WI coaches must be in charge

Orin Davidson's Eye on Sports
Stabroek News
April 22, 2001

It is a manifestation of an administrative flaw in the West Indies Cricket Board that fines are being introduced to improve performances of the West Indies Test team.

West Indies has been the last of the recognised cricket nations to modernise its game through the introduction of coaches, establish an academy and utilise the requisite scientific measures to maintain a consistent level of high performance in this modern era of almost non stop competition.

It would be remembered that Malcolm Marshall, the first long term contracted WICB coach had spent years refining the talents of many South African players including a few in the current touring squad in the region, the most notable being the captain himself Shaun Pollock, before he was given the opportunity to work with West Indian players.

Our Shell Cricket Academy of St George's, established through the commendable work of the WICB, is several years, late like many other of the games modern requirements.

Yet, we are the first to resort to draconian measures through the fine penalty for Test players for poor shot making, sloppy catching and in general bad cricket.

Such desperate measures suggest that either the coaching staff is incapable of developing the players or they are powerless to exert full authority in the preparation of teams.

In any global professional sports situation, the coaches are the ones totally in charge of the team's affairs. They are the ones responsible for making the players better through technique implementation, motivation, mental preparation and proper nutrition among other necessary requirements.

In the end they are entirely accountable for the team's performances and are the first ones to suffer the consequences.

Cricket, though being of the great traditionalist sports in modern civilization, took some to embrace the concept of coaching, but once it was initially accepted by the more developed countries the benefits were obvious.

For the West Indies, it took even longer for the WICB to join the rest of the world and it did so reluctantly, possibly due to the success of Sir Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd who in the role of captains, transformed the regional team to world beating units, in their role as team leaders.

That reluctance was reflected in the limited authority those early coaches enjoyed, thus none were given a fair chance to succeed. The lamentations of Rohan Kanhai, Andy Roberts and Marshall himself, of players not adhering to instructions and advice are well documented throughout the region.

The policy of the captain being in charge was still very much in place but unfortunately none of the captains subsequently was of the calibre of Worrell and Lloyd, who could handle the pressure of teaching and motivating their players and at the time performing in an individual capacity and as strategist on the field of play.

The situation has not changed more than eight years after the first coach was assigned as current practitioner Roger Harper is beginning to feel the heat of criticism for ineffective work following West Indies three successive Test series defeats.

Surprisingly Harper, an outstanding captain in his playing days and the best qualified of all regional coaches, has found himself at the mercy of the critics for not producing, a situation not dissimilar to his predecessors.

They all share the common problem of not being given the tools to work with.

A coach cannot function if first and foremost he is not allowed to select the team he should hold responsibility for.

Harper and the others should be the ones to disqualify players who do not or are incapable of heeding instructions or working to plans.

Thus he was forced to become innovative by instituting fines to pressure players to lift their standard, with the support of new captain Carl Hooper.

In so doing he had to seek the approval of manager Ricky Skerritt, in another case of unwanted hindrance in execution of his duties.

Managers should be confined specifically to the administrative requirements of teams.

One never hears of South Africa's Goolam Rajah nor the Australian coach getting in the way of coaches in cricket matters.

Whether Harper's innovation will benefit West Indies only time will tell but from all indications so far, no catches were dropped in the first innings of the current fifth Test, but instead some wonderful ones were held.

Such a situation though, should never been allowed to develop. The coach must have total jurisdiction on cricket matters. Only then would the WICB justify contracting them for lengthy periods.