World Cricket League, Nairobi January 30, 2007

A constant learning curve

Bermuda lost their opening game against Kenya, but will they learn? © ICC

Bermuda might have been crushed by Kenya in the opening match of the tournament, but - on the surface at least - their spirit is seemingly unwavering.

"It was a terrible performance by us," Lionel Cann, the Bermuda allrounder, told Cricinfo after a net session at Nairobi Gymkhana on Tuesday. "But we're still positive and understand the situation we're going into. We've got to move on."

Indeed they have. Even before the tournament started, they were considered the rank outsiders and yesterday's match did nothing to alter that opinion. "We let ourselves down," Cann said. "There were a lot of rash shots, we didn't take responsibility and no one 'went on'. It was just one of those days." That as maybe, but they can't afford another one for the rest of the tournament.

Curiously, their position as the least-likely-lads to lift the trophy next week is in stark contrast to the fame they are afforded. Of all the Associates, Bermuda's cricketers are perhaps the most celebrated among their home supporters. Football reigns supreme in Kenya and the Netherlands; Ireland and Scotland are also dominated by football but also rugby, and Canada are still reliant on expats to nurture interest in the sport.

"We're still coping," Cann said, wiping the sweat of infamy from his forehead, "but it's a big, big thing for us. Just making it into the World Cup is huge for us. There are only 60,000 people [in Bermuda] and just to get this far is a remarkable feat."

Remarkable, perhaps, but Bermuda simply cannot afford to rest on their laurels, in spite of the $11m grant handed to them by their government. A brief net session during today's game between Ireland and Scotland was preceded by an early morning swim which, as one member of the team told Cricinfo, helped sooth the physical aches and pains, if not the mental indignation of losing so convincingly. Fitness, or the lack thereof, remains a huge problem.

One member unofficially entrusted with improving the team's fitness is David Hemp. "At the end of the day, Bermuda are amateurs," he said. "They're not professionals and they all have jobs. They realise that this is new but they're slowly starting to realise it's not just about the technical things."

But how? "From playing. Playing against Associate countries. Seeing how much fitter and stronger they are. Other countries just don't get tired, whereas our players do. [Fitness] is just not part of their job, their culture - and we're trying to change it quickly, but it's very hard and it takes time. But it's not just that; it's the dietary side of things as well."

Hemp's role is less about his ability as a batsman, more his experience with Warwickshire and now Glamorgan. The years of discipline and training are ingrained in him, but foreign (painful) territory for his team-mates. "The guys do talk to me a lot and ask me a lot of questions," he said. "The system we use in the UK; practice; training and, from that point of view, they do talk a lot. And I do my best to communicate [my knowledge] as best I can.

"There will always be negatives but it's about building on the positives. We need to look at how the other sides play and learn from them. Keep learning and don't make the same mistakes. Unfortunately, though, we've got to learn quickly. We're in the World Cup now - all eyes are on us."

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo