Wednesday 22th August, 2007

 

Long walk to greatness

 
 
 
 
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Adrian Barath...expected to go on to great things.
Darren Bravo...has far to go.

There is a new president of the West Indies Cricket Board at a time when the shortcomings of the players and of the administration’s preparation of those players - from the cradle to the Test team - are glaringly apparent.

Now, there is the establishment of the long awaited Cricket Academy, scheduled to be operational by October. This should enable the experts at the academy to work on the mental and physical qualities of the players, so that they may be as tough and consistent as the best in the world and that they may play up to the level of their undoubted natural ability.

This is an area that has not been given the attention it deserves. The benefit of that attention will not be immediately apparent as the qualities that are to be built are psychological. The habit formation and needed re-enforcing regularly before they are established as good habits, takes time.

The performance of the players in the just concluded Under-19 competition showed a lack of consistency that must be as distressing to the players themselves as to the coach and the selectors.

In the T&T team there were two young players, Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo who were expected to be way above the quality of the average 19 year old players. They were disappointing to put it mildly. On three or four occasions they got good starts but failed to convert them to large or match winning efforts.

On pitches that were said to be batsman friendly, our bowlers were less than effective. T&T had the mortification of seeing an opposing number nine batsman score 90 runs against us just when it seemed that the team had broken the opposition.

The coach specifically mentioned the lack of penetration of the bowlers, but unless bowlers have a plan and can bowl to that plan, they will be less than effective. To work to a plan the bowler must be able to bowl to a field set to a particular attack, dependent on good length and good line. That is a problem that is endemic and must be corrected or the players will go into the Test team and be like those current bowlers.

Bowling a consistent good line and length requires constant practise and concentration. There are several well qualified and experienced men in the West Indies who could help the many eager young players and could impress on them there is no short cut and that steady and consistent work is required.

The coach complained that the youngsters were playing too much cricket. At that age, one would have thought that there was no such thing as too much cricket. That tends to indicate that the physical and mental levels of fitness are less that desired, especially at the age when those players are on the verge of stepping into the international arena, where Test and ODI cricket demand high levels of fitness and stamina if they are to reach the heights.

Part of the problem is the fact that most of the players are amateurs and can not be regularly kept to a level of fitness and preparedness that professionals in the other countries regard as absolutely essential.

In addition, the level of cricket competition is comparatively lower than that which keeps the other major playing countries at a higher pitch of readiness and competence than that which is the benchmark of the West Indies amateurs.

For many years there has been talk but little else about a professional league in the Caribbean. The money needed for that is astronomical for any one territory but if all the Caribbean territories combine, there can be a foundation for a professional league, which would furnishes splendid contracts to the players.

In addition to providing professional cricketers with attractive contracts, the competition for places and to keep those places, would help develop the edge and the professional toughness necessary, if West Indies cricket is to reclaim its honoured place among the cricketing fraternity.

How many of the current crop of Test and potential Test players know anything about the glorious history of West Indies cricket, I wonder? Do they know what cricket has done for the native West Indians and the vehicle for social and economic mobility it has been?

Do any of our young representatives know anything about the careers of Headley, Constantine, Martindale, the Grants, Stollmeyers, Alf Valentine, Sonny Ramadhin, Allan Rae? Do they care and does anybody ever try to fill them with zeal and pride with instruction on these lines? That is one of the areas that may be tackled by the Academy.

Cricket has been too important to the development of the West Indies and has brought such respect and admiration to the region for it to be allowed to atrophy through lack of attention to the basics which were a matter of course less than a generation ago.

President Hunte may be the man to marshall his troops, to attract the attention and collaboration of corporate Caribbean for the long walk back to greatness.

 

 

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