BY BRYAN DAVIS
FIRST-RATE cricketers have exceptional gifts, but an exceptional gift in and of itself doesn’t necessarily a first-rate cricketer make.
The cricketer’s gift must be subject to a technique, a learned procedure, a discipline, for him to constantly function at close to his best.
And that’s why cricketers have to practise exhaustively over the years, to have control over their ability, to use their special gifts to be the best they can be. That is what separates the excellent bowlers and batsmen from the average players at the highest level.
The precious gift of natural ability to play the game of cricket requires the right attitude in order to enjoy its use to one’s advantage. As a professional, one will instinctively convey that art to the spectator, who would then enjoy what he witnesses, as entertainment.
Thus the natural cricketer who loves the game passionately would not be inconvenienced by putting in the hours needed to develop his art form to the best it could be, and hence will enjoy the fruits of his input and always perform at his best.
The same goes for the cricketer who is not as gifted. Although not as blessed as his teammate, he should still be putting in the work required to improve to the best of his ability. In that way, he can build his game to the extent that he becomes very successful.
The point remains that regardless of the level of ability, a player performs in direct relation to the number of hours he contributes to his practice sessions, whether batting, bowling, wicket-keeping or fielding. It takes many attributes to make a winning team.
I will not accept the West Indies team as a poor side with little ability. I notice so many talented individuals who don’t seem to be able to stitch it together to create one wholesome unit. The glue that is missing is the motivation and encouragement of leadership.
Astute coaching would ensure that cricketers practise until they drop. Some will get away with everyday batting and bowling sessions for a couple of hours plus their keep-fit exercises; however, the real meat of the matter is in bowling in practice the minimum number of overs one is expected to bowl, and batting the length of time one is required to bat in a Test match.
Of course, the bowlers would have their rest periods. Once they are fit enough to play Test match cricket they would be ready and prepared for all formats of the game. They would easily slip from one format to the other and be fit for all.
Some of the batsmen looked good for a short time, then seemed to lose their way. Nicholas Pooran, for example, is performing short of what one would expect of his ability. He’s not picking up the length and line of the ball from the bowler’s hand.
The earlier a batsman identifies the direction of the ball and where it will drop, the better player he is; it is what makes a great batsman, so that he moves into the right position in time to play the stroke of his choice.
Pooran is playing across the line of the ball because his judgment is bad. He needs to be in the nets for at least a week under the close supervision of his coach, who should ensure that he plays all deliveries on the ground. It is far more difficult to play a ball on the ground than in the air. It builds concentration, and it improves a batsman’s positional play. When the ball is moving around early in the innings is when a faultless technique is needed. Pooran was pushed up the order to number three, where his faults were exposed.
I single out Pooran, but the same goes for the others – Roston Chase, Justin Greaves, Kieron Pollard etc.
The batsmanship against Ireland was pathetic. Against England in the second game, they were abysmal. There’s a lack of confidence, no concentration, poor technique, all associated with a shortage of batting practice – not this 20-minute stuff out on the open field with everyone trying to slap the ball further than the next and seeing how many sixes they can hit.
When one bats properly in the nets the concentration and positional play comes naturally without even having to think about it.
If not, anxiety takes over and self-confidence flies through the window.