By Bryan Davis former West Indies Test cricketer
The future of West Indies (WI) cricket must be in very good hands if we are to judge by the performance of the WI Emerging Players (WIEP) at the recently concluded Colonial Medical Insurance Super50 tournament.
A ‘pick-up’ side, chosen from those not considered to be of a high enough standard to be selected in their territories’ squads of 14 players to participate in the annual competition, ‘emerged’ winners.
Well, although out of favour, they hit back with a vengeance that no-one, except probably themselves, expected. This unbelievable tale of virtual unknowns conquering all before them having only been teammates for the first time, in an impossible overthrow of the top nations of WI cricket, is a fantastic achievement by a bunch of young, inexperienced cricketers!
The choice of coaches for this team was either a flash of brilliance or the work of serendipity! Nevertheless, the head coach was Floyd Reifer, the Barbadian who led the West Indies ten years ago when the top players were pulled out of a Test series against Bangladesh by the West Indies Players Association. He had a bad tournament as the WI coach in the recent World Cup in England.
Reifer seems to be more at home with players on the periphery of first-class cricket as he showed when he was in charge of the Combined Campuses and Colleges team in the previous contest last season when they won the trophy!
Reifer would like to keep this team together moving forward. But that would be wrong. A new bunch should take over while the present ones move on, although, there would be a few that would still be there not being able to please their home selectors!
Kenneth Benjamin, the former WI fast bowler from Antigua and Ryan Austin, the Trinidad-born Barbadian and West Indian player, were his assistants and the magic these three men worked with their charges was astonishing!
It was wonderful to see and music to the ear to hear cricketers giving praise to their coaches. First, there was Ashmead Nedd who said when interviewed after his Man-of-the-Match performance of 4 wickets for 29 runs in 9.3 overs in the semi-final against Barbados, that he owed it to Austin for his help and guidance in advising him on using his guile when bowling.
Then there was Yannic Cariah the captain, after the final, telling his interviewer that Reifer kept impressing on the team that they are winners and good enough to win the tournament, never allowing them to doubt themselves.
Joshua Da Silva, the very capable wicketkeeper and consistent batsman said after the game that the coaches kept them believing in themselves and giving them encouragement and confidence before every game.
This was a vital part of the setup as these players’ confidence needed fortifying regularly for all the ups and downs they enjoyed and suffered throughout the tournament. The fight back revealed maturity and strength.
Check selection policies
On November 25 the WIEP were bowled out for 78 against T&T which replied with 79 for 0 wicket. That same night a huge upset by the USA defeating Guyana by 7 runs allowed Reifer’s boys to slide into second place and a spot in the semis. If the Guyanese had won they would have qualified. Some will call this luck, but it isn’t, it is cricket! It’s not their fault Guyana didn’t score the runs on the night, it is that the Guyanese ‘choked.’
Three days afterwards the enthusiastic and now completely unified WIEP met Barbados Pride and beat them. The following night was the Leeward Islands Hurricanes vs the Red Force semi-final and Cariah’s team must have had fears as to whether they would have to meet the men from T&T so soon after that severe licking they had suffered only a few days before.
Although WIEP had beaten T&T in their first meeting, that ferocious pasting they had received in their second meeting was too recent to mentally dismiss. As it turned out they had nothing to fear as Leewards conquered the Trinis at the Queen’s Park Oval and chances were the Hurricanes would probably underrate them just as the others did.
Nonetheless, the youngsters felt that after getting this far they must fight all the way to triumph and become tournament winners. They had beaten Barbados, T&T, had come through two rounds of cricket and finished on top of the pile with one more game to play. They had nothing to worry about. They left that for the Leewards.
And so it came about that they proved to be the best.
The people who should deliberate on this performance are the administrators of the various territories and their selection policies to try and understand how come those players they thought were not good enough to make their teams could get together as a unit for the first time and be the territorial champions!