Taking in the test match at Galle was Joe Hoad, a West Indian born Sports Psychologist, whose main claim to fame is the fact that he’s the son of the first West Indian Captain in test cricket- E.L G. Hoad.
Joe, who played plenty of first class cricket for Barbados, has another string to his bow. He was the Table Tennis Champion of Barbados for seventeen years and also the champion of the West Indies and South America. Turning out for the combined services in England, he made 202 not out and took all ten wickets, including a hat- trick, in a match against Dulwich in 1962.
Presently, he’s the Head Coach of the Southern Districts teams in Adelaide. He is mentor to four senior teams, two under 17 and under 15 teams and three ladies teams. He served as the Psychologist to the 1999 West Indian team, led by Jimmy Adams, that toured Australia. A year on, he performed the same role for Carl Hooper’s team against South Africa.
He has a wealth of experience and is frank to the point of being outspoken in his views. Talking of the decline and fall of West Indian cricket, Joe feels that at times selections are based purely on figures. Five wickets against the Windward Islands are not quite the same as a five for against Jamaica which has Gayle and the Bravos, inter alia.
Ramadhin and Valentino (“Those two little pals of mine”) were plucked from obscurity and pitch- forked into the West Indian side that toured England in 1950. Their deeds in that series are a part of folk-lore.
Cricket in the Caribbean has to contend with many distractions. The big, tall boys opt for Basketball as that is where the money lies. A leading player could make as much as US$ 57,000 in a season. That figure, says Joe, is more than what the Premier of Jamaica will make in his lifetime!
West Indian cricketers are indeed poorly paid and that is why some of them prefer the IPL to test cricket. By comparison, Australian, South African and English players receive mind boggling payments. If the results are forthcoming, the board will be able to attract better sponsors.
West Indian grounds in general have small capacities. Jamaica can accommodate 20,000, as will Port of Spain (Trinidad) but Barbados’ Kensington Oval has room only for about 15, 000. The price of tickets for matches in St. John’s Antigua- the home of the mighty Viv Richards and the fearsome Andy Roberts, is so excessive that most people prefer to stay home and watch the telly.
A legendary West Indian fast bowler, now gone to his eternal rest, threw up the job of fast bowling coach as he felt that some of the players were not receptive to his ideas. It is said that the career of the promising Franklin Rose was curtailed because he did not address the coach as ‘Sir’. The other side of the coin is that the coach, who subsequently succumbed to the deadly disease, had become very irritable and difficult to get on with.
Joe feels that the present manager of the West Indian team, the magnificently menacing Joel Garner is the greatest cricket brain in the West Indies. Another big influence is Desmond Haynes. The two of them have a common sense approach and this seems to be working well.
The fast bowlers of the last thirty years or so had different approaches to practice the day before a test. Vanburn Holder would bowl off four paces. Curtly Ambrose would be just as casual. Courtney Walsh, a work horse if ever there was one, would do whatever was asked of him.