“…mere weeks away from the last chance to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, Caribbean people are still uncertain whether our team can get one of the final two places.
“It is against this background that I have decided to address you, the cricketers, directly. Whatever happens at the Board level, you, the players, are equally accountable to us the people. Also, as professionals, each of you has to work on his game if the team is to improve.”
The following Letter to the Editor, which seeks to motivate the West Indian group of players responsible for earning the regional team a place in the upcoming World Cup, was written by Olabisi Kuboni of D’Abadie.
Dear Members of the WI Team,
This letter is addressed mainly to players in the Senior and A teams, even though I am hoping that the broader group of franchise-contracted players can find something of benefit in it as well. I am fully aware that many of you are relatively new to cricket at this very high level. You have entered the arena when the status of West Indies cricket has been at an all-time low for a very long time. As a result, the responsibility for rebuilding is on your largely inexperienced shoulders.
I remain convinced that you are the ones to take WI cricket forward. However, the poor run of form cannot be ignored. After the England series, many of us believed that lessons learnt from that experience would carry over into New Zealand and provide the foundation for improved performances. That was not to be.
What is even worse is that there was no effort to explain why the New Zealand series was such a disaster. Instead what we got was another round of changing of the guards, including the dubious reinstatement of Richard Pybus with the lofty title of High Performance Director.
Is somebody trying to undermine Jimmy Adams? But I must not be distracted.
So, mere weeks away from the last chance to qualify for the 2019 World Cup, Caribbean people are still uncertain whether our team can get one of the final two places.
It is against this background that I have decided to address you, the cricketers, directly. Whatever happens at the Board level, you, the players, are equally accountable to us the people. Also, as professionals, each of you has to work on his game if the team is to improve.
Let me just clarify one thing before continuing: my knowledge of the game is very limited. Most of the technical terms fly way above my head. But I am hoping that the few thoughts I will share can assist you in managing how you learn, making decisions about and executing your cricketing skills.
One remark that I often hear when the team is batting is that the batsman waits for the bad ball to play a shot. In my view, if the batsman is facing a good bowler, the bad balls may be few and far between. Invariably, after a while that batsman will have to take a chance and, more often than not, he will end up getting out.
What that tells me is that the batsman is unable to deal with the type and/or range of deliveries from the bowlers he faces. And this may be because the range of his own batting techniques is limited or, even if that is not the case, he is unable to decide on the spur of the moment which technique is required at that time.
That scenario brings a few questions to mind. First, when batsmen are learning batting techniques, do they make a conscious effort to link those techniques to possible bowling types they are likely to face when they take to the field? If yes, are they also able to work out how to vary a basic technique, in case the bowler makes subtle changes to his delivery?
Secondly, during their off-the-field learning, do they mentally rehearse making decisions about which batting technique (or variation of a batting technique) to choose for different types of delivery? Do they also attempt to add other factors such as possible field placings and pitch conditions into the mix during these off-the-field rehearsals?
Finally does each batsman document his techniques in a way that allows him both to review as well as update them on a regular basis?
Information about the batsman’s control during the game is another area that should receive your attention. Kartikeya Date, in his review of the Test series between South Africa and India in South Africa, (ESPNcricinfo.com, 2 Feb, 2018), thinks that it should be used more often in assessing a batsman’s performance. Control, he explains, is a measure of batting and bowling that records whether or not the batsman was in control of the delivery, whether the ball went where he (the batsman) intended it to.
ESPNcricinfo provides statistics about this measure for each batsman. Is it possible therefore for you to use this information to do your own detailed post-match assessment? What is the proportion of shots you were in control of versus those you were not in control of? Are you satisfied with the balance between the two? When you look at batting from the point of view of the batsman’s control, it is clear that you cannot think of a batting technique without connecting it to the bowling.
One last thing. Efficient decision-making requires equally efficient organisation of the knowledge that you need to make those on-field decisions. A loose ad hoc collection of techniques in your head is of no practical use when you have only a split second to decide. Mental organisation is key.
Best wishes to those heading to Zimbabwe. You are probably already there by now!! No need to tell you that the stakes are high and that not getting one of the two places is NOT an option!