Broadcaster Ian Bishop, I believe, is the only well-known cricket person who has publicly commented on the recurring failure of the West Indies team to win back to back (successive) encounters. He has been, however, reluctant to speculate about the cause or causes of this phenomenon. With little to lose, I am more willing to speculate about the matter. As those who read my letters might expect, I believe the reason or reasons have everything to do with the mind, that is psychology, which is a word I fear to use lest it is confused with psychiatry. It is for this reason I was pleased to read that the new coach actually said, “I am here to give them … a bit of love”. The word ‘love’ has not been used in connection with West Indies cricket teams for a long time, perhaps coinciding with the period when they were perceived to be basically losers.
During that period the players were quite unloved, so that even when they won, the hostility barely abated. Darren Sammy, for example, was fired immediately following his second triumph as captain of the World Cup T20 team. I believe that international sportsmen bearing the burdens these young men undertake badly need support and love from their countrymen. Since this team is made up almost entirely of new players, it would be considerably easier to show them love. Such love will help to boost their confidence. As the coach has said these players have talent.
What they need more than anything else is confidence. The best way to inculcate confidence in a team is preparation. The coaching staff must prepare the team for the upcoming match both physically and mentally in a very systematic manner. By that I mean that the traps and pitfalls that are likely to befall them must be emphasized, and the manner of coping demonstrated and practised. One simple example: Broad bowls perhaps the most devastating inswinger to a righthander at certain crucial times in a game. Few players seem ready for it. Since Powell is the only left-handed batsman another left-hander would not be a bad idea given that Anderson is less effective against lefties and Kyle Hope does not have any more Test experience than Hetmeyer, for whom the English are not prepared. Bishoo has to be used more effectively, and whoever partners Gabriel must bowl with fury. Finally, the coaching staff must improve communications with the captain during the game.