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Sriram Veera in Barbados
June 27, 2011
Rudi Webster, the sports psychologist, sat in the small viewer's gallery at the Kensington Oval, and watched West Indies' nets session. Last month, he was breathing fire against the West Indies board. "The board must now step up to the plate, accept responsibility for their substandard performance and design ways to improve it," he wrote in a column. "They can start by answering the three questions that were posed earlier: where are we going, what do we believe in, and what do we exist for?"
Webster has now been roped in ahead of the second Test against India to help the West Indies batsmen. West Indies' batting in recent times has had been like a déjà vu. Every time West Indies get themselves into a strong position, the batsmen slip up, and collapse. Ian Bishop called it frailty of the mind.
Darren Sammy, the West Indies captain, acknowledged that the batsmen are lacking in confidence. "Sometimes, the opposition, the pressure, the situation of the game, we don't handle it as well as we should. We bat well, get into good positions and then collapse. So when we are in that situation, we need to rise above it. That's a mental issue. Hopefully what the doc is doing will work for us. He is trying to build some confidence in our batsmen."
The time frame seems too short. Webster joined just two days ahead of the Test. What can he do on such short notice? "Everybody starts somewhere," Sammy said. "Throughout the past few series, apart from the first Test in Sri Lanka, our batting has been struggling a bit. Webster's inclusion can hopefully work out for the best."
Webster looks avuncular. He chats with the Indian journalists about confidence and fear. "If I place a plank down on the ground and ask you to walk, you will walk. But if I place that plank in the air and ask you to walk you won't. You will worry about all the attached fear."
Perhaps, it is not just fear of failing but fear or nervousness to achieve success that is at the root of West Indies' problem. Sammy cited some instances. "Once we create an opportunity to get on top we should stay on top. We don't often find often ourselves in that situation and so we find it difficult to put the nail in the coffin. We have been working on it. Hopefully, in this game we can get it all together."
Sammy comes across as a man who tries to be open to criticism. "I should contribute with the bat," he said. "I know it's affecting me and the team. I have not been able to put runs on board."
However, he must be getting increasingly tired of the Chris Gayle question. He has been assaulted on the issue at every venue. He often first tries to manoeuvre around a question before he is almost forced by reporters to give a straight answer. Monday was no different. "Whoever is picked must score runs. Whatever issues they have is beyond my control. It's between the board and Gayle to sort it out," was Sammy's first attempt to duck the probe. The questions did not stop, though.
Would you like to have him in your team if he is available? "If he is available why not?" When did you last interact with him? "I cannot recall. I last saw Chris in Jamaica. We said hi and that was it."
The inquest continued. Are you still friends? Sammy allowed himself a grin before saying, "As far as I know we are still friends. He hasn't done anything wrong to me and I haven't done anything wrong to him. That constitutes friendship." That answer finally drew some smiles.
The fact is, though, that Gayle will not play the Barbados Test, and however skilled a psychologist Webster is, only the West Indies batsmen can actually break the déjà vu. Will they?
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