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Old-school approach is best, says Tucker

Janeiro Tucker believes the Island's young cricketers need to be exposed to the real game if Bermuda is to return to playing at a high level of international cricket.

The Bermuda captain has highlighted what he believes is a weakness in player development as one of the reasons behind the Island's rapid decline on the world stage.

From playing in a World Cup in 2007, Bermuda have been relegated to Division Four of the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League little more than seven years later, and Tucker said that everything from the pitches games are played on, to the balls used in schools, had to change.

“You can't develop good players on poor wickets,” he said in a radio interview earlier this week. “We need to develop our pitches, fields, everything.”

The size of Bermuda's club grounds has long been an issue, ill-equipped as they are to prepare players for the realities of first-class grounds, which have bigger boundaries that need more than a limp flick of the wrists to send the ball for six.

A lack of space means that expanding grounds is an unrealistic prospect, and for Tucker of more concern is the lack of “real cricket” being played at the youth level, where rubber balls and rules designed to increase participation in the sport take precedence.

“When we [Bermuda] travel, we look at youth cricket, and they don't play with rubber balls, they don't play off of tees, you know,” he said. “When you go and watch an under-11 game they are fully padded up, helmet, gloves, pads, bowler running in. [They have] wides, no balls, and if you get out first ball, you're out.

“And that's where we go wrong. We are playing rubber ball cricket, we're hitting off a tee when it's a wide, that's not cricket. I wasn't taught to play cricket like that, I was taught to play cricket the real way.”

Tucker's belief in an old-school approach to learning the game has been reinforced by his experiences abroad, where he watched children in the United Arab Emirates, who are one of the top Associate nations, play from morning until night.

“When we were in Dubai we were watching under-11s start in the morning and going right through to 10pm, and you're sitting there watching these little under-11s play cricket, normal cricket. When you're out you're out.

“There's no saying, ‘oh, that's a wide' or ‘let's go give him a hit'. These guys are playing cricket to develop because they want to better themselves to be the best in the world, and that's where we need to go in Bermuda. We need to develop, and play cricket with normal pads and everything.”

Tucker's stance is not limited to cricket, he believes that approach from a young age is necessary to succeed in any sport.

“When I was in school we had a hard ball. I was in Purvis [Primary], we used to play at Warwick Park on the concrete and we had cricket balls, we didn't have any rubber balls and stuff like that.

“If you got hit, you got hit,” he said. “That's where it starts. To make sure you become any type of athlete, football, cricket, golf, whatever it is, you need to play real sports at that age.”

The Bermuda Cricket Board has won several ICC awards for its development programmes in the past few years, and from pee-wee cricket, through to its National Academies, has focused on producing players for the future.

The desire to “provide equal opportunities for all young people to participate in practice and training” however, does not necessarily gel with Tucker's vision for youth development.

If asked by the Board, Tucker would tell them specialist coaches and a return to old-school methods might be the way forward.

“I haven't had the opportunity to talk to them [the Board] about any of this, but it would be nice for Bermuda to implement batting coaches, bowling coaches, fielding coaches in the youth level. We need to develop our cricket for the future if we are looking to get back to high level cricket.

“We've got to develop the youth. The youth only play a month or two, they've got to play the whole summer, and you need good coaches to coach the youth.

“You can't just have anyone coming in and say ‘oh, let me coach you how to hit a ball'. It's not possible. We've got to send guys away and get some level 3 coaching and put in to the under-11s, under-14 age group.”

Youth cricket: a young player swings at a rubber ball during a BCB youth cricket festival

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Published December 11, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 10, 2014 at 7:51 pm)

Old-school approach is best, says Tucker

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