With question marks continuously surrounding the techniques of several of the West Indies top-order batsmen, one former outstanding first class cricketer has offered himself and his academy to assist the struggling batting unit.
In fact, former Barbados allrounder Franklyn Stephenson is now the second highly qualified cricketer over the past months to have signalled a desire to assist West Indies batsmen with their faulty techniques. Former Barbados and West Indies opening great Desmond Haynes who formed arguably the best opening pair in Test cricket history with Sir Gordon Greenidge, has previously been snubbed by Cricket West Indies (CWI) as the team’s batting coach.
Nonetheless, Stephenson, who has been a coach for many years, put forth himself and at the same time criticised CWI’s decision last December to hire Indian Monty Desai as the batting coach for the team. Desai, who has never played international cricket, is currently with the West Indies squad in Jamaica and together with coach Phil Simmons has been trying to sort out the regional side’s batting issues.
“What nonsense is that. They go for these people because they bring a resume, that somebody helps them write – total nonsense! Look in front of you and you will see and remember what worked for you and what is here and can work with you everyday. If I was the batting coach of this West Indies team I would not be seen when these guys are out in the middle. If you are a coach of guys who are struggling you’re not helping them by being on the boundary and walking around and being visible all the time when you don’t even have the history of doing what they are doing. It’s all smoke and mirrors. If these guys wanted help, the help is available but they got to respect it. Respect that it is here,” he stated.
Desai previously worked with Afghanistan, Nepal and United Arab Emirates, as well as with Indian Premier League franchises Rajasthan Royals and Gujarat Lions. He actually worked with Simmons while the burly Trinidadian coach was in charge of Afghanistan. Simmons was an underachiever with the bat during his playing days, averaging a paltry 22.26 in 26 Tests and a slightly ‘better’ 28.93 in 143 One-Day Internationals.
Stephenson was also quite vocal about the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA), condemning it as the only association in the region, probably in the world, for having so many successful past players but not engaging their skills or mentorship in developing domestic cricketers.
“[They] don’t have any of those players at all around their teams, around the set-up, management or structure of Barbados cricket. And so we’re supposed to be leaders in the Caribbean and this is where we have led the team to. Every time we walk out there it looks like we are short of practice – nonsense. We have the best academy, with the most pitches of any in the region that these guys can practise on any time at all. So you shouldn’t be out of practice to begin with,” the coach said.
The academy he referred to was the Franklyn Stephenson Academy which he opened about a decade ago. Stephenson indicated that when he retired from cricket it was his plan to return home to family and he hoped to actually help cricket at the local level. “But my presence has been seen as some kind of threat for some reason,” he told
. However, since the opening of the academy, he reports successes with the most recent being three Barbadian youngsters who have gone on to England to further their careers. He added they were now on that country’s radar as possible future England internationals, especially the highly talented Jacob Bethell who has played at the junior level for Barbados.
“They are 18 years old and the West Indies are gearing up for its under 19 competition and none of them are involved so you can do the maths. They are still young players but everybody is looking for a way out and that’s not a good indictment on your association.”
Stephenson added: “The system is struggling and you can see why it’s struggling because you are not asking for help in any kind of way. Of course, if you mention it it is probably going to sound like a criticism, it’s not really. It’s just pointing out facts and the fact of the matter is, we are an embarrassment out there. Our techniques are all struggling basically in pretty all formats of the game,” he maintained.
Stephenson, considered the best West Indian cricketer never to have played Test cricket due to touring South Africa during the Apartheid era in the early 1980s, was a phenomenal bowler for Nottinghamshire, Sussex and Gloucestershire in English county cricket, as well as for Orange Free State in South Africa and Tasmania in Australia. The fast bowler, considered the father of the slower ball, was also no slouch with the bat with 14 career centuries, including a maiden ton for Barbados going to the crease as a nightwatchman, as well as 111 and 117 in the same match for Nottinghamshire in 1988, a game in which he also took 11 wickets.