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Critically important to restructure CWI, boards, attitudes, perceptions and thinking

BY DR RUDI WEBSTER

Sunday, March 24, 2019

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In the last decade, West Indies cricket has been in a state of conflict and decline.

Perpetrated by an autocratic and self-centred style of leadership, the board, directors of cricket, coaches, players, and other stakeholders operated in an adversarial environment in which the basic principles of performance were forgotten, and in which natural talent, continuous learning, and harmonious relationships were inhibited.

Most importantly, it was an environment that suppressed the expression of powerful, performance-enhancing forces like self-belief, self-confidence, self-reliance, self-motivation and self-discipline.

In the 1960s and 1980s, West Indies dominated world cricket and reached the pinnacle of the game. Some experts now claim that Clive Lloyd's team was one of the best-ever teams in the history of sport. What an achievement! If those periods were West Indies' brightest and most glorious, then the last decade must be close to being its darkest and most shameful. West Indies cricket has been trapped in a failure spiral and languishes in the bottom tier of the ICC Test and ODI rankings.

West Indies outplayed England in the last Test series, performed admirably in the One-Day competition, but played horribly in the T20 games. We must not forget that a few months earlier West Indies was beaten badly in Tests against India and Bangladesh, nor should we forget that West Indies lost most of its games against Afghanistan. And if that is not enough, remember that Scotland missed qualifying for this year's World Cup by just five runs. Had the weather not intervened, West Indies would have been eliminated.

In spite of those setbacks and failures, West Indies cricket is now at a point at which physical and psychological revival can take place. CWI and regional boards must seize the moment. Instead of looking back at the last decade to see what West Indies cricket has been, or has done, the boards should look to the future to see what it can achieve and become. Our destiny is in our own hands. It is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is something to be targeted and achieved. The boards should therefore be crystal clear about their intent and choices and change their way of thinking. Restructuring CWI and regional boards is critically important. So too is the restructuring of attitudes, perceptions and thinking.

I hope that the leaders in the next administration will change direction and search for improvement and success in different areas. I urge them to focus on what works, commit to mastering the basics of performance, tap into the enormous knowledge and wisdom of former West Indies champions, and encourage them to act as mentors to young players.

Sir Garfield Sobers, the world's greatest cricketer, is still around. Australia respected and capitalised on the experience, knowledge and wisdom of Sir Donald Bradman, who made significant contributions to Australian cricket, on and off the field. Why haven't our boards done the same things with Sir Garfield? To be the best ever in your sport, you must know your game and be better than just about everyone else in the physical, strategic and mental aspects of the game.

Years ago in Australia, I interviewed Sir Garfield and tried to get into his mind to discover his recipe for success. I don't know if I succeeded but here are a few of his key thoughts about elite performance. By just reading and studying his recommendations, coaches, players and administrators could learn quite a lot about the achievement of success in sport.

The Mental Game:

“The proper use of the mind is the one thing that separates champions from merely good players. To handle the pressure situations you face during the game, you must think simply and clearly. I have come across lots of players who have had more natural talent than some of the great players, but they never made it because they couldn't think clearly and sensibly. No matter how good a player you think you are, you won't reach the top unless you develop your mind. The good players know how to think, how to concentrate, and what to do in tough situations.”

On Team Performance:

“I was never particularly interested in individual performance. My main concern was how my performance would help the team and my teammates.”

On Coaching:

“If I had a free hand in coaching I would initially spend most of my time teaching the basics of the game. Once that is done, I would devote an equal amount of time teaching the players how to identify and deal with the different situations they will face during the game. I would then try to build their confidence and self-belief. I believe that this combination gives the players the best preparation and the best chance to do well.”

On Overconfidence:

“It is only human to be overconfident at times. But I tried not to be because overconfidence is very dangerous and is a prescription for failure. No matter how good you think you are there is always someone who might be better on the day, or someone who can bowl the unplayable ball. I never underestimated my opponent or the situation. I never thought I was too good for the opposition.”

On Slumps:

“Slumps may be initiated by something physical but in the end, poor mental functioning is usually the real cause. When you fiddle around with your technique you usually make matters worse. Believe me, you don't find the cause and the solution in the body too often. Only after you have examined your thinking and concentration should you look to the body.”

On Concentration:

“I see a lot of players stop the bowler in his run-up because someone moves near the sight screen. Others are distracted by crowd noise, remarks from the opposition, or negative thoughts. When I look up at the bowler my concentration is zeroed in on him and the ball. Everything else is shut out.

“When you are concentrating you must have breaks, otherwise you will get mentally tired and make silly mistakes. I used to take my breaks between overs, or even between balls. During the breaks I would take my mind away from the game and think about other things, but the moment the bowler started to run in I would refocus. It is difficult to do this against good spin bowlers but you must learn to break their rhythm and find a way to have these breaks.”

On Pressure:

“Pressure brought the best out of me. Pressure from the opposition never worried me; I always responded well to their challenges. The only situation I didn't handle well was pressure that came from the administration or from petty quarrels in the team.”

On Champion Teams:

“The main difference between great teams and the others is not just physical skill but rather the ability to identify the challenges in the situations they face, the calmness of mind to think sensibly and clearly about them, and the capacity to tailor their skills and resources to fit and capitalise on those challenges.”

Caribbean man Dr Rudi Webster is a sports psychologist.


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