An experienced former professional is embarrassed by the weak throwing arms prevailing in the West Indies team. Franklyn Stephenson, an ex-Barbados all-rounder who made a name for himself on the circuits in England, South Africa and Australia, is also questioning the benefit of some of the team's fitness drills.
"It is really embarrassing to see you have at least four guys who cannot get the ball anywhere near the stumps from off a pretty short boundary," Stephenson told Nationsport yesterday. " It's just not athleticism. If you've got such a prestigious group of people looking after our athletes, I'd like to see they've improved in some way. I've always considered that instead of a physiotherapist, a proper masseur could actually get the muscles right for the games every day."
Stephenson was speaking on the abandoned fourth day of the second Test between West Indies and India at the Beausejour Stadium. He identified young fast bowler Jerome Taylor and experienced batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul as the only two players in the team with outstanding throwing arms.
Since the new coaching staff, headed by coach Bennett King and including the tough strength and conditioning co-ordinator Bryce Cavanagh came on board, training sessions have gone to a new level. Stephenson, however, feels some of the work could have had a negative effect on the arms.
"Cricketers don't do some of these wide-arm push-ups. You want your muscles strengthened for that actual action that you use," he said. "If you put them in a different strengthening position, then you're working the wrong muscles in the joint. It is being manifested out there."
While watching India pile up 588 for eight declared, Stephenson said it was evident the visitors knew the fielders with weak throwing arms, and duly took advantage.
A former professional, who played English county cricket for Gloucestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Sussex, for Free State in South Africa, and Tasmania in Australia, Stephenson said he had problems with his arm towards the end of his career and doubted whether many of the problems that existed now could be easily corrected.
"I struggled with my shoulder after a while and then I developed a way of throwing the ball, pretty much underarm so the shoulder wouldn't over-extend, but I prided myself on getting the ball to the keeper no matter where I was in the field," he said.
"These guys need to see some specialists. If it can be corrected, I don't know how long it is going to take. It's just going the wrong way. I'm not sure if it's being created in them or if it's just deterioration."
Stephenson also questioned the impact of Cavanagh, who prior to his arrival in the Caribbean, had spent five years with New South Wales rugby team.
Cavanagh also completed tertiary qualifications at the University of Technology, Sydney, and the Australian Catholic University, Sydney, where he acquired a sports science degree with honours and a graduate diploma in education.
"We need specialists in the job and if you are not a cricket person, you should not be around a cricket team," Stephenson said. "You should be experienced enough to know which muscles are being used and how they are strengthened. If you are not a cricket person, then you could be doing a lot more detriment to the team than help."