By Bryan Davis (former West Indies Test batter)
FIRST, it was the T20 World Cup, then before we cricket fans of the Caribbean could recover from being thoroughly crushed as defending champions, the Test cricketers succumbed meekly to the Sri Lankans at Galle.
In the second of a two-Test series, the Caribbean team collapsed to 132 in their second innings to lose by 164 runs.
Hence, WI bowed to their hosts in both matches by appreciable margins, leaving little doubt as to who were the stronger team.
Although the selectors were to be blamed for the T20 downfall, the players themselves have no excuses for losing the series. Their shortcomings as far as batting technique is concerned have to be blamed on themselves to a great extent, and the coach.
The coach is there to guide the player, but it is up to the cricketer himself to know enough about his discipline and temperament to passionately want to do so well as to win matches. Regardless of whether batter or bowler, technique is of vital importance and a winning disposition is a must.
I repeat constantly: WI cricketers do not practise enough. I’ve followed interviews with top sportsmen and coaches in the past and I gather from everyone regardless of the kind of sport, just how seriously and regularly they practise their art.
I applaud and praise them, but don’t know the many hours they spent perfecting the art. That is where discipline is learnt.
I read about Manchester United footballer David Beckham in Sir Alex Ferguson’s autobiography, Managing My Life.
This is what he had to say: “David Beckham is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practises with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.
Practice may not make you perfect but it will definitely make you better and any player working with me on the training ground will hear me preach the virtues of repetition – repeatedly.”
Sir Alex is one of the most successful sports coaches ever. He goes on to say: “Good coaching relies on repetition. Forget all that nonsense about altering training programmes to keep players happy.”
Andre Agassi, the former tennis champion from the US, was on vacation from playing continuously in world tournaments. A TV interviewer caught up with him. He was on the tennis court, so he was asked why he was there as he was on holiday.
He answered, “I practise eight hours a day, as the vacation gives me that extra time to practise.”
Kraigg Brathwaite says: “We will take a few days off” – from what?
The best golfers, basketballers – you name it, they practise religiously to be the best they could be.
Present batsmen like Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root, all subscribe to rigorous work in the nets.
I’ve seen present WI teams practise and there’s no intensity, no long hours. Batters must love to bat, like Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul did – those who will make their way to the nets on their own without having to wait on a coach, then practise passionately for hours. They are always the successful ones.
People see them perform, applaud and praise them, but don’t know the many hours they spent perfecting the art. That is where discipline is learnt.
Because of the shortage of the type of practice needed, WI batsmen are not performing. Whether wickets are turning, seaming, bouncing or keeping low, once proper practice habits are in place, the batter will prosper. This, of course, is accepting the fact that talent is a given.
It was a shame to witness the Caribbean batters’ deficiency in playing spin bowling on slow turners in the two Tests. Basic flaws were glaring. Only Nkrumah Bonner, Joshua Da Silva and Brathwaite showed the right technique required, plus the determination to survive.
I’m left to wonder exactly what coach Phil Simmons’ attitude is to his batters. They do not seem to have a clue, particularly Shai Hope, Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers – the main offenders.
They are all experienced batters in Test cricket, yet haven’t the technical wherewithal to play on pitches that are assisting spin-bowling. Some of them seemed mentally unable to adjust from what they expected, and were defeated in the pavilion before the games began.
All cricketers, batters especially, need regular and lengthy hours in the nets, not in the middle, in the nets, practising the art of batting with a coach pointing out their flaws; and practising until the correct technique becomes a habit. And that’s the road to success.