Back to basics
West Indies interim bowling coach Kenny Benjamin says that one of his key roles with the team is to do remedial work with the younger players.
Benjamin, one of the Windies’ top pace bowlers between 1992 and 1998, joins Jamaican interim Head Coach Andre Coley on the African tour as the team prepares for Tests against Zimbabwe and South Africa. But he says that his role is primarily about mentorship as most of the players in the squad are seasoned professionals and do not need much coaching at this level.
Benjamin’s comment follows recent debate on whether the team needs coaches since its players should have already grasped the fundamentals, with even fast bowling legend Sir Andy Roberts recently describing the role of coaches in the team as a scapegoat for when results are not favourable.
“These gentlemen are professionals who have been playing at this level for quite a while,” Benjamin said during a segment of the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show on Antigua and Barbuda-based Observer Radio on Friday. “It’s more of an advisory role, it is more of a mentorship, per se. We have discussions about the game itself, what they would like to achieve, and what their plans are, so I’m basically supporting what they want. They are the ones who really lead the charge. It is not really difficult dealing with the bowlers because they know what they want to do, and I’m just here to try to help them to achieve that.
“Some of the professionals still do remedial work, but it’s still routine, just to maintain. For instance, you’ll maybe see Alzarri [Joseph] standing at the stumps, that is just routine to keep the form going.”
But there are younger players, who matriculated into the senior team from Cricket West Indies High Performance Centre (HPC), who are still having issues with the fundamentals of bowling and Benjamin says that this is the area that gets most of his attention.
“The youngsters still have a lot of technical issues and even understanding about the art [of bowling] itself,” he said. “So you would spend more time teaching them quite a bit and also strengthen their mechanics. They’re still going through changes. Take someone like [Kelvin] Pitman â€“ he still has a lot of remedial work to get him to where we would like him to be. He’s still getting faster every week.
Benjamin describes this remedial work as working backwards to the beginning to make corrections.
“If you take a bowler who, for instance, has issues with his run-up, you can only solve his run-up from where he ends,” he said. “So we will start at the crease, maybe having him standing up, doing some work, and maybe going back two or three paces. We will continue that process until we get him right back at the top of his run. So he would be doing corrective work backwards until we get to the beginning.”
But Benjamin says much of the remedial work needed cannot be done on tour as it is a slow process and if players don’t get it right quickly they may be caught in two minds about what they should be doing in crucial moments in matches.
Benjamin said that, while he felt Coley, who he worked with at the HPC, would have asked for his assistance after his appointment, he was initially not interested in joining him.
“I felt that I started something really good with the young fast bowlers and I wanted to continue with that [at the HPC],” Benjamin said. “But he asked me, and I asked quite a few people close to me what they felt, and I got some harsh words. It left me in the situation where I had to tell Coley, ‘Yes, I’ll join you,’ or I believe I would’ve been run out of Antigua!
“Based on my skill set, and what I have to offer, I would prefer to work with the Under-19s at the HPC. Given the fact that I understand what is required at the higher level, and I know some of the shortcomings that we, as a region, have, I’d be better served getting the guys ready to go up to that level. I think I can do more getting players ready so at least we have better quality at the U-19s, better quality at the franchise level, working with all the young players from the franchises in the centre and getting them better prepared for international cricket.”
The West Indies face Zimbabwe in the first of two Tests which is set to start Saturday at 3:00 am Jamaica time. The second is to take place from February 12 to 16, then they face South Africa in two Tests, three One-Day Internationals, and three Twenty20 Internationals.