Miller embraces transition from player to coach

Sports

Miller embraces transition from player to coach

BY SANJAY MYERS
Senior staff reporter
myerss@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, April 10, 2020

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FORMER spin bowler Nikita Miller says his coaching debut in regional four-day cricket brought plenty of satisfaction even though inconsistency hindered the Jamaica Scorpions progress at pivotal moments.

“It was really good. [It was] challenging at times, but I was willing to learn,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Miller, who turns 38 next month, retired at the end of the 2018-19 season, and quickly transitioned into coaching at the first-class level. He was appointed assistant to Head Coach Andre Coley, helping the Scorpions finish joint third in the recent regional four-day tournament.

“It was a good experience — [it is] different, obviously, from playing. There are a lot more hours involved — I spend a lot more hours at the ground in terms of servicing all the players. Compared to when I was playing — I'd just go in and do what I need to do for myself, basically, and then I'm out of there. Now…it takes a lot more out of you, and you have to be ready to give an opinion on whatever situation might arise.

“It was different from what I'm used to, but I really enjoyed it as the season progressed. It was really good, and I learned a lot from the [head] coach,” he said.

The Scorpions finished the league with 91.8 points, level with former champions Guyana Jaguars.

Runaway leaders Pride (134.8 points) were declared winners of the six-team competition, which was brought to a premature end with only eight of the 10 rounds played due to health concerns arising from the global spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trinidad and Tobago Red Force (94.6 points) were runners-up, while Windward Islands Volcanoes (78) and Leeward Islands Hurricanes (52.8) were fifth and last, respectively.

Miller said inexperience was a critical factor in the Scorpions inability to fully capitalise when in strong positions.

“You could see throughout the season that we were up and down. You could see we were not at that place where we were experienced enough to drive home the advantage. We won back-to-back games and then we went back down.

“You could see we have the ability to win games, we have the ability to perform at a high level, but because we are not at that place where we are used to winning we are not always able to seize a moment. It will take some time and we will definitely get better,” he said.

Miller, once a crafty slow left-arm orthodox bowler, had a stellar first-class career, claiming 538 wickets in 100 matches at an average of 16.31. A determined lower-order batsman, he tallied 2,296 first-class runs at 17.52.

He is quite familiar with the current crop of players, some of whom were his Scorpions teammates. At the club and parish level, he played alongside or against most of them.

From the sidelines he watched the bowling unit, which he had primary responsibility for, blossom with each outing.

Pace bowler Marquino Mindley led the wickets' column for the Scorpions with 24 victims, while veteran medium pacer Derval Green and rookie left-arm finger spinner Patrick Harty both grabbed 22.

Another pace bowler, Nicholson Gordon, though missing games due to injury, ended with 17 wickets, while off spinner Jamie Merchant had 16.

“When you sit down and you see things bearing fruit it's always a great feeling. For me, it's no different [when coaching]. I was doing a lot of work, especially with the bowlers — the spin bowlers, the seam bowlers.

“In this team the seamers are among the more experienced guys, so it didn't really take a lot to improve them because they have been playing at this level for a little while. But in the spin department… that's where I focused a lot of my work and a lot of my attention.

“As the season progressed they got better and better, and that gave me a lot of satisfaction. There's still a lot of work to do to get them to that standard, but I believe they are capable of getting there,” Miller told the Observer.

He explained that while Harty, Merchant and left-arm wrist spinner Dennis Bulli, who endured an injury-hit campaign, tend to do well in local cricket, they at times struggled to find the consistency required at the regional level.

“In terms of the length and line, especially the length, you could see improvement in terms of grouping [of where deliveries were landing]. Bowling at that [club] level you don't have to be very consistent to pick up a lot of wickets. At this [first-class] level you have to be more consistent in your groupings — in the lengths and lines that you bowl.

“It took a lot of repetition and a lot of training, training, training. I do a lot of reading, and I read articles and books related to coaching and I can remember reading something from [former Manchester United Manager] Sir Alex [Ferguson]. And his thing was that in order for an individual to improve you have to do a lot of practice and do things over and over.

“I took that on board, and even in games they weren't doing what they were practising I didn't get too disheartened, [though] at times naturally you will get a little frustrated because you've worked on something so much. Instead of getting upset I just kept reminding them to keep pushing. And I urged them as players not to get frustrated either because I know they want to do it,” Miller said.


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