Under-19 side prepared for success
If Bermuda fail to advance from their regional Under-19 World Cup qualifiers this year, it will not be because the squad was unprepared.
The Bermuda Cricket Board has adopted a new approach to training this year, one that places a greater emphasis on player engagement and responsibility.
Terry Fray, the under-19 director of coaching, has been tasked with implementing the Australia Cricket Board system that the BCB intends to use throughout, and was in Toronto recently, alongside Sammy Robinson, earning his Level 2 coaching qualification in order to so.
Fray, along with Clevie Wade, the head coach, and his two assistant coaches, Robinson and Lorenzo Tucker, will be the ones who have to put this plan into action.
After years of traditional coaching, where players were told what to do within a rigid structure to varying degrees of success, the new method removes the restrictions of the past, requiring players to think for themselves.
There will also be a greater degree of accountability for players and coaches alike, and those not performing are likely to find themselves swiftly removed from the set-up.
“It’s a more engaged way of coaching,” Fray said. “We found in the past that we can stereotype coach — constantly telling them what to do, constantly telling them how to do it — until the cows come home. And what happens? When they go in the middle, they don’t have that guidance; they don’t have a coach telling them why a stroke has gone wrong.
“That’s why we’re using that approach. Once they [the players] are in the middle, they are on their own, so it helps them make proper decisions. They think for themselves; in the past, we were thinking for them.”
There will still be net sessions, fielding practice and game situations to test the players’ abilities, but failure will have consequences. A batsman out in practice will not be allowed to bat on; a bowler performing badly will be demoted to a different net; and pressure will be a constant factor.
“At the end of the day, the way the whole programme is structured, every ball matters, every catch matters,” Fray said. “They will be assessed at every training session. These players are going to feel pressure and we want to see how they react.”
The purpose is to filter out those who can handle the demands that will be placed upon them. This may mean that a talented player, who in the past considered himself beyond reproach, is dropped for not being able to perform in the new environment. Everything that the squad does for the rest of the year, right down to fitness sessions, will be geared towards creating a competitive team.
There are 24 in the squad at present, there will be 14 by April 1, and these 14 will play in the First Division, the Evening League, and in the World Cup qualifiers. Any player making the squad will know that spot has been hard-earned.
“The players will sort themselves out, it’s not going to be an arbitrary decision,” Fray said. “It was already explained to them that this was a development squad and that below them were people waiting to take their places. Now they aren’t going to play the numbers game, there will be some pride at stake.”
The squad has been together since the beginning of the year, and will remain together for the next eight months. A coaching plan covering three days a week has been mapped out from now until the end of March, with the squad getting “more cricket than any other group on the Island”.
Players such as Alex Dore, one of the frontrunners for the captaincy, are not far away from being in the senior team of the future, while Delray Rawlins made his senior bow during the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Three tournament in Malaysia last October. The new approach is geared as much towards them as the present.
Fray recounts a story from his time in Toronto when he walked into a classroom with a wall that had photographs of Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting on it. The topic of discussion was the three master batsman, all of whom scored 10,000-plus Test runs, with neither batting the same way.
“So many times in the past, we would say ‘No, that’s not the correct way to do a cover drive’,” Fray said.
“But what is the correct way of doing a cover drive when you have got three top batsmen that do it three different ways.
“We still have to keep in the basic principles of keeping the ball on the ground, foot movement, head over the ball, so we coach them that. But it’s up to them to execute that skill the way they see fit.
“As long as the ball is going to the boundary, and it’s safe and the risk factor is low, then it doesn’t matter [how it gets there].”
Player awareness will be at a premium, as will player feedback, and it is believed that the higher level of interaction will breed a more intelligent cricketer and, subsequently, a team better equipped to succeed in the future.
The training will get progressively harder as the weeks go on, and the reduction in numbers in April will bring more restrictions during training sessions, more engagement and players “who own the process”.
Ultimately, the hope is that the standard of cricket is raised to the extent that players who are under-19 now will be able to lift the country out of its present state, should the malaise persist that led to relegation to Division Four.
However, the system cannot work in isolation. Fray believes that players are still reaching the under-19 squad not understanding even the most rudimentary aspects of the game, such as running the first run hard.
The hope is that the ACB approach will filter into the rest of the National Academy and “fixing the system” will eventually improve Bermuda’s standing among the Associate nations.
Bermuda Under-19: Azende Furbert, Charles Trott, Zion Smith, Khalif Williams, Jahkai Benjamin, Alex Dore, Christion Gibbons, Sheldon Caesar, Antoine Seaman, Chare Smith, Cameron Jeffers, San’J Dill, Kacy Greene, Micah Simons, Shakeal Outerbridge, Nzari Paynter, Isaiah Richardson, Alje Richardson, Jomei Bean-Lindo, Nyrobi Carmichael, Delray Rawlins, Davon Dill, Jordan Smith.