How to fix the Windies wheel

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years ago, I told Clive Lloyd, now Sir Clive, that bringing together a group of inexperienced and untested young men, instilling the right skills, values and discipline in them and then turning them into one of the best and most successful teams in the history of sport must fill him with great pride and joy. He admitted that whenever he thinks about it, he experiences a feeling of enormous satisfaction and a sense of great achievement.

He added: «We did what no other team had done. At one stage, I think we played twenty-nine Test matches and only lost one, and in those days we didn’t play against the weaker teams that are in today’s competition.

«I tried to get the players to understand that playing for the West Indies was the ultimate. When you saw Viv Richards wrapping the West Indies cricket flag around himself, you couldn’t help feeling privileged and proud to be West Indian. Getting rid of the local prejudices and the insularity that held us back in the past was an enormous feat. It helped us to take a giant stride forward. That really pleased me because I wanted the people of the Caribbean to be proud of what we were doing on the cricket field.

«I have the greatest respect for what the players did for me and for West Indies cricket. They were very loyal, gave their heart and soul and often played through injuries and pain. I will never forget those things.»

When I asked him about the main difference between developing his young emerging team and leading his world champion team he said: «In the emerging team, the first thing you must do is create the right mindset in the players and instil the right values in them. You then have to emphasise the importance of clear thinking, peak fitness for cricket, good concentration and self-discipline, and the other things that are responsible for good performance. Continuous learning, self-belief and mastery of the basics are vital skills. The players must be taught how to prepare themselves properly, and how to approach the game with the right attitude. And they must also learn how to stay in control, mentally and physically under pressure and in different game situations.

«In the world champion team you must do all of those things but you must do so consistently and at a much higher standard. Guarding against complacency and overconfidence is one of the captain’s main priorities.»

In those days, the team did not have a head coach or specialist coaches. The captain was the chief cook and bottle washer. He was the coach, taskmaster, father figure, selector and team builder. He was in charge of everything. Sometimes he got help from the manager and the senior players who often took turns at coaching the younger players and supervising training and practice. The players were trained to think for themselves, to be self-reliant and to seek solutions for their own problems. But at the same time they became very involved in helping one another and in team-building. Those cooperative and coordinated efforts worked well and contributed greatly to the development and the success of the individual and the team.

Many of today’s West Indies players and some of the administrators and coaches are not well versed in our cricket history, and do not appear to value the experience and wisdom of former greats. It is not unusual for them to underestimate the knowledge and achievements of these players. Some of them claim that the modern game has gone past the old players. It is true that the game has changed dramatically and has become more complex and scientific. But the fundamentals have not changed. They still form the fabric of good performance. If that fabric is weak performance will be weak. Moreover, it is not wise to discard old and proven methods for new and unproven ones. Conventional wisdom is still extremely valuable.

So what is missing from the game? According to Sir Clive, some of the key values that he and Sir Frank Worell held dearly do not appear to be as important as they once were. «For example, let’s look at discipline,» he said. «People don’t realise what a disciplined squad we had. Occasionally our boys would break the curfew but on the field we never lost our discipline, mental toughness or will to win. You must have a lot of discipline to constantly master the basics of batting, bowling and fielding in the heat of competition. Once you are strong in those areas you will have a great chance of winning.»

Sir Clive is so right about discipline. It separates the talkers from the doers. The talkers can always tell a good story about what they are going to do but lack the discipline to follow through and finish it. Vision without discipline is just a dream. But discipline without vision is only a chore.

The success of Clive Lloyd’s team is almost unparalleled in sport. They invented and developed an efficient round wheel that worked well. In the last two decades, that wheel has been in the blind spot of West Indies cricket. On several occasions West Indies have tried to reinvent the wheel. They created some interesting wheel designs, all of which appeared to be square and dysfunctional, not round and functional.

It is heartening to see the current administration trying to correct that defective design. Let’s hope they can soon do so, revitalise our cricket and get it back to winning ways.

—Dr Rudi Webster is a former West Indies team manager and performance enhancer.

LINK ORIGINAL: Trinidad Express