RONALD ROGERS is using a bit of psychology along with his training methods to raise the fitness level of the West Indies cricketers and keep them there.
"I've been reading a book by a motivational speaker who used Michael Jordan's example to show how his attitude to work contributed to his success," Rogers said as he put the team through its regular exercises here in preparation for its forthcoming tour of India.
"I'm now including comments made by Jordan in the programmes I give to the players to work by, on his reaction to be cut from his university team, on his work ethic and on his general attitude," he explained.
"I just want to emphasise to them that even a sportsman as great as Jordan didn't become great by just having natural talent. He worked hard to get there and, even when he got there, he worked hard to get better all the time."
"Once that takes root in this team, we can move from there," he added. Rogers, formerly with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and with the West Indies 'A' and youth teams, is now on his sixth tour since his appointment in February, 2000.
He has put his charges through their paces in the three weeks they have been in Colombo for the ICC Champions Trophy tournament.
He has had them exclusively to himself over the past five days prior to handing them over to coach Roger Harper for detailed technical work in the nets prior to a three-day practice match against Pakistan next weekend.
The team leaves for India October 1 for a tour from October 4 to November 24 that includes three Tests and seven one-day internationals.
"I've been really encouraged by the response from the guys," he said. "It's been fantastic, really tremendous."
"If we can keep this up and add to this whole approach, we're well on the way to turning the corner," he added.
The programme involves daily sessions at the well-equipped fitness centre at the Hilton Hotel, just down the road from the team's Taj Sumudra Hotel, and sprinting, running, skipping and more specialised training at the Nondescripts Club grounds. It involves weight training for two hours with three groups of four players each along with time on the cycle before and after. Outdoors, he undertakes an individual strengthening routine with some players.
Rogers sees Colombo as the ideal spot to prepare for India and Bangladesh. "The heat here has taken its toll on the guys and they've taken some time to acclimatise," he said of 32 degrees temperatures and high humidity, usually above 80 per cent.
"In India, the conditions are going to be basically similar so we need to adapt here so that when we get to Bombay in just under two weeks' time, we can hit the road running," he said.
The aim is to get everyone attuned to the environment of the sub-continent so that they can concentrate for long periods.
Rogers admitted he is still not satisfied that the players are at the level they should have reached "at this time".
He put it down to two factors.
One was the amount of international cricket being played that doesn't give him enough time to carry out his programme between matches.
The other was the lack of supervision over training in those periods when the players are not with the West Indies team.
"It's easy for the guys to go home and do nothing or not do much," he observed. "They then come back (into the team) and we've got to start all over again."
It is a problem, he said, that could be solved by having a supervisory trainer retained in every territory who could monitor each player's work rate and ensure he didn't slacken on the given schedule.
"Giving someone a programme is not a guarantee that they're going to do it," he said.
"This is where I'm trying to buy into the psychology so that if I can get them to see some benefits now, they'll be more inclined to do something to maintain their fitness levels when they leave me."
The team management has given the players today off before they switch to net sessions from tomorrow. But Rogers' training will remain an integral part of their preparation as long as they are on tour.