Tony Becca | The hunt is on for pace, raw pace
There is no doubt that pace, real pace, oftentimes scares the daylights out of batsmen and leaves them trembling, except for the truly great ones, and especially on fast, bouncy pitches.
It was mainly because of that why Frank Worrell, the captain of the West Indies team to Australia in 1960-61, the land of fast, bouncy pitches, pleaded in vain for the inclusion of Roy Gilchrist, one of the fastest bowlers in the world at the time who was on suspension, in the West Indies team.
Worrell had with him Wes Hall, the world's fastest bowler at the time, and he is reported to have said to the selectors before the team left home, "Give me Gilchrist and I will give you victory."
The team left without Gilchrist and the West Indies were narrowly beaten 2-1.
With a team of champions, including an array of fast bowlers, notably Roberts and Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Wayne Daniel, and Sylvester Clarke, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, and Patrick Patterson, the West Indies, however, ruled the world of cricket after that, and for a long, long time.
The men of speed have disappeared from West Indies cricket; however, the enforcers are no longer around, and in place of them have come, most of the times, average, or below average, performances.
While it is not only the absence of good and consistent fast bowling which is the problem of West Indies cricket, it is certainly one of them. Probably it is the most important one, and that is the reason why a hunt is on to find fast bowlers, really fast bowlers, for the West Indies.
LAUNCHED A HUNT
A cricket aficionado, Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, has launched a programme dubbed 'Pace like Fire' throughout the West Indies in an effort to find young men with the right physique to become fast bowlers and with the desire to be fast bowlers.
The Faculty of Sports at the university, led by Dr Akshai Mansingh, and the Sagicor High Performance Centre have launched a hunt to find 10 young men and five young ladies who have completed secondary education and are between the ages of 16 and 22 from six islands, who believe they have 'raw' pace, and who can prove it, to attend fact-finding exercises which started a week ago and end on September 5.
The six countries are Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St Lucia, St Kitts, Jamaica, and Barbados. There will be centres for testing pace in each country, and in Jamaica the centres will be at UWI, St Elizabeth Technical High School, Manchester High School, St Ann, and Folly Oval from August 24 to August 30.
At the centres, the potential fast bowlers will be tested for 'raw pace' by coaches and former West Indies players, including Sir Wesley Hall, author of Pace like Fire, a book written in 1965, and according to the organisers, anyone so inclined can offer himself, or herself, for testing in an effort to "hone your natural ability into the extraordinary."
At the end of the testing period, the selected few will travel to Barbados where they will undergo a two-year development programme which will include scientific testing, analysis, expert coaching, high-tech training equipment, mental skills, strength and conditioning training, and personal development.
In Barbados, the selected men, and women, of raw pace will be under the watchful eyes of former Test player, Floyd Reifer.
And if at the end they make the grade they will be passed on to the respective territorial boards where, it is hoped, they will be ushered into the club system and on the way to national and international cricket as well as, if they are so inclined, to the University of the West Indies.
Although the West Indies cricket board is not officially involved with this programme, those involved with it will have the blessing of the board.
Even if this is a one-off search, it is a wonderful concept, and one wonders how the board, the territorial associations, and others interested in West Indies cricket missed out on it.
Kudos go out to Sir Hilary and Dr Mansingh for coming up with this concept. It is good for West Indies cricket, and it was long overdue.
After the tour of 1960-61, Hall had said that whenever the West Indies found enough fast bowlers, or bowlers of real pace, of raw pace, no one could beat them.
The West Indies had them once in the 1960s, they had them once in the 1970s and the 1980s, and they had them once again in the early 1990s.
The hope is that the hunt will be a success and that although the West Indies could well do with one for batting, especially with one dealing with the mental capacity side of things, when this one is over, the hope is also that someone else, probably the board or the associations, will organise one for wrist spinners.