'We encourage aggressive cricket' - West Indies coach
Ronsford Beaton will be dining at the Ribs and Rump on Townsville's trendy Palmer Street tonight. And he'll be doing so at his coach Roddy Estwick's expense, after underpinning West Indies' smashing victory against Zimbabwe, which helped them top Group C at the Under-19 World Cup.
Before the start of the match at Endeavour Park, Estwick had wagered Beaton that if he took 3 for 30 in ten overs, dinner would be on him. Beaton did not manage three wickets, but he did better, taking 1 for 9 in a nine-over spell that included four maidens. He was instrumental in keeping Zimbabwe to 148 for 8, a target West Indies chased comfortably.
"Unfortunately he [Beaton] didn't get up to it [3 for 30] but I'm still going to pay up. You've got to honour your bets," says Estwick with a laugh. "He's going to set me back a couple of hundred dollars. He's a big eater."
Beaton has been one of the best performers in a group of players who've made West Indies a force in this tournament, hitting speeds of around 145 kph. He and three other fast bowlers - Jerome Jones, Kyle Mayers and Justin Greaves - comprise a formidable pace attack; Mayers and Greaves are allrounders too, giving the batting line-up depth. Add to that a top order that includes a Test opener, and an athletic fielding unit, and West Indies are serious contenders to climb through the knock-out stages.
Their quicks have run in and attacked the batsmen, keeping India, Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe to less than 170. At the start of the tournament, West Indies had a target of keeping the opposition below 230, but after the performance against India, the management lowered that to 200. No one has got close. Their batsmen have played with freedom, too. The chases against Papua New Guinea and Zimbabwe were over in the 12th and 36th over. They've been encouraged to do so, to play positively.
"We want to encourage them to play aggressive cricket, we want them to express themselves," says Estwick of his players' approach. "If you get out playing positive, yes you are disappointed, but you then look at the execution, not at the intent. We're not going to pull them down for being positive. We want people to play with a smile on their face and go out and enjoy it."
When the aggressive approach comes off, Beaton and Co. get on top of batsmen and Sunil Ambris smashes 91 off 43 balls. The side effects are 48 wides and three no balls in three matches, and the poor shots Ambris and John Campbell played so early in their innings against Zimbabwe to leave West Indies 6 for 2. While Estwick said that he wasn't "100% happy" with the batting so far in the World Cup, and that Campbell was perhaps a little irresponsible as vice-captain for trying to slog his first ball against the spinner, they would examine the thinking behind that approach and the execution of the plan.
"You hope that they learn from it, that's the key thing, and not repeat their mistakes," Estwick says. "We allow them to reflect on it. There's no point shouting or bawling because it's already happened. We'll have a discussion, see what the mindset was, and see if it boils down to execution."
There's a premium placed on on-field discipline. For instance, during West Indies' practice game against Namibia at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Estwick did not want his players dropping their standards of professionalism after scoring more than 300.
"They are as professional as they can be. Ever so often they need a reminder that they need to keep their feet on the ground," Estwick said at the time. "It's going to be difficult to go at 100% after scoring 327 but what I didn't want them to do was to be laughing at the batsman or fooling around or lowering their standards. They did that nicely."
A significant reason the West Indian players perform on the field is because they are happy off it, a critical factor because they're teenagers on the other side of the planet, away from home. West Indies were in Australia earlier than most other teams, too, on July 21, and so the management - Estwick, Courtney Walsh and Stuart Williams - has been proactive in keeping the team spirit high. While in Brisbane, they made a trip to the zoo despite a busy schedule; the management cooked the players dinner, and they played cards and dominoes. The process continues in Townsville.
"We're doing everything in our power to keep the young minds from being distracted, from being homesick," Estwick says. "The manager [Walsh] offered last night that everybody could come to his room and have a five-minute chat on his phone to their families back home. Just to keep them refreshed.
"It's very important that they can speak to their families, or whoever they want to speak to, to give them that word of encouragement, that word of advice, keep the spirits up. We try and monitor the situation, try and make sure they are happy."
The players are. They come from different countries and backgrounds in the Caribbean but Kraigg Brathwaite, the captain, said it was easier for this group to gel because they'd played together at Under-15 level as well. "It certainly is not easy, especially when you are gathering 20 players from the Caribbean, but this time I believe it is better because the majority of the fellas knew one another," Brathwaite says. "It's [team spirit] quite strong. We have won all three games so we have that momentum going in. We just have to carry it."
Beaton says it's a "home away from home" within the team because of the management's efforts. "We have a good team vibe going on at the moment. So we try to keep that through the tournament. And hopefully we become successful at the end."
West Indies have a three-day break before they play their quarterfinal at Endeavour Park on Monday. Estwick's said he'd be willing to take everybody out to dinner if New Zealand don't make more than 148, which is how many Zimbabwe made today. Beaton, for one, is ready to take up that wager.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo