CRICKET-WINDIES U19-‘Innovative’ methods in use as Reifer preps for ICC tournament

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BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - JANUARY 13: West Indies President's XI head coach Floyd Reifer during net practice at the Three Ws Oval on January 13, 2019 in Bridgetown, Barbados. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

BROOKLYN, NY – West Indies Under-19 head coach, Floyd Reifer, says the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced his coaching staff to resort to “creative and innovative ways” to assess players ahead of next January’s ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup set to be staged in the Caribbean.

The outbreak of the virus in the region last March forced government authorities into widespread lockdowns to mitigate against the spread, resulting in the cancellation of nearly all sporting activity throughout cricket-playing territories.

And while a 44-member training squad has been chosen, Reifer said his staff were still in the hunt for additional players and would be using various methods to continue identifying and properly assessing the entire group.

“It is very challenging. Obviously, due to COVID, there was no regional Under-19 Tournament last year, and there is none again this year,” Reifer told veteran cricket journalist Keith Holder in his Hitting Out column for Barbados Today online.

“So to see the players in action, we have to find creative and innovative ways, thus having organized matches. 

“For example, Trinidad and Tobago had theirs already in May, June; Guyana started in June, but rain intervened, and they are scheduled to continue on July 12, 13, and 14; Jamaica completed theirs a couple of weeks ago, and Barbados has just started.”

He continued: “In terms of the Leeward and Windward Islands, it is tough to get the players together in light of COVID challenges logistically. 

“The players identified from the Leeward Islands played some competitive matches with the Leeward Islands Hurricanes who are preparing for regional tournaments.

“As far as the Windward Islands are concerned, players involved from St. Lucia and Grenada took part in T10 and Under-19 competitions in those two islands.

“We are looking at identifying new talent outside of the 44-member squad.”

With only six months left until the global 16-team tournament bowls off from January 4 to February 5, 2022, Reifer has been ramping up preparations, with a month-long camp already penciled in next month in Antigua.

He said a “science-based program” for players had been drafted and was already in operation, with other coaches throughout the region roped in to help with its implementation.

Further, Reifer said reports, data, and videos on players were being shared via online technologies like Zoom so that active monitoring could occur on an ongoing basis.

“Each territory is hosting internal games. What we are trying to do in the initial stages with 44 players, chosen from a depth chart, is to provide a holistic science-based program, which includes technical work to improving skill-set, mental skills training, nutrition and strength, and condition,” said Reifer, a former West Indies captain, and senior West Indies men’ coach.

“A program was put in place by myself, Rohan Nurse, and Jamal Smith (both qualified coaches). We were working on this comprehensive program from the middle of last December, and the full program started at the end of January.

“We had to identify coaches around the region to assist us in executing the program to the young players across the region.

“A strength and conditioning program was also written by Gregory Seale, the lead strength and conditioning coach for the Under-19s. He also manages the S&C component.”

He added: “A lot of work is done remotely. Coaches submit videos regularly; Rohan and Sir Curtly Ambrose analyze and assess and give feedback to the coaches and players. This also includes specific remedial drills for players.

We also work with our analyst, Avenesh Seeteram, from Trinidad & Tobago, inputting all of these videos into individual players’ files to track the progression of the players as the program goes on.

“All of the actual programs are monitored by myself, Seale, and Graeme West, who is the High-Performance manager.”

Four practice games will be staged during the upcoming camp, after which the squad is expected to be trimmed to 25.

West Indies won the 2016 edition of the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, failed to qualify for the second round two years later in New Zealand before being eliminated in the quarter-finals of last year’s tournament in South Africa.

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