expecting of himself. Shai has that time now to be away from the grind of watching his teammates play international cricket and to focus on getting some sessions in Barbados and really refresh his mind.”

Bishop also added his voice to the growing debate on whether Nicholas Pooran should be fast-tracked into the Test team given his talent and success in the shortest format of the game.

“What I feel a lot of fans underestimate is how different T20 cricket is from Test match cricket. I don’t think people really understand the difference and the wide range of skills that need to be applied,” Bishop, a former national standout explained.

In supporting Pooran playing in the ongoing Four-Day Test matches with the West Indies A against New Zealand A, Bishop said, “The prudent thing is to let Pooran play some long-form cricket, learn about himself, learn about technique and learn about the mindset of batting long periods of time.”

He added that Pooran should not strive to be a player who averages just 30 in Test matches but rather “be an exceptional player”.

In the first Four-Day “Test” which ended on Sunday at the Bay Oval, Pooran had scores of 46 and 35, respectively. New Zealand A defeated West Indies A by an inning and 134 runs.