A graduate's view From Across The Board (WICB)
Stabroek News
August 12, 2001

THE inaugural batch of participants in the Shell Cricket Academy of St. George's University in Grenada graduated on August 8. During their graduation ceremony, Trinidad & Tobago's Zaheer Ali, spoke on behalf of the graduates. This week's column is an edited version of his speech.

MY job is a simple one. I am basically here to give you some feedback on how we the students of the Shell Cricket Academy felt about the experience and indeed the duration of the three months.

I must say the past three months have been most interesting, educational and productive, not only in developing us as professional cricketers but also as persons. We all are aware that it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we are very grateful for, and most certainly have enjoyed.

At this point, on behalf of my fellow aspiring young cricketers and the facilitators of the Shell Cricket Academy, I would like to say a special and most sincere thanks to Shell, not only for financing this venture, but for the active part that it has taken and I would like to refer to no other person than Mr. Roger Brathwaite.

It clearly shows the interest you all have in the development of young people and cricketers. This is highly appreciated because without you this academy would not have been possible. We therefore humbly ask for your continued sponsorship for future groups. I would also like to say a special thanks to the West Indies Cricket Board and St. George's University for supporting this development programme. Again, without you, all this would not have been a success.

We all share the view that the academy was well coordinated and was based on what we considered the four most important areas of winning cricket: (a) fitness; (b) sound technique; (c) sensible tactics and strategy and, most importantly, (d) good mental skills. These factors are all inter-connected in the development of a competitive and successful cricketer. The areas mentioned above were all dealt with in a three-phase duration.

Our fitness programme could not have been in a better person's hands than a soldier, Chris. We thought he was very committed and easy to get along with once his assignments were completed. Our main working areas were the gym and on the beach where we encountered some testing times but we had to get accustomed to it because there were no alternative. Generally speaking, it was a new beginning in our short lives but one that was necessary for our all-round development.

Fielding was taught by two Cuban coaches who introduced us to new exciting fielding drills which are currently being used by the top teams in the world. I must say these made a quick impact on our game when we played our matches. Interestingly, we also learnt a bit of Spanish.

The time spent with the Australian coaches was certainly the most interesting for most if not all of us. This was because it dealt with the main parts of our game - batting and bowling. The information we got, I must confess, was foreign but it was relevant, simple and easy to implement in most cases. I must let you all know we are now better cricketers bio-mechanically. Planning, tactics and strategies were also touched on by the Australians who showed why they are consistent winners.

Wait - how could I not mention Dr. Rudi Webster, the person responsible for the fourth part of winning crickets, our mental development. Is it because one should save the best for last? Or is it that just saying Thank You is not sufficient for this great man?

Dr. Webster your knowledge and experience speak for themselves. Personally, I believe that word - "Thanks" - is not capable of expressing how happy and grateful we are to have had someone like you around us. We strongly believe that you are a godsend and there are not many persons like you; a person whom we think has the burning desire to help young people and indeed to put West Indies Cricket back on top. I would like to suggest that you consider coaching in the near future due to your vigilant eyes, your know?how and your excellent cricket brain.

I would like to assure you all that within the past couple months we have worked diligently and we are seeing loads of improvement. We strongly believe this kind of programme is vital and relevant given the current state of West Indies cricket. This is indeed the ideal academy that we think would act as the breeding ground for future West Indies and world stars.

An academy like this would work to help remove the pain that millions of West Indies fans have been feeling (over our recent demise), especially our past greats who worked very hard to put our cricket where it once was - at the top - and who were dominators. Cricket is our game and we owe a lot to it. It perhaps has the greatest influence in bringing Caribbean people together.

In closing, we the graduates believe we now have the necessary ammunition to fight the war of world cricket and to put joy back on West Indian faces.