An African culture shock combined with fall-out from controversial contract negotiations most likely contributed to Bermuda's lacklustre performance during the one-day international cricket series in Kenya. But assistant coach Herbie Bascome still believes that unless the players become mentally tougher then success will continue to elude them.
In a wide-ranging, no-punches-pulled interview, the veteran St. George's paceman, who was appointed to assist head coach Gus Logie earlier this year, also called on the Bermuda public to show more patience, reminding them that their country was the smallest ever to qualify for a World Cup.
Reflecting on the one-day whitewash inflicted by Kenya in Mombasa last week, Bascome accepted that too many players had failed to perform but noted that circumstances weren't ideal.
'I definitely feel this team has much more to offer than we're offering now,' said the coach. 'But what's happened may have a lot to do with coming to Africa, a different environment, a different culture, because we're getting more experiences than just cricket. The cricket is at the highest level but when you come to Africa you're coming to a place where you've always wanted to visit because you've read so much about it. You know, maybe the players weren't in the right frame of mind to play cricket. I thought the Kenya tournament crept up on us a little early, we didn't have too much time to try out the facilities. And those facilities where we trained in Kenya weren't the best anyway. Bermuda's game thrives on team spirit and that spirit wasn't always there in Kenya. Once we break that spirit we run into one or two problems."
'Individually, I don't think we gave a full commitment to achieve and accomplish what we're here for. Hopefully, now we're in South Africa where the facilities are excellent, we'll be able to change our whole approach, we'll be able to apply ourselves better. Things already have started a little better in the nets here.'
But come game time tomorrow, Bascome says the players will have to adopt a tougher mental approach. 'I've always felt that talent alone at this level is useless,' he added. 'If you look at it, everybody at this level has talent, that's not going to make the difference. Mentally, if we decide we're going to play this game we have to get tuned in. The most important thing is being able to think your way out of situations. When we realise the importance of the mental part of the game, then we'll get better.'
Bascome was particularly critical of the squad's bowlers who were largely responsible for the defeats suffered in the last two ODIs. "The concentration level wasn't there. These guys were just running up and bowling ... not really studying as much as they should. The best bowlers really have to work hard to get where they are. Our bowlers have got to be honest, what they are producing now, no way is that going to work at the highest level. Our batsmen can't be making scores of 240 and then our bowlers not able to defend it. They've got to be willing to put the work in, or alternatively we go with the youth. If I was ten years younger, no way would I let this opportunity slip. I'd be up first thing in the morning in the nets, working, working, working. I don't know what's in these guys' minds when it comes to getting the most out of this opportunity.'
Bascome accepts, however, that the team didn't arrive in Africa focused on the job at hand. 'You could see that in our drills during training. Drills that we've been doing for months, suddenly we come to Africa and we can't get it right. Maybe because the team selection's coming up in the next couple of weeks, the contract talks have just finished . . . there's been so much for these guys to think about. But that shouldn't be a reason for us to act the way we're acting or play the way we're playing. Guys have got to realise that you've got to think professional on and off the field. The coaches are working hard, the manager's doing his best, the team just has to pull through. The contracts were something they had to deal with, but that was then, now they've got to buckle down and give the country what it deserves.'
The public too, said Bascome, could play their part by accepting that success won't come overnight. I know Bermuda's not very pleased with the way these guys are performing and I ask them to be patient. When you look at it on a wide scale, Bermuda's got about 25 to 30 players to choose from. Just to find a team to compete in the World Cup out of 25 to 30 guys, you've got to give us some kind of credit. You're playing against a country like Kenya that's got millions of people. You're playing against Holland which also has millions. Give us some kind of leeway, I know everybody wants us to perform but the guys are trying their best. I'd ask the people back home to be patient, we're just a very small nation choosing from a handful of players. We're going to get licks regardless. 'Accept the fact we've done well to get to this level. Some countries with populations much greater than us have never got this far. Let's use this experience as a stepping stone."
'On a positive note I think here in South Africa the guys are really beginning to realise what they're here for. Kenya, like I say, could have been a culture shock, one or two of the players not really getting the right preparation leading into it, and coming off the disturbance with the contract talks. Players were finding it difficult to get it together. That's the main challenge right now, getting the players back to where they were.'