Adams aims to restore West Indies’ former glory
It will take longer than his initial three-year term as Cricket West Indies’ director of cricket, which expires next year, but Jimmy Adams is confident the game in the Caribbean is on the road to returning to past glories.
Adams, a former West Indies captain, has been tasked since 2016 with overseeing the development of cricket in the region. CWI healed old wounds with the reappointment of Phil Simmons as men’s head coach last month. Simmons previously held the post in 2016 when he led West Indies to the ICC T20 World Cup title before being controversially dismissed later that year.
Adams, who was involved in the recruitment process after the board made it clear that “persons without West Indies heritage need not apply”, is pleased with the return of Simmons, which Ricky Skerritt, the CWI president, described as “righting a past wrong”.
Adams said last month: “I have no doubt that Phil brings the requisite leadership skills and experience needed to drive improvement across our international squad.”
Early rewards were reaped on Monday when West Indies, under new white-ball captain Kieron Pollard, captured their first one-day international series win in five years, with a 3-0 whitewash of Afghanistan in India.
Adams was in Bermuda on the weekend as guest of the Bermuda Cricket Board during the end-of-season awards at Gosling’s Wine Cellar. “What I have opted to do is focus on where West Indies cricket is in specific areas and provide some insight into where I hope we’re headed through these areas,” he said.
“The areas I want to focus on are player development and some of the changes that have occurred recently in the Caribbean in our cricket, the impact of T20 cricket on West Indies cricket and also a little bit on what is a pretty recent start to professionalising our game in the Caribbean.”
Adams relayed how youth cricket was strong when he was growing up in St Mary, Jamaica. “St Mary in primary school had a strong culture of cricket, and that is where I started my journey,” he said.
“The primary school was about 1,400 students and, traditionally, for a home game about half the students would turn up at the game.
“From there, I went through to high school in Kingston and the three levels — under-14s, under-16s and under-19s. Along the way, my performances got me into the under-19 national team that took me to regional under-19 tournaments.
“My performances in regional under-19s and at my cricket club got me into Jamaica senior trials. From there you got into the Jamaica team and then to the West Indies team.”
A few days before coming to Bermuda, Adams was in St Kitts for a player development seminar hosted by CWI and the West Indies Players Association, involving more than 100 young cricketers who were able to pose questions to the panel of Adams, Wavell Hinds, the WIPA president and chief executive, Johnny Grave, the CWI chief executive, and Wayne Lewis, the WIPA director.
“I joined a club at 13 and it had international players and first-class players,” Adams said. “There were the Brian Laras, [Shivnarine] Chanderpauls, [Ian] Bishops, [Winston] Benjamins, Sherwin Campbell, Philo Wallace, who all had the same story of an early introduction to club cricket.
“In that development from 13 to 19, I was able to rub shoulders with these great players and watch, copy, ask questions and take advice. Eventually, at about 15 or 16, I was actually playing with these players. For a young player to emulate that from that age meant that we had a head start on most young players our age anywhere in the world.
“I want to stress this was an era before coaching, as we didn’t have coaches then. Club cricket was a major component in not only my own development but of all the gentlemen I mentioned.”
West Indies were a dominant force in the 1980s and 1990s, building on their success of winning the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979 under Clive Lloyd. However, things were changing at the grassroots level in the Caribbean, Adams noted.
“In Jamaica in the late Eighties and early Nineties, the club environment I had known was changing; the generation of players I had grown up under were retiring. Adding to that, social issues meant that they weren’t spending anywhere near as much time at the clubs and, at the same time, the better young players — I was one of them — took up the opportunity to play professional cricket overseas.
“What you had were players coming up behind me who didn’t have what I had; that ‘rich learning environment’ wasn’t there any more. Around 2000, a major component of what was, in effect, an informal league development system was gone. The key issue in the Caribbean was what mechanism would be responsible for teaching our players to play at the highest level.
“That is still an ongoing challenge for West Indies cricket because we haven’t fully addressed that issue. We are farther down the road because, after a period of denial by Cricket West Indies, if you go back to the late 1990s, early 2000s when we started to lose, it was our fault replacing players, coaches, team managers when the truth was the system of production had changed and needed a serious looking at.”
Adams added: “For the first time, Cricket West Indies realised that it was going to have to implement its own player formative development pathway.
“By the mid-2000s we were behind the rest of the world because player development incorporates many different substructures, including, coaches, sports science and psychology. We hadn’t kept pace from the 1990s when we were still winning, but the teams we were beating had already made the commitment to produce elite players through formal development processes.
“Our feeling that the next Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose or the next Brian Lara was just going to come persisted too long. We got to the point that by the mid-2000s there was a realisation that we had to think seriously about producing players.
“You need to have a coaching structure to support the players. There are two pyramids: one a player pyramid and the other is a supporting, coaching pyramid.
“We have now accepted at CWI that one will not happen without the other. Now, in recognising that, we have a coach education manager coming in for the first time in our history. We accept that this is not something that will give us overnight success.
“Some of the things a player is struggling with at 24, if we had gotten them in a proper environment run by better-trained coaches between 13 and 19, the outcomes at 24 might be different. It resonates with me because I know what I was taught between those ages. If I can’t give a young player that same environment, then the onus is on me and others to give them the next best thing.
“Hopefully, in five, ten years, we will have a very strong education structure that produces the type of player that we think we should be in the West Indies.”
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