Failing to follow cricket's 'basic disciplines' is costing Bermuda in their build-up to next year's World Cup. That's the opinion of Richard Done, the International Cricket Council's (ICC) High Performance Manager, one of those responsible for developing the game outside the Test-playing nations and an observer at all of Bermuda's games during their recently-concluded African tour.
Asked about the side's weaknesses after Gus Logie's men produced just one victory - in their final match against Holland - in seven ODIs, Done said: 'It's generally application of what they've already got. It's about not being always able to put their best foot forward.
'There's some talented players there. But I think they don't always give themselves the best opportunity to actually get their minds right and their bodies right to perform on the field. I wouldn't necessary say they're less skilled . . . the bowling attack might not be quite as strong as some other sides. But we've seen (Saleem) Mukuddem, (Kevin) Hurdle and to a certain degree (Ryan) Steede all perform, and Stefan Kelly's starting to come through, so there's some players there, as they learn the game and try to put some disciplines into place, they're really going to challenge some of the other Associate nations."'A summary (of their problems) in one word . . . the best word for it would be just ‘disciplines'. If they do those things well, both on and off the ground, in preparation and in pre-match planning and get out there and put those plans into practice, then they've got as good a chance as any team of performing well. It's just a matter of the players getting their minds set on playing the game and playing to the best possible standard they can.' Done said he'd heard the criticism that Bermuda's players might be 'the highest paid but least prepared' of all the Associate countries and thought 'there was an element of truth' in the statement.
'I think Bermuda have probably come from a little further back than some of the other countries in some ways, so if you put that into perspective, the amount of preparation they've done, they may well be a little less prepared than other sides. That could be a result of either the way they're going about their preparation individually, or it could be simply the fact that they are further behind. The fact is they've come one place out of qualifying for the World Cup every time for so many years. They probably have come from further behind but I question whether they're really putting in the hard yards that they should be."
'Saturday's result (six-wicket defeat of Holland) shows what they can do when they get their minds set on the job and get on with it.' And Done said criticism that Bermuda's players weren't as fit as other World Cup-bound teams shouldn't be ignored. Look, fitness is critical, not just at this level playing ODIs but also playing the longer version of the game,' he added. 'You just can't get by without it in the modern game. I know a lot of people tend to disagree with that. I've had some views expressed to me that fitness isn't the key. But you need to remember that we're not just talking about fitness, we're talking about the fact that the skill level is part of the game as well, so it's not taken in isolation."
'If you think back on the way the game has been played for the last 30 years, the sides that have dominated have been the ones that really have been physically fitter, and to an extent mentally stronger. I mean the West Indies through the ‘80s and Australia through the ‘90s and the early part of this decade have been outstanding, and I think without doubt they've been the fittest sides in world cricket, and the most athletic and most physical sides playing the game. Of course, they've had great skill levels as well.'
Having watched closely the progress of all of the Associate countries who qualified for the World Cup at the ICC Trophy in Ireland in 2005, Done said he was optimistic that they wouldn't be totally outclassed when the Caribbean showpiece gets under way in March.
'I think there's been improvement,' he said. 'Luuk van Troost (Dutch captain) just mentioned that the Associate teams need lots of cricket because it's very hard to perform at the top level if you're not actually playing consistently at the top level. We've got a lot of peer versus peer competition going on at the moment, the ODI series we've just had, the Intercontinental Cup, that's challenging and that's competitive, but what we need to try to do is to make more opportunity at the next level for them to play better players more consistently. And that's a pretty tough ask when you look at the world of cricket and the amount of cricket that's being played. It's difficult to do."
'This World Cup, I think there'll be a little less opportunity for the sides. They only play three games each whereas the four sides last time managed to play six games, so there was probably a little more opportunity for them to get into the competition. Having said that, that's not an excuse for the way they should perform. I'm quite hopeful at this point in time that there's been some good ground made. There's three months to go and still plenty of time to make more improvement."
'The World Cricket League (in Kenya in January) will be part of that, to play good competitive cricket and do a lot of the basics really well. We've talked about the basics with all of the coaches, we've talked about it with all of the players, and the simple things are probably the things that have let most of the sides down here, whether it be ground fielding or getting out at the wrong time. We've seen, I think, 18 scores from 40 to 65 in this series alone, and that speaks for itself. There's got to be someone who's going to get the bit between their teeth and go on and make a big score."
'But that's all part of the learning process, and we've got some time still to go. The sides will be focused on those things and be trying to get them as good as they possibly can for the World Cup.'