What the children hear…
October 6, 2018
A time for reparation
October 6, 2018

Yet another coach

Before I begin my article I seek the indulgence of my editor for me to give credit where credit is due; and I refer to a superb piece published under my name in the issue of September 23.

This article on Serena Williams’ behaviour in the US Open tennis final of 2018 was written by my great friend and fellow columnist Alvin Corneal. For those who might have missed the correction on page three of the issue of September 30, be it known that credit for said piece must go to Alvin.

I enjoyed the article and wished that I had written same but I remain a cricket correspondent while Alvin is a versatile sportswriter!

A cricket team is a unit which works best when united for the purpose of togetherness, understanding, common goals, pride in one’s country and other virtues that knit a team together to play good cricket and strive for victory. 

In modern-day cricket, the coach of a cricket team has taken over the responsibility of motivating and inspiring his team to the point of presenting that united force against the opposition which is to achieve the ultimate goal of victory at the conclusion of the game.

In days of yore, this was the obligation of the manager and captain of the side. A historical perspective was the role played by Sir Frank Worrell when he took over the captaincy of the West Indies (WI) from the Jamaican Gerry Alexander.

Alexander was a wonderful person but did not have the respect of the players from a cricketing standpoint. The captain before him, John Goddard, also suffered the same fate where the players did not think that he was worth his place on the team.

Because of the social climate of the day when it was considered right for only a white man to lead the WI to participate in international cricket, the younger cricketers on the side could not understand what purpose the captain was serving on the team.

Goddard, although the first captain to lead the team to a series victory over England in England, did not accomplish much on the tour but owed his success to spinners Sonny Ramadhin and Alfie Valentine in the bowling department; to Alan Rae and Jeffrey Stollmeyer, the opening pair of batsmen; and the famous three ‘Ws’: Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Clyde Walcott, the stroke makers!

However on their return to England in 1957, they were mercilessly crushed in the Test series. On that tour the unknown Alexander was chosen as wicketkeeper and he had recently graduated from Cambridge University.

Because he could not ‘read’ Ramadhin, Rohan Kanhai was entrusted to keep wicket in the first three Tests. Yet the Jamaican was delegated to lead the WI, with experience in only two Tests: against Pakistan in the WI and then versus England in the Caribbean in 1960.

Imagine very qualified men like the three ‘Ws’ were overlooked! West Indies’ cricket then was a messy affair until fairness prevailed and the most suited candidate, Worrell, was chosen as captain to Australia— becoming the first black man to lead the WI on a tour hence as captain for a series. George Headley was the first to do so in a Test match, against England in 1948.

This was the vital importance of leadership which the Barbadian captain brought to the fore. The very unhappy West Indian players suddenly emerged into their true selves under the captaincy of Worrell. They gave expression to their natural selves playing with a flourish and elegance never seen before.

These young cricketers were Sir Garfield Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Sir Wesley Hall, Lance Gibbs, Conrad Hunte, Joe Solomon and Seymour Nurse. Batsmen and bowlers matured overnight to the betterment of WI cricket. The players started enjoying their cricket as they were allowed the freedom to use their skills as they saw fit.

The point I belaboured in developing here is the fact that cricketers perform at their best in an atmosphere of self-confidence, friendship and enjoyment where everyone is giving of their best for the sake of the eventual benefit of the team.

The coach in the modern-day team is the one to instil this confidence, never short of praise, quiet and understanding criticism, and the appreciation of each player for his colleague.

This feature has been lacking in WI teams for the longest time but instead of recognising this fact, the present administration is totally ignorant of these qualities. They obviously don’t have a clue as to what is necessary to build the team and hold them together for superlative performances.

I don’t know the reason for the resignation of Stuart Law as WI coach but it is strange that it comes after only two years in the job. Then there is cricket’s big showpiece: the World Cup in England 2019.  Any coach would be looking forward to that big day! Very strange indeed!