T&T coach gives clean chit to Daren Ganga, the captain © Getty Images
Last year, Trinidad and Tobago's (T&T) cricketers dropped just one game in winning the President's Trophy. In 2005, with one match in the preliminary round of the new KFC Cup in Barbados left to go today - against Guyana - the celebrated "Cinderella Kids" of 2004 have lost their title and are still looking for their first win of the tournament.
The reason?
"Mentally we just broke down," team coach David Williams said yesterday.
The ability to fight out of tight spots, especially when chasing targets, was strength of the 2004 squad. But in this tournament, T&T have been beaten by 14, 41 and two runs in the three matches in which they have batted second thus far. Friday's six-wicket defeat to fellow strugglers Jamaica in a rain-affected 20-over affair was the only match where T&T had to set a target.
Asked about the repeated failures, Williams isolated the area of "mental breakdown".
"It boils down basically to our batting. Mentally, we haven't batted well at all. That contributed to most of the games that we lost. The bowlers have been doing a tremendous job. The wickets are very, very good here in Barbados. Ideal batting strips. For some reason, the batters can't seem to get it right."
The current squad contains Dwayne Bravo, Mervyn Dillon and Lendl Simmons, players with West Indies experience who all missed the tournament last year won by a team given very little chance. And Williams yesterday conceded that many key men did not live up to expectations.
"We have a lot of senior guys, guys who we expected to have got the job done," the coach began. "We probably expected a bit more from Dwayne Bravo and Dillon. We probably expected more from both of them. I think Bravo could have done a bit better with the bat."
And Williams refused to blame the successive reversals on either a poor team spirit or the leadership of Daren Ganga. "I don't think the team spirit was bad, we just didn't click at the right time. Ganga has done his best. The captain can only do so much. The captaincy was decent. We had no problem with Daren."
The coach also declined to blame poor preparation for the results. "When we left Trinidad, I honestly felt the preparation was decent," although he added, "More could have been done in terms of more practice matches. I don't think the effort to give us more knocks was 100 per cent. But that is not an excuse."
The one other plea Williams did make, though, was for the more regular use of a psychologist in the preparation of future teams. "I think we need to get in a psychologist to help with the mental development of the players." That is a recommendation Williams said he would make to the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB). But for the moment, he is hoping his charges can lift themselves against the Final Four-bound Guyanese in an effort to avoid an embarrassing fifth defeat.
"I don't think this has ever happened," Williams said. "They (the players) don't remember a situation like that in the history of Trinidad and Tobago cricket. We are hoping we can pull this one off."