Getting down to brass tacks
A visit to Windsor Park on Tuesday afforded a small glimpse of preparations in progress by the Windward Islands team for this year's regional cricket tournaments. The oppressiveness of the heat under a near cloudless sky made one wonder how some people can find it possible to deny the truth about global warming. This phenomenon is very much a fact and is by no means fiction. My position in the shade at around 10:30 am did not leave me without evidence of what the squad of players was experiencing in their laps around the field. It was like standing not too far from a small bonfire, and posed little doubt all concerned might have been inclined to embrace the blissful blessing of a September shower. But there was none, and it being to do with cricket, the fair weather could be taken as congenial.
I waited for the lads to complete the mandated half hour of jogging – a chore additional to a quantum of physical exercises undertaken in circuits, and looked forward to a brief discussion with Liam Sebastien. I made it very brief in view of further exercise doses expected to be followed by net practice under watchful eyes of former Windwards batsman, now manager, Lockhart Sebastien, and the Windward's Coach.
Clive Lloyd's recent admonition that regional players must develop mental strength to maximize their performance potential immediately came to mind, urging my first question to Liam as to how best Mr. Lloyd's advice would be embraced. Liam unhesitatingly endorsed the view that physical fitness needed to be at an optimum in order to obtain and secure the mental strength that serves as indispensable pillar to cricketing efficiency. He said all players have difficulty thinking when they are tired.
This is too true. From the comfort of a seat next to his television set the ordinary Caribbean fan remains removed – completely insulated, quite likely with cool refreshing drink in hand – comfortably positioned to put hell on our players for bad performances. Quite fair. However, it is good to feel a little of what the players go through in order to arrive at reasonably fair empathy with the situation.
Discretely, I chose not to indulge in sympathy towards players representing us (and themselves) at the topmost levels as that might be considered self-defeating in context of my article. The Windwards as a group of players and also from the administrative standpoint, I had been assured by Mr. Lockhart Sebastien were under serious commitment to prepare adequately and meaningfully for the tournaments both for the traditional and limited overs formats of the game. Franchise considerations and sponsor -ship demands being now viewed as paramount.
Drifting more towards the local scene, I dared to be provocative by asking Liam which Dominica players could be viewed as having the potential to make the West Indies team. His reply was cogently diplomatic. Perhaps not exactly as sweeping as Fred Wynter's rejoinder that any horse, so long as it has four legs, could become a champion, Liam was adamant we have very much potential. His contention rested on the business as to what is done with the existing potential that would determine whether the attainable excellence is reached or not.
The Dominica Cricket Academy was brought into focus. It had eighteen Under-19 players recruited at its inception, the number being due to be increased shortly with influx of another eighteen. I did not ask, but took it for granted they were all male. Liam is the director of the Academy, which he declared to be disposed towards an outlook, geared to mental and physical discipline and elevated performance ambitions in the sport.
About the Dominica Senior Team, Liam had exceeding praise for Jerlani Robinson's 167 posted responsibly against St. Lucia this year. Its value was underlined by its coming primarily against some good spin bowlers and at a time when Dominica had lost early wickets on a spin friendly surface. He thought the team on the whole acquitted itself very well. What pleased him, too, was a positive avowal by the players to endeavour to continue to lift Dominica solidly in the ratings.
Noting my prescription for efforts to be made to develop all rounders in the mould of South African Jacques Kallis, Sebastien was quick to suggest much depends on the makeup of particular individuals. Some would lend themselves better to fashioning themselves into spinning all rounders.
As to the position of our playing fields in wake of the recent storm Sebastien was partial to the idea of more positive use being made of grounds located around Roseau which were not seriously affected – until those in the rural districts could be rehabilitated.
In context of our overall – and paramount cricket facilities, it may have been a misplacing of any questions about how approaches could be structured to elevate programming along highly scientific lines for our cricket movement along scales of development. Any such dialogue was withheld for appropriate forums. But I could not, for instance, refrain from running through my mind why players at the age of fourteen are not recruited to assist in the training exercises and practices of the senior team – explicitly with the purpose and prime value of getting them exposed by rubbing shoulders with more senior and mature players. Those of us who know are well aware of Irving Shillingford, Clem John, Kelleb Laurent, Lockhart Sebastien, Norbert Phillip, Val Felix, Cecil Shillingford and so many others making the senior national team in their early and mid-teens. This is opportunity not to be ignored. Youth must be pushed and urged to move forward as early as possible.