New Barbados Pride one-day head coach Dexter Toppin is confident the team “will do well” in the Cricket West Indies (CWI) CG Insurance Super50 Cup in Antigua, February 7 to 27.
The bubbly Toppin has described preparations as “going great” with the Jason Holder-led 15-man squad busy at Kensington Oval and Desmond Haynes Oval.
Toppin will also have a new assistant coach in former Barbados and West Indies fast bowler Corey Collymore for the six-team Tournament.
They have replaced Emmerson Trotman and Vasbert Drakes who will, however, be back in charge for the first-class Championship of which Barbados Pride are the title holders.
A former Spartan medium-pace bowling all-rounder, Toppin is a long-standing coach at the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA). He played professionally in England, Holland and South Africa, turning out for Border in 11 first-class and four List A (50-over) matches between 1988 and 1990.
Toppin, 63, has been affiliated with the BCA from way back in 2000 (January) as a part-time coach assigned to the Under-13 programme.
He then coached the Combined Schools (now Barbados Youth) from 2002 until 2009 and was head coach of the Barbados Under-19 team from 2005 to 2017.
Toppin also coached the Barbados Under-15 side in 2010 and 2011, the Under-17 team in 2012, 2018 and 2019 and the national women’s Under-19 team in 2018 and 2019.
Under his guidance, Barbados won four Under-19 titles – 2007 (one-day), 2008 (three-day), 2011 (one-day) and 2012 (three-day) and two in the Under-17s – 2018 and 2019 (both one-day).
He was also assistant coach of the Barbados senior team in 2005, 2008, 2014 and 2015.
Toppin can boast of coaching several players who have represented West Indies either in Test, One-Day or Twenty20 International matches. They include Kemar Roach, Omar Phillips, Kraigg Brathwaite, Kirk Edwards, Jason Holder, Carlos Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shai Hope, Kyle Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Ashley Nurse, Jonathan Carter, Jomel Warrican, Raymon Reifer and Chemar Holder. He also coached current England fast bowler, Barbados-born Jofra Archer, who represented Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams.
Barbados squad for CWI Super50 Cup: Jason Holder (captain), Joshua Bishop, Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Dominic Drakes, Jonathan Drakes, Justin Greaves, Keon Harding, Chemar Holder, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Akeem Jordan, Nicholas Kirton, Ashley Nurse.
Management: Head coach: Dexter Toppin; Assistant coach: Corey Collymore; Manager: Wendell Coppin; Physiotherapist: Dr. Jacqueline King; Video analyst: Jamar Layne.
Following is an interview with Toppin as he talks about the preparations of the Barbados Pride team.
HOLDER: With the regional Super50 Cup starting in a couple weeks, how have preparations been going?
TOPPIN: Preparations are going great. The players are putting in the work. We started preparations way back in July with the Barbados Pride Franchise players, which would have led into the Legends 50-over Cup in December.
At the end of that Tournament, a 22-man squad was picked and after the 15-man team was selected last week, we have brought more intensity into the preparations with batting, bowling and fielding.
We are also playing match scenarios, setting targets for the batsmen and bowlers and looking at the combination of the batting line-up, as well as the bowling and working hard on the outer and inner rings in the fielding drills.
The batsmen are rotating strike in tight situations. That is also a key area we are focussing on. It entails running between the wickets and putting the fielding team under pressure.
The tactical and technical sides are areas we are working on as well.
For example, a batsman should know his role. There are ten overs in a power play first up so the batsmen at the top should execute in a manner to give the team a great start.
Once there is a good start, it would give the middle order batsmen the confidence to carry on so that the team can make around 280 and 300 runs in the innings with support from the lower order.
HOLDER: Can you explain the scenario as far as the bowlers are concerned?
TOPPIN: The bowlers’ role in the first power play would be to restrict the batsmen, keeping pressure and taking wickets.
Whether it’s all pace, or a combination of pace and spin, the bowlers must be smart and try not to give away extras. Discipline is key.
In the middle overs, the aim is to take wickets and maintain pressure. You would find that perhaps seven out of ten times, bowlers win matches.
HOLDER: In terms of fielding, what areas are you working on?
TOPPIN: Fielding is vital in any cricket game. I always believe that a strong fielding side is a great side. Catches win matches.
The inner ring calls for being very dynamic like quick over the ground, diving at the ball, picking up and throwing in one motion and hitting the stumps.
With the outer ring, a fielder should get to the ball quickly, looking to save two or three runs with strong throws to the keeper or bowler’s end. They should be looking to create run outs.
HOLDER: Where are the practice sessions held?
TOPPIN: We use Kensington Oval and Desmond Haynes Oval.
At Kensington Oval, we bat and bowl in the nets and also have fielding drills, while match scenarios are held at Desmond Haynes Oval.
Because of the covid-19 protocols, we are using two groups of ten. One group will be in the nets doing batting and bowling and the other will be doing fielding drills. There is a rotation.
Sessions run from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. to go in line with how a 50-over match is played.
HOLDER: This is your first stint as the head coach of the Barbados Pride one-day team. How confident are you that Barbados can win the title?
TOPPIN: To be honest, I am always very confident and relaxed in my approach as a coach. I always believe that what will be, will be, but in saying that you have to make it work.
Trust is very important in building confidence. Once you develop that trust with your players and along with their ability, you can succeed.
The skills levels and ability of the players and being with them from a young age have given me all the confidence in the world that this team will do well.
I was the Barbados Under-19 team coach from 2005 to 2017 so I have seen all of the players develop. Many of them have gone on to play for the West Indies and others are also looking to press for international selection, so I am not a stranger to them.
It gives me the confidence going forward with this team. I coached Jason Holder from the age of nine when he was at the Wanderers Club Junior programme and I have also spent time with him as a one-on-one coach.
HOLDER: How excited are you to work with Corey Collymore as your assistant coach?
TOPPIN: Corey and myself go back a long way from when I was playing for Spartan and he was representing Combined Schools. I was also his coach when he played in the Arawak Cement Cup several years ago.
Our friendship developed greater since he came to the BCA as a coach working under me when I was the acting head coach. I am very happy to have Corey assisting me. He has a great knowledge of the game and with his input, this team will benefit tremendously.
HOLDER: In assessing the other teams, which would you consider to be your toughest opponents?
TOPPIN: My philosophy is that I am going into the Tournament looking to perform well enough to be champions.
I am asking the players to be very smart about their approach to the game. Awareness is very important. One of the things I want to emphasise is that players must take responsibility for their game. They must make positive inputs, giving 100 percent all the time and seek to be clinical. Finishing the job is vital.
Maintaining strict discipline both on and off the field is another area that I will be stressing on. I also expect the players to cope with the environment.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: [email protected]