Sat | Nov 25, 2017

Tony Becca | Getting ready for a battle

Published:Sunday | July 2, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Manager Ann Browne-John (left) talks with captain Stafanie Taylor during the final training session for West Indies Women on the eve of their opening match in the ICC Women’s World Cup.

The world has changed since I was boy, and the question is, Has it changed for the better?

When I was a boy, if you loved sport, you played sport at elementary school; at high school, if you were one of the lucky ones to get into a high school; at youth clubs; and at clubs, before you even thought of playing for Jamaica.

It was a natural progression of practising, training, and playing, and if you were good enough, you then represented Jamaica.

International sport was reserved for the best, and it was the stage on which the best - the very best - competed for international glory.

In those days, Jamaica's best were in sports like cricket and track and field, and those were the sports in which Jamaica participated internationally and did well. Whenever the Jamaicans arrived, they were ready to make noise.

Over the years, however, as Jamaica got better in every way, as more opportunities in the form of more sports came our way, and as our appetite got healthier and healthier, Jamaica is not only almost everywhere internationally, but Jamaica wants to be everywhere, internationally.

Nothing is wrong with that, not if we are good enough in each of them; if we are prepared to be good enough in all of them; and if we have the money to support all of them by providing for all their needs from the beginning to the end.

And nothing is wrong with it, not when we see the finished product and follow the successes of the many world beaters and champions that little Jamaica has produced.

Something seems to be wrong, however, when the situation is not so much about being able to compete in international sport, but more about participating in international sport.

Today, it appears that the glow of international sport is so attractive that everybody, from he or she starts learning to play a particular sport, he or she is ready to go international, to represent Jamaica, to go to any world championship, including women's cricket and women's football.

Again, it must be emphasised that nothing is wrong with that, with people wanting to do their own thing despite their gender, and with people wanting to reach the top, to compete with the best.

 

NECESSARY PROCESS

 

In everything, however, there must be, and there should be, a process. And the process must include learning, practising, training, playing, and playing competitively and consistently until a level beyond competence is achieved before one even ventures on to the international circuit.

That is why, in my humble opinion, some events, like the Olympic Games and the World Cup of football, are such great sporting events and sporting spectacles. To get to the Olympic Games, except in special cases, and to the World Cup, one must qualify.

That is why they pack in the people, and people who pay a lot of money to them. It is for the best. It is not for whoever will may come.

Why should the best be competing against those of obvious inferior skills, those who, long before the event takes place, know that they are only there to make up numbers, so to speak, or because somebody has the money or can get the money to send them to tournaments and championships?

The money spent on getting there, to fly them there, to pay for their hotel rooms, to buy clothing, and to feed them, is money that could be better used to prepare them properly so that when they are ready to compete, they can perform better.

The West Indies Women's team is now at the ICC Women's World Cup, and they have lost all seven matches to date. Their worst defeat was when they lost seven wickets for three runs in a practice game against South Africa, when they lost by eight wickets with 71 deliveries to spare against Australia in the World Cup; and when they lost to India by seven wickets, with 45 deliveries to spare, also in the World Cup.

Should the West Indies be at the World Cup? Maybe, but only because they are the World T20 champions and because they are very, very, unpredictable.

If, however, their preparation is anything like that of Jamaica's, where they hardly play any cricket, except for a few days on a few weekends every now and again, they should not be there.

Apart from a few of the girls, the West Indies girls do not really practise, train, or play cricket regularly, and it is difficult for them to compete with, say, England, who has an All-Stars Cricket League for very young girls, a Chances to Shine programme for primary school girls, and the KIA Super League for clubs.

Women's cricket in countries like England, Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, where there are high-performance centres, is serious business, and it is getting bigger and bigger, with the girls getting faster and stronger and technically better day by day.

In the West Indies, maybe with the exception of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, where Deandra Dottin and Hayley Matthews hone their skills, women's cricket, except for Stafanie Taylor and one or two others, is just an after-thought, an after-thought caused maybe by the lack of money and the problems of inter-island travel.

 

THE CHALLENGE

 

Do not let the entourage, which includes three coaches, fool you. Listen to head coach Vasbert Drakes in Taunton last Tuesday: "Anyone who plays cricket will tell you that you get better the more you play, and the constraint that we have is that we didn't play competitive cricket, but at the moment, I'm not going to use that as an excuse.

"We're going to draw on our natural resources. We've done it before, and it can be done again.

"We can bat. The challenge is to bat and to do the basics for longer periods."

That is what batting is about, that is what good batting should be all about, and that is what practising and playing do for you.

The game against Australia was described as "net session masquerading as a World Cup match, the bowling as throw-downs to the batsmen (batswomen) to practise their best shot", and "there was no punching the air when the winning run was hit. The Australians just turned to their sparring partners and thanked them for the workout".

Against India, the match was described as "easy pickings for India".

Every man, or woman, has a right to aim high and to go places. There is, however, or there should be, a proper and responsible way to get there, and that way should be more important to people from a small country and struggling country, especially a country like Jamaica, and a region like the West Indies.