Sat | Apr 21, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Jamaica's cricket heading in the right direction

Published:Tuesday | December 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM

There is a remarkable renaissance in Jamaica's cricket, causing this columnist to focus extra attention to the sport. Given the norm in recent times, devoting two consecutive columns in this area was unthinkable. The real stimulant to this renewed interest; is not only Jamaica's performances in the WICB Digicel four-day competition, where the team is at the halfway stage, topping the competition with three wins, a loss and a draw. The trigger is that there are emerging batsmen in John Campbell and Brandon King, who are threatening a breakthrough at the international level.

However, there is a major concern. The next encounter in the current series is against close runners-up the Guyana Jaguars in March of next year. Is there an opportunity for the players to be in a cricketing atmosphere and be physically and mentally ready for the second stanza of first-class cricket?




In this regard, Foster's Fairplay contacted the chief executive officer of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), Courtney Francis. The former St Jago High School and St Catherine batsman explained, "The franchise (Jamaica Scorpions) is taking a new approach to preparing our cricketers for winning tournaments and to make the transition to the WI A team and the WI Senior team ... . Note that during the period of Jamaica dominating the regional tournament - winning five straight four-day titles - not many of our players make that transition to the West Indies team. The new thrust is to form a combination of that transition and winning the PCL (four-day competition) many times over, again."

Francis continued, "Now that the PCL is on a break, all our contracted players, plus additional invitees, will be engaged in the 50-over preparation that will include the regular training sessions per day." From what the top administrator was suggesting, these drills are expected to be quite hectic and intensive, leading into the resumption in March. They will include "fitness maintenance, specific skill enhancement, fielding drills, analytical assessment, video reviewing, trial matches - both four-day and 50 overs games - participation in the JCA All-Island Limited Overs Competition and a strategic plan."

Foster's Fairplay had taken specific note of the top-order batsmen who, having reached scores of over 50, did not go on to the three-figure mark. Even if it means bringing in outside assistance, are there any designated plans to address this by proven expertise? Francis acknowledged the problem and responded. "I do not know of any proven expertise available to assist our players in their ability to convert 50s into 100s. What I am aware of, though, is that our franchise players are fitter with the gym facilities at Sabina Park; that have aided that area of their game significantly. You will note that the batting improves as the season progresses, signalling an improvement with concentration. Noticeable, too, is the little-to-no report of any major injury."

The locally based Scorpions team is coached by former Test player and Jamaica captain Robert Samuels, and this columnist was interested in knowing how much was that a factor in the development of the batsmen. Francis, in response, was both excited and enthusiastic. It was as though he was anxiously awaiting to expound on that subject. "I do believe that Robert Samuels influences the team positively. He has brought his own style of play in sync with the Franchise's desire to transition each player."




Having said that, the boiling over of enthusiasm spilled into giving the Test centurion's qualifications and future role. "Robert just concluded the WICB/ECB level three coaching course in Barbados and he will be playing a role in further assessing the other candidates for submission to the WICB. Robert is perfectly positioned to transform our cricketers locally to internationally. He will influence the transition of a player from our local competition to the franchise, and from the franchise to the WICB. He is fully aware of his role and takes his job seriously."

If CEO Francis is to be taken seriously, the current ascent with Jamaica's cricketers is no fluke. It is the result of well-thought-out plans and structures, and appears destined to bear the fruit that has been absent for some time.

Good luck to them as they pursue a progressive path with the requisite diligence, determination and desire.

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