HEAD coach Otis Gibson has brought in an English psychologist to prepare his West Indies squad for the World Cup.
Above all else, Gibson wants his players to be in the right frame of mind for the stiff challenges coming up in India, Sir Lanka and Bangladesh over the next four weeks.
Simon “Monty” Grayson will be the first confidence builder to be allowed in the West Indies dressing-room to speak to players immediately before they go out to perform.
For the past year Grayson, from London, England, has been resident psychologist at the successful Sagicor High Performance Centre in Barbados where he assists 15 talented players under director Toby Radford.
“My job is to get the West Indies players focused and confident so that they can produce their best in the World Cup,” Grayson said.
“Ottis Gibson invited me to join his backroom staff because he wanted his players to be mentally right for this hugely important tournament.
“Before coming I did a few sessions with the squad in the Caribbean where I set players tasks to take them out of their comfort zone.”
He spoke highly on the players’ positive response.
“On the night before [Tropical Storm] Tomas battered Barbados, the players had been asked to climb a slippery rock-face that was still wet from steady rain, and a strong wind was blowing.
“It wasn’t pleasant or easy, but everyone accepted that it was part of our character-building programme,” Grayson said.
“New captain Darren Sammy grabbed the chance to lead from the front, and said ‘I’ll do it,’ and went up first.
“Sulieman Benn found it a bit difficult and fell off four times, but he wouldn’t be beaten, and shouted, ‘I’m going up again’, and he did it at the fifth attempt.
“Young wicketkeeper Devon Thomas is petrified of heights, and during a HPC session of climbing trees and telegraph poles, he literally shook and froze to the spot, and I had to talk him through it.
“But it worked for him, and he’s gone straight from being a HPC player into the West Indies first team, and is a lot more confident now.”
Grayson added: “Darren Sammy rang me after one session and spent more than two hours discussing ways of preparing mentally for a match, and said that West Indies legend Clive Lloyd had given him advice.
“What pleases me most is that all these great players realise that the way they perform depends so much on how they prepare.
“It is vital that they are in the right frame of mind for the World Cup matches that are coming up shortly, and I’m delighted with them.
“Individually they are in great shape, and team spirit has never been better. They are all working for one another.
“No-one could ever question their skills, so what I’ve concentrated on is clearing their minds of anything negative and giving them the confidence to play freely.
“They’re ready to do their best, and they’re showing immense pride in being here to represent the West Indies. It’s a very happy environment.
”Coach Gibson was happy about the progress made with the players.
“It is about having the belief and going out and performing. We are gradually getting to that level. We are moving in the right direction. We are preparing for the biggest event in world cricket,” he said.
West Indies will begin their World Cup campaign against South Africa in Delhi on February 24.