Wendell Smith is determined to restore some pride and passion in the St George’s Cup Match players this year, saying that the fans deserve as much.
Smith returned to his home club this year to help with the coaching and is on a mission to raise the standards after a decline since losing the cup in 2012.
Smith, a former captain who has the proud record of never losing the cup, has outlined a plan to prepare the team for the summer classic, which is only seven weeks away. They include training sessions every Wednesday in June and then twice a week in July, as well as the scheduling of three trial matches.
Smith, who returned to help Ryan Steede with coaching, outlined his plans in an e-mail sent this week to club president Neil Paynter.
“I write to inform you of the plans that we, the cricket coaches of the St George’s CC, have discussed in respect to the preparations and build up to this year’s Cup Match,” Smith wrote. “As you are aware, we intend to have training sessions every Wednesday in June and every Tuesday and Wednesday in July. With one additional session, this will entail twelve sessions prior to Cup Match.
“In addition, we plan to hold three Cup Match trials. The dates intended are June 30, July 7, and the final trial on July 28. We intend for the sessions to be of very high intensity, irrespective of the numbers and very purposeful.”
Smith, who transformed St George’s into a force in league cricket in the 1980s when he took over as captain and coach, is calling on players to raise their standards and step up to the challenge of being a part of a team capable of ending Somerset’s Cup Match stranglehold.
Last year the rain-affected match ended in a draw at Wellington Oval, with Somerset the dominant side. Somerset reclaimed the cup in 2012 after a disappointing St George’s batting display in the second innings enabled the West Enders to win comfortably by ten wickets.
Some are suggesting it could be another ten years before St George’s are strong enough to win back the cup, talk that bothers Smith.
“It is time to tell our Cup Match prospects that it is time for fight or flight,” Smith said. “Either come training regularly with commitment and purpose or step away from the programme all together. The public deserve better than what they have been witnessing in the past few years.
“Our players need to show some self-pride and some club pride. I have come back home as I realise it is useless to have something to offer and sit back and observe this decline in standards. It is time for our esteemed club to return to respectability and competitiveness ... and in time, winning ways.”
Smith saw the league team briefly top the Premier Division standings with wins in their first three matches. That unbeaten run ended last weekend when Southampton Rangers handed them a 76-run defeat at Wellington Oval.
“It was a blessing in disguise that we lost, for truth be told we were 3-0, but the quality of performances were not of the standard that we would want, ie, wide deliveries, running between the wicket was mediocre and a few technical faults that our batsmen need to rectify,” Smith said, “It is pleasing to note the high quality of our strip. The one used on Sunday was a 250 to 280-run wicket. However, for bowlers of quality, they were still able to produce the goods. Case in point was Malachi Jones, who bowled an impeccable line at our middle and late order, and reaped the rewards — six for 25.”
Smith, who was also recently returned as a St George’s selector replacing Noel Gibbons, has vowed to pay close attention to batting and bowling stats of those players aiming to be contenders for Cup Match places.
“It is my intention to keep documentation of all potential players’ scores and bowling figures leading up to Cup Match and to weekly place it on the club bulletin,” Smith said. “It is time for accountability in respect to match productivity and training attendance.
“Last night at 11 o’clock I sat down and started copying from the computer all but one of our scorecards for our players and members to see. It is my hope also that our members start to come by the club during Cup Match training and observe the sessions so that they are aware of who is committed and how intense and fit respective players are.
“This latter point cannot be stressed enough. Today’s players need to do their extras and ‘be ready’ for what should be the showcase event of the domestic season.”
Smith has warned that a dropping of standards will not be accepted by the coaches at St George’s.
“Perhaps some of them need to be made aware of the rich and great tradition of this club,” he said. “After attending Alma ‘Champ’ Hunt’s funeral [in 1999] and seeing the household names there ... Thomas, Wainwright, Symonds, Pitcher, James, Richardson, etc, I realised immediately that I was in the presence of greatness.
“We, Somerset and St George’s, have something to be proud of. We need to continue a legacy of greatness and not allow this great game to diminish in any way.
“We need our players to honour this game and all that it means. First of all by giving a performance that is commensurate with the significance of the occasion.
“I challenge our players who intend to be a part of the Classic this year to attend sessions regularly and get themselves ready, fitness-wise and technically.
“This club has a great support system with a first-rate manager, resourceful coaches, a good groundsman, and a caring president. Our loyal supporters deserve better. Finally, we need to extend the pool far and wide and ensure players know that selection will be based on merit.
“I look forward to the days of yesteryear when we never had to worry whether players were going to come to training. As a consequence many performances were memorable and the celebrations on the boat ride home to the adoring fans on King’s Square and the subsequent torch marches were a true highlight of the Bermudian summer.”