How West Indies can win
THE CURRENT NONSENSE which passes for West Indies cricket must by now be a major affront and embarrassment to the sensitivities of right thinking Caribbean people. The latest episode in this recurring decimal is the loss of the Twenty/20 and One-Day series of matches to the South Africans.
Needless to say the team was whitewashed in both groups of matches and the contrast between the triumphant victories of the glory days and the present miseries could not be greater.
Whatever the reasons for this ongoing horror story, the distinguished writer and cricket analyst, the late C.L.R. James, must be agitating in his grave to remind all, and particularly the players, that in these parts, cricket is more than a game, for it speaks to the very being of our existence as a united and free people in our little democracies, striving to stand up and be counted as one while ignoring for the moment of play that we inhabit our fragmented enclaves.
Perhaps the most irritating occurrence is that we have now perfected the art of literally snatching “defeat from the jaws of victory”. It is particularly galling to lose matches repeatedly by the slimmest of margins.
When we do not lose by the margin of one run, we inexplicably lose our way when seemingly coasting to victory, with wickets in hand and with the number of runs required within easy reach of sensible batsmen using their heads and applying the techniques familiar even to the most innocent newcomers to the art of batting.
In the latest One-Day loss, not even a brilliant catch in the deep and the loss of two other wickets in quick succession, which brought the last wicket pair together with 18 runs required from the last two overs, were enough to cause the team to raise their game.
Denial of the runs required or taking of the last wicket would have achieved a win and avoided the ignominy of a whitewash; but effective strategies were beyond the team.
Someone once said that cricket is a “head game”, and that the majority of the game is played above the neck. That has always been true, but the modern game in its various forms places a premium on players who apply mental toughness and self-belief, and that is something which appears missing from our players, and it can happen to any team.
About a decade ago, the English team found themselves in a similar slump and Dr Steve Bull, a sports psychologist, was hired and travelled and consulted with the team for 12 years, culminating in the 2009 Ashes win against the Australians.
Steve Giles, the English bowler, was close to quitting the game after a bad patch followed by vigorous criticism. After consultations with Dr Bull, Giles spoke publicly about how he overcame a lack of self-belief. He said: “From the next day the ball was in my hand, I felt like a different animal.”
Our own Dr Rudi Webster was once the sports performance consultant associated with the victorious West Indies teams, but since then he has worked with other sports teams, while we ignore the value of his services.
Recently, Ottis Gibson, the team coach, said that the talent gap between our team and other teams was not that wide, and we accept that. In our opinion what seems missing is the self-belief which can turn the occasional winning performance into a habit.
A performance consultant or sports psychologist is needed at once, and he should be engaged on terms which make him available to the team at home and on tour.
Ironically, Dr Webster warned sometime ago that losing can become a habit, and it seems to have happened. We must break that cycle and get back to our winning ways. The team need a performance consultant immediately!