A learning experience for all concerned
This past week I have been in England with the National Academy's under-14 and under-16 developmental teams.
As our trip is about to come to an end, I can say that for the next five years our focus has to be on developing the young cricketers of Bermuda. What a joy this has been to watch our young cricketers display their skills. In many ways this tour can be deemed a success, but it also highlights areas of our cricket that we need to focus on if we are to see improvement in our young cricketers.
Cricket, as we know, can be broken down to different facets, but today I want to focus on game awareness and the effect playing matches has on our young cricketers.
During this tour, I happened to umpire one of the under-14 matches and was privy to watch a splendid half-century by one of Bermuda's rising stars, Marcus Scotland. While I was in awe of his technical ability, I was more impressed with his cricket awareness or understanding of the game.
In came this young man and the first thing he asks his partner is, “What is the bowling doing?” At the end of the over, I hear him talking to his partner, saying “he's not doing too much with the ball; let's just keep it nice and straight and see if we can pick up a few singles, but if a bad ball comes, let's look to put it away”.
At the end of the over, Scotland and his partner came together again and I can hear Scotland saying, “we got seven runs off that over and we didn't even play any big shots. Let's see if we can keep the singles going, as we only need four runs an over”.
Here is a young man not just playing the game, but understanding the situation of the game. But how did he learn that?
Various reasons contribute to a young cricketer learning the art of cricket. In England, the children play more cricket, which enables them to learn more. Talking with Marcus's dad, Cleon, he informed me that already this summer Marcus has played anywhere between 25 and 30 matches, which is far more than any senior player in Bermuda will play. When a child plays this much cricket and is keen to learn, they will garner so much information. Being put in various situations over and over enables one to learn and understand how best to deal with a situation.
One of the biggest differences with our children and the English is their ability to sit and understand what's going on within the match. We must teach our young cricketers the skill of watching for understanding, ie, is the ball staying low, who are their best fielders, what field settings do they have.
This tour is about development for the future. Hopefully, this is the first of many more to come, for in only a week and a half I have seen a tremendous difference in our players' mentality. They have been fortunate to play at some good venues against some very talented cricketers. Our under-14s have held their own, while the under-16s have found the going a bit tougher.
Every game presents different opportunities to learn something. It is up to the individual whether they absorb the information and use it to improve. Hopefully, we can get our young players playing more cricket during the summer and have some of our past cricketers impart their knowledge on them, which in the long run will assist in developing a more well-rounded cricketer.