Excuse me for thinking so much about this matter, and I will write about it without mentioning team selections, insularity, politics and disputes between management and players. The handful of people who have read my letters on cricket in the old Trinidad and Tobago Review, Stabroek News and occasionally in Trinidad Express would have noticed how often I mention sports psychology. Frankly I was astonished earlier this year when I came upon an article in which the great Sir Vivian Richards told an English interviewer about how sports psychologist Rudy Webster had helped him develop from a promising mediocre run scorer to being a run-scoring machine. I read a very recent article ‘How do batsmen cope with the intensity of their lonely skill? ‘ and was even more astonished to find in this relatively short article the names of 4 actively practising sports psychologists ‒James Baker, Stephen Sylvester, Stewart Cotterill and Steve Bull, the last of whom worked with England for 17 years. I learnt that Bradman had described batting as “a nerve-racking business”, that Bull thought that batting “creates a particular type of pressure which I don`t think other athletes experience” and that “psychologists have known for decades that feelings and emotions stem from changes in the body, rather than the other way around”. The author reminded me of something I had heard before that when “Mark Ramperkash began to question whether he belonged at Test level England brought in sports psychologist Bull to help, and he did”. I was not surprised at all that one of the sports psychologists had expressed the view that helps batsmen “to believe at an emotional level that you are playing not for yourself but for your team or country or some other ideal that transcends you.”
I firmly believe that modern West Indian cricketers can benefit immensely from understanding the widespread belief among more successful teams that there is a definite connection between their mental states and their performances as cricketers, and that more attention to the connection between mind and body will undoubtedly help them in pursuing their careers as professional cricketers. I doubt that anyone would doubt that a long history of losing would take its toll mentally on players, and that that circumstance alone should help persuade both administrators and players to recognize the need to include sports psychology as an integral part of the senior team`s preparation for international encounters. We owe it to ourselves to pursue this avenue. After all our players are not fundamentally different from other nationals, most of whom see its value.
Even if we cannot employ a sports psychologist before the next Test, management should, at the very least, explain to players how important is the mental aspect of this wonderful game at which we were once so good. Frankly all the players should try to meet individually with Sir Viv before the game.