By Orin Davidson
The long awaited academy or High Performance Centre set up by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is most welcome but if the powers-that-be believe it is the magic formula to dramatically improve regional cricket standards then they had better think again.
Yes, the academy will be a big boost for the young players’ development but the key requirements needed to take the game to the next level are still far from being realized.
This centre is one mere important component but in the run-up to the Regional Twenty20 championship, you get the impression from authorities it is the Viagra necessary to eliminate the ills that plague the regional game.
According to reports, already Guyana has missed out on the services of one of its best young spin bowlers in Veerasammy Permaul because of his attachment to the High Performance Centre.
And more such stories could emanate from the other territories when more teams are announced before the action gets underway later this month.
It means either that the WICB has given the academy power to debar players from representing their countries, or the latter has decided on its own to so do.
Whether so or not, such a policy would be another backward step in the long list of cock-ups perpetuated by this infamous ruling body on West Indies supporters.
Cricket academies are not academic institutions; rather their sole purpose should be to prepare its attendees to be the best players they can be.
Competing against better players than themselves is a key requirement for their advancement, thus there should be no excuse for academy members being made to give priority to ‘classes’ as seems the case presently.
And the sooner the- powers- that-be, understand their priorities, the better the centre would serve its needs.
The biggest problem among West Indies players is their lack of professionalism that could be acquired through better handling, exposure to high level competition, training, physiotherapy and nutrition among other factors.
In other words, a professional domestic competition structure, that requires discipline and commitment for success, along with all the necessary physical needs for teams, is the best solution.
The academy can only prepare players to become professionals, which is why the current batch of attendees must be given exposure at every Regional competition for their teams, once they can command places.
You don’t hear of young Australian players missing out on the State Championships there because they are attending that country’s academy.
The players that made West Indies longstanding world champions in the 1970s and 80s were not products of academies; rather they were hardened professionals, grounded in the English County Championships.
They enjoyed high level competition in familiar and unfamiliar conditions, worked hard on their games outside of competition by themselves, and paid serious attention to attaining maximum physical fitness.
An academy can teach players technique, drill them on strategic thinking and fitness programs, but it does not provide the competition to develop those qualities.
Which brings us to the personnel running this High Performance Centre.
As far as is known, the lead official is an obscure Englishman whose reputation as a high quality coach is not well known.
Whether other respected West Indian coaching specialists like Roger Harper were available or not, is an issue not yet fully ventilated in the Region.
In the just concluded Test series against South Africa, the WICB unexpectedly called on the services of Brandon Bess, one of the High Performance Centre’s fast bowlers for the third game, as a late replacement for the injured Nelon Pascal.
Bess made a less than inspired Test debut. He was pacy but woefully lacked accuracy, spraying his deliveries all over the place and as a result conceded a high volume of runs.
Bess’ problem was a deficiency in technique where he was inclined to drop his head before releasing the ball.
He has been at the academy for a few months now, and the fact that his main problem is so glaring, does not inspire much confidence in the work so far being conducted at the centre.
It is early days yet though at this High Performance Centre and by this time next year, we should know for sure whether it is on the road to becoming another White Elephant in West Indies cricket.
In the meantime, just let the players play on.