Flaw in High Performance
by HAYDN GILLTHE Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre at the University of the West Indies is a welcomed initiative that is long overdue. It can only serve to help revive the fortunes of a declining regional game that has been crying out for help for the past 15 years. After the Shell Cricket Academy under the direction of Dr Rudi Webster came to an abrupt end at the St George’s University in Grenada back in 2005, it is something of a shame that authorities have taken so long to get something similar off the ground again. The three-month programme is catering to 15 of the Caribbean’s talented players between the ages of 18 and 23.
In a drive to create well-rounded, multi-skilled and thinking cricketers, the High Performance Centre will offer group and one-to-one support in technical, physical, psychological, tactical and lifestyle areas of the game. Sounds all well and good. Now to the bone of contention.Part of any player’s development is actual match competition. There is no substitute for it. No matter how much training, practice and preparation a player has, the ultimate test is the execution of skills in the middle. While the players are sure to benefit from their exposure at Cave Hill, I am disappointed that they were not allowed to participate in two recent regional competitions.
The TCL Group West Indies Under-19 Championships went by without the participation of promising Barbadians Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich who were still eligible. As a teenager, it is always a long-time goal to represent your country in this annual tournament, and Holder and Dowrich, both outstanding performers at the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, should have been afforded the opportunity to come and stamp their authority on the youth tournament and further advertise their credentials. At the same time the regional Under-19 tournament was on, the Caribbean Twenty20 competition was also in progress without the presence of the High Performance students. While the extra shorter form of the game might not be the ideal avenue for the development of younger players, it is still a stage that they can show their potential.
Take for example, the emergence of Jonathan Foo, a 19-year-old who grabbed the headlines following his amazing acts of brilliance that helped Guyana win the title. When Foo remarkably smashed 103 runs at a strike rate of 210.20, millions were watching on ESPN. He now has a chance to gain even further opportunities when he goes off to the Airtel Champions League in South Africa next month. Had Foo been enrolled at the High Performance Centre, not many in the Caribbean would know him today. We have been told that the High Performance students will get a chance to put what they have learnt into practice with a tour later in the year, but I don’t think they should have to wait that long to get serious match play.
With the local Division 1 season in progress, my suggestion would have been to attach each player to a club. It would give him the chance to immediately take a week’s work onto the field and if he identifies any shortcomings in the middle, he will then return to the High Performance Centre to iron them out.