Georgetown, Guyana – The signs that the future of the game in the Caribbean appears to be in safe hands are becoming clearer and clearer. There is renewed optimism that the Sagicor High Performance Centre has started to create the reservoir of talent that will serve West Indies well in the coming years.
This follows the success of the HPC side reaching the semi-finals of the Regional Super50 Tournament taking place in Guyana. The ‘next generation’ confirmed their place with a memorable, seven-run victory over Windward Islands last Sunday at the Everest Cricket Club.
The statistical facts may not necessarily bear out the optimism, but several knowledgeable observers noted that they were several good signs that lead them to believe that the HPC programme is on the right trajectory.
Many were impressed with the calm assurance and maturity with which the players went about their business. Other things like rotation of the strike when batting, a higher percentage of runs from strokes along the ground, and the ability of the bowlers to maintain their control at the death – things that more seasoned players and teams have taken for granted – were quite noticeable.
HPC captain Shamarh Brooks said preparation was the key to a lot of the good things that his side did in the game and have been doing in the last few weeks, which included a trip to Dubai, where they were engaged in the Carib-Asian Series that also included a victory over the senior West Indies side in a One Day game and their dominance over the hosts and Afghanistan.
"I think our preparation coming into this tournament was excellent," he said. "We had a few close games in Dubai, which tested us, and I think all in all, we are now a well-drilled unit.
"To come out on top in such a tense game against a seasoned team like the Windwards in only our second time in the Super50 was very well done by us."
This was the first victory for the HPC in the competition, following their entry in last year’s competition, when they were outgunned by the more seasoned teams.
Brooks felt the work that they did during the last year in particular in trying to understand themselves and how to control their nerves was the critical component in remaining calm in the closing stages against the Windwards, when Liam Sebastien threatened to spoil their hard work.
"It all came down to using what we learnt from our psychological classes," said Brooks. "We have been taught over and over again, ‘the side that cracks first is going to lose’. We kept our nerves as a unit and that was satisfying to see.
"Jason (Holder) did very well coming back at the death and getting four wickets, and I think Shannon (Gabriel) did well after a shaky start. All in all, I think it was a good effort, especially our being able to bowl in tandem which is also something that we have been taught – Jason and Shannon did it well at the end, and Keron (Cottoy) and Nkrumah (Bonner) in the middle."
Brooks has long been identified as a future star and leader. He was even given the enormous challenge of leading Barbados earlier this year in the Regional first-class championship.
He acknowledged that the HPC and that experience have made him wiser, and he’s learning more and more how to control "the controllables".
"My mind is in a different place from when I entered the programme," he said. "I think I have matured as a batsman.
"I’m not putting any pressure on myself like I did in the past. I’m just going out there and trying to enjoy the game as much as possible."
The Sagicor HPC face the powerful Jamaicans in the semi-finals of the Regional Super50 on Thursday, looking to give further evidence that a bright future lies ahead for West Indies cricket.