Orville Higgins | The problem is a lack of ambition
The news came through on Thursday night that Jamaica's senior men's team cricket coach, Robert Samuels, would not have his contract renewed on December 31. It didn't come as a surprise. Sports is a results business and the truth is the results were not coming in recent times.
I have been talking cricket with Samuels for two decades and there are not many around who have his grasp of the technical nuances of the game. The man knows the game inside out, but as many coaches have found out, one's knowledge of the game doesn't necessarily translate into getting a team to perform at its optimum. There have been whispers going on for a little while now that the powers that be, (and some of the players) were not too happy with the coach. Getting bowled out for 65 chasing 107 to win in Barbados was the last straw. I watched the game on-line, and I was appalled at the seemingly carefree way the batsmen approached the second innings.
While I can understand the Jamaica Cricket Association going for another head coach, the truth is that Jamaica's cricket problems go much deeper than the man in charge. The raw truth is that the current generation of Jamaican cricketers don't work hard enough and just seem to lack overall drive to get the best out of themselves. I have heard Samuels saying the same thing. He has lamented the fact that the players do not seem to be hungry enough. He was dead right. Mind you, as head coach, part of his mission was to turn that around, and he may not have done the greatest of jobs to change the culture within the team.
In fairness though, Samuels was straddled with a problem that he inherited and there is no guarantee that the new coach will be able to make an immediate impact.
It may sound strange to say this but I noticed this willingness to settle for the mediocre in arguably Jamaican cricket's most successful phase. We won the regional title five years in a row a few years ago. A lot of the players on those teams were not doing much, especially the batsmen. They were kept in the squad because of this foolish theory that you must not change a winning team.
Some of those players know they were unlikely to be dropped and therefore were under no pressure to lift their standards. Go back to many batsmen in that time and you will see the averages are low. How many of the Jamaica batsmen in those days went on to have even a half decent international career?
Our team in the last few years has looked half decent because of Nikita Miller and the inconsistent input of others. The template was set from in those days and the current generation of Jamaican cricketers seem unable (or unwilling) to put in the technical and mental work necessary to take their game to the next level. Once they feel their game is safe they appear unconcerned about setting higher standards. A coach can try, but if you don't have the ambition to go to the top then the coach can take you only so far.
First class cricketers are paid a liveable wage now. That was done to lift standards. Sometimes it appears that that move could backfire. Back in the day when the first class money was peanuts, cricketers worked hard to play for the West Indies because only then would they enjoy reasonable returns. Now that players are being paid at the first class level they seem to be too comfortable to want to put in the hard yards to make the extra step.
So the new coach will have to work on the mindset of players. If not batsmen will still get to 50 and just give it away. If the culture doesn't change top order batsmen will still be out caught in the deep trying to hit sixes. The problem with the Jamaican batting is way more than technical shortcomings. The problem is more a lack of ambition than anything else. If the new coach doesn't address that, then the results will be no different. I understand Robert Haynes will be the new man in charge. Changing from Robert to Robert will not help if the players continue to be too comfortable with where they are.