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Let’s not criticise but encourage our players

The Twenty/20 Dubai tournament has shed some light on where our cricket stands in terms of worldwide placement. Unfortunately, we have not fared well, finishing a lowly seventh out of eight teams by way of run rate.

Sadly though, the team that finished tied with us did actually beat us. What does this say for our cricket and how do we fix it?

The average Joe Blow would be in negative mode, even though they probably have never played a competitive sport at this level. I would go as far as to say that even if they once played, they were probably on the level of mediocrity themselves, but yet they are quick to criticise.

Yes, we all are upset by our team's performance but right now we need not bash them but find ways to encourage them to continue to represent their country at the highest level. We must simply give our players the tools to improve the overall standard of cricket.

Here are my thoughts:

In order to fix our problem we need to begin at the root of our problem. Right now the root of our problem starts with school cricket or lack thereof.

Because of the short season played in the schools the children do not get to develop their skills in physical education class or during lunch time play. The lack of games in the school has a domino effect on the Cricket Board's youth league.

My suggestion would be to extend the Cricket Board's youth league up until the week of Cup Match, particularly the Under 13's and Under 15's.

Under 15's should also play an extended version of cricket, perhaps 40-over games, so that they can develop their skills. With the short window of space allotted for the curriculum for school cricket, I believe we must get our national coaches into the schools.

This will also allow coaches to identify prospective candidates for our National Cricket Academies. The Board should be allowed to supply schools with a cricket syllabus for each age level giving PE teachers specific drills and guidelines to follow that would help develop our children's skills.

The local clubs should also have the same guidelines in order to prepare the children for what would be expected at respective national academies. Continuity is the key factor at this level. Repetitiveness can only enhance and develop our young players.

The second major fix lies with the state of our wickets. There is no secret that the standard of our wickets is poor.

As funding from the board is limited, maybe we can solicit the ICC for funding to bring in an overseas groundsman to work with our local groundsmen both at the clubs and our National Sports Centre. I am sure he would be able to assess our soil and through trial and error come up with the best solution to produce a quality wicket with the soil that we have.

In addition to this, put someone in place as a Grounds Manager to oversee all of the wickets on a weekly basis assuring that the required work needed to produce a quality wicket has been done.

Umpires then will be able to grade the standard of the wickets as part of their match report, identifying wickets that need more attention. In addition, this will help with scheduling matches for touring teams, awarding the games to clubs with wickets that meet the standard. A groundsman of the year award could also be put in place as an incentive to take pride in what they do.

Next, we must identify a location where we can establish a fully functional indoor training facility. It is something we must aspire towards and the sooner the better. This facility should have a minimum of four indoor nets, a weight room, meeting/classroom, showering facilities and an office.

Ideally there should also be four outdoor nets with synthetic matting along with three turf wickets, which again is monitored and kept in tip-top shape year round. By having this facility it allows us to expand our academies by incorporating education and cricket, the base for a structured cricket academy and a true home for Bermuda Cricket.

Right off the bat Shelly Bay comes to mind as a great place for this facility. To have somewhere where our national academies can train, at any time would be a blessing. To have a field to train on that is equivalent to international standards would be a massive bonus. Most importantly, being able to have access to a quality facility daily would be a tremendous boost to the overall programme.

In order for our game to improve, similarly must the officiating. The umpires need to endeavour to expand their pool while also improving their quality.

One thought would be to have the umpires videotaped regularly. Once this is done, when the umpires meet they can have Steven Douglas and Roger Dill critique them, helping them to understand what they did right and what they did wrong. With this tool in place and constant revision of the taping, the quality of the umpiring should improve.

Another major area of concern that we need to address that will also help improve our cricket lies in the area of discipline. Real knowledge of the game will alleviate many of our discipline issues. Half of the problem with our players is that they simply do not know the rules of the game.

I would like to see the umpires and Board officials meet with each club prior to the season and go through the rules so that players are fully aware of the regulations. This may seem extreme but with the number of clubs we have on the Island it is doable and necessary. The Board representative would explain the various levels of discipline with the consequences stipulated ensuring clarity for all. In an effort to combat discipline at an early age we should have life skills taught in our youth academy age groups.

Next we must look at the quality of our coaching staff. If we are going to have a national academy, coaches should be trained and brought up to speed on all the newest training methods as it relates to all aspects of the game. They should be computer literate and proficient in all of the technology necessary to obtain positive results (the ability to use a simple camcorder comes to mind), plus ascertain certain skills that are over and beyond the normal club coach.

A review and assessment process should be in place from the national head coach allowing feedback, both positive and negative. This all leads to better accountability from our senior programme to our national academies.

What is the aim of our national academy? It should be to develop our young players from a physical, mental, tactical and technical standpoint. In order for this to happen we must have all our academy teams playing regularly. If they can compete at an early age and lose the fear of failing they are more likely to be successful at an older age. If our players can experience winning against foreign opposition at a younger age then that winning mentality is something that will stick with them.

Our national academies finish at the Under-19 level, but it is time we as a country bridge the gap between the Under-19s and the national team. We must develop a Bermuda 'A' team and also have them in full training. These are fringe players who can push the senior team when they get lackadaisical with their training habits, or produce poor performances.

However, it is fine to have all of this in place but we collectively must improve our professionalism. Everyone involved with cricket from administrators down to players must adopt a truly professional attitude.

Training standards must be put in place, better training facilities, match preparation and all else that goes with the current day players' ability to perform must be addressed with a new level of professionalism. If we want the players' approach to change then the Cricket Board must lead from the front by assuring that they do things in a professional manner at all times.

Bermuda, I am not one to make excuses for anything but I must point out a few things for you to be the judge:

n Players trained for four months and not once batted on a turf wicket prior to heading to Dubai

n Travelling to Dubai only two days before the tournament and not even playing one practice match

n Player concerns about the captaincy

n Selection committee debacle, which when ratified limited their involvement

n Having a local training squad of only 12 players

n Limited fielding and bowling practice due to the inclement weather

Bermuda clearly these things hindered our ability to perform at our best as a country. A professional approach must be taken to combat the stuttering in major tournaments like this. Let the truth be told. We cannot afford this to happen next year in 2013 so we better start putting things in place now to give us the best chance possible to succeed.

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Published March 23, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 23, 2012 at 9:27 am)

Let’s not criticise but encourage our players

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