Bridgetown, Barbados, April 13 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Kraigg Brathwaite’s strong captaincy in spurring Barbados Pride to the regional Professional Cricket League (PCL) first-class title has come in for high praise from seasoned team manager Wendell Coppin.
“Kraigg’s leadership was very good. He’s well respected within the franchise. Sometimes he’s too nice,” Coppin told BCAcricket.org.
“He was demanding this year. He has set very high standards for himself and he demanded the same from the team.”
Brathwaite, the 27-year-old West Indies Test opener and vice-captain with 3496 runs including eight centuries in 59 matches, struggled for runs in the first half of the season. After five matches, he had scored 233 runs containing two half-centuries in nine innings (ave: 25.88) but he ended the six-team Championship with 468 runs (ave: 33.42) and had the honour of carrying his bat for 84 not out - his highest score - in a second innings total of 210 against Guyana Jaguars at Providence.
“At no time this year, even when pundits questioned his scores or lack thereof, did he allow his self-needs to influence his decision-making or the team’s desires. I thought he was outstanding on most fronts,” Coppin said.
Coppin, a former Barbados and West Indies Under-19 team fast bowling all-rounder, who played against Young England in the Caribbean in 1985, and who has been the Barbados Pride team manager since 2015-16 after taking over from his namesake and distant relative, Livingstone Coppin, described his job as “interesting and demanding at times”. (See full interview below).
The leadership style of Brathwaite, who was also at the helm when Barbados last previously won the title in 2014, came under the microscope after the very first round following a three-wicket defeat against Windward Islands Volcanoes at Arnos Vale in St. Vincent.
It was the first time since 1983 that Barbados, by far the most decorated territory in the region and now boasting of 23 titles since 1966, had been beaten at Arnos Vale.
Following that defeat 37 years ago (by four wickets in the Shell Shield Championship), Barbados had triumphed at Arnos Vale seven times – 1995, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
But after the first round loss three months ago, Barbados bounced back ruthlessly from the second round, beating champions for the previous five seasons, Guyana Jaguars, by seven wickets at Kensington Oval before reeling off another four victories on the trot.
By then Barbados had opened a solid lead by 29.2 points over second-placed Guyana and despite losing to Trinidad & Tobago by 147 runs in Round 7 at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba, they went into their vital return match against Guyana at Providence still well set to capture the title with 116 points - 30.2 more than Guyana.
And to underline their dominance, Barbados again crushed Leon Johnson’s side, this time by a massive 235 runs with a day and two sessions to spare in the Day/Night pink-ball match.
As it turned out, the last two rounds of matches were cancelled because of the deadly global COVID-19 pandemic, and on March 24, Cricket West Indies (CWI) declared Barbados as winners following a unanimous decision at a Board of Directors teleconference.
Final Points: Barbados Pride 134.8, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 94.6, Guyana Jaguars 91.8, Jamaica Scorpions 91.8, Windward Islands Volcanoes 78, Leeward Islands Hurricanes 52.8.
Following is Keith Holder's interview with Wendell Coppin:
HOLDER: Congratulations “Manage”. You must still be savouring the success of Barbados Pride in capturing the regional first-class title for the first time since 2014. How much of a relief was it after finishing runners-up to Guyana Jaguars for the previous five seasons?
COPPIN: Thanks very much, Keith. Savoury is not as sweet as we’d all like it to be, due to the abrupt abandonment of the season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The team was looking forward to our final two games at home (against Jamaica and Leeward Islands) and celebrating in front of the faithful fans, who’ve supported this team over the years unconditionally.
HOLDER: What would you attribute the success to?
COPPIN: Planning, a willingness to finish as champions this season by everyone inclusive of the selection panel.
The maturity of the younger players and team spirit, which was unbelievable unified and the leadership of Kraigg Brathwaite.
HOLDER: How would you describe the captaincy of Brathwaite?
COPPIN: Kraigg’s leadership was very good. He’s well respected within the franchise. Sometimes he’s too nice.
He was demanding this year. He has set very high standards for himself and he demanded the same from the team.
At no time this year, even when pundits questioned his scores or lack thereof, did he allow his self-needs influence his decision-making or the team’s desires. I thought he was outstanding on most fronts.
HOLDER: How would you respond to those detractors who seemingly suggested that Barbados should not have been awarded the title after the last two rounds were abandoned because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
COPPIN: I think everyone has a right to their opinion. We work with CWI and follow the directive of the governing body.
HOLDER: How have you found the job as team manager against the background that some observers argue there is no longer a need for managers at this level?
COPPIN: I was appointed just prior to the 2015-16 season. I’ve found the job interesting, demanding at times. Obviously working with differing individuals with different needs and philosophy keeps it from being monogamous.
HOLDER: What does the job entail since the PCL started in 2014-15, when compared with yesteryear?
COPPIN: As team manager I head the team unit, report to the Franchise Board at meetings, as required during the season. I manage the players’ need and report to the secretariat where players’ needs and support are required, juxtapose to the team dynamics during the season.
HOLDER: Kyle Mayers was unquestionably the standout Barbados Pride batsman with 654 runs including two centuries and five half-centuries, at an average of 50.30. Kindly put his performance in perspective.
COPPIN: I would hate to invade on the coaching staff duties. However, Kyle’s attitude this season was outstanding, always willing to hit a few more balls.
I think he relished the opportunity to play a more influential role as a batter. Just his holistic approach to being part of the Pride franchise having played away from home for the past five years.
HOLDER: There were two young fast bowlers in Chemar Holder and Keon Harding who won the hearts of many. What was so special about them?
COPPIN: What satisfied me most about their performance was the way both came on from the opening game, when some pundits didn’t see a place for both of them in the same X1. It goes to show how much they know.
They became roommates during the season and I think the partnership stemmed from their competitive nature. A willingness to outdo each other, but in a supportive way.
(Editor’s note: The 22-year-old Holder was the most successful fast bowler in the Championship with 36 wickets (ave: 18.91), while Harding, 23, took the third most - 29 (ave: 23.20), and veteran Test cap Kemar Roach 30 (ave: 13.70), making them the most potent pace attack all told by a team).
HOLDER: Kemar Roach would have no doubt brought his vast experience to the table. Talk us through his presence and impact on the young pacers and the team by extension.
COPPIN: Kemar Roach is the consummate professional. I think all of our international players play a major role around the entire franchise, not just within the team environs.
It is ironic that the two games we lost this season were the games that Kemar missed, due to the directive from CWI regarding his workload. In the dressing room his influence and approach to a willingness for success are infectious.
HOLDER: Is there anything you would like to see being done differently as far as the preparation of the team is concerned?
COPPIN: The landscape has changed over the years and I think with the changing times we must also change some things.
Sixty players being invited to trials is a thing of the past. This is a matter that needs discussion and I know the chairman of selectors (Henderson Broomes) is on board with looking into how best to address this area.
Editor’s note: Wendell Coppin’s cricketing background:
As a player: Represented Princess Margaret, Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams; Played in the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 Championship (rebranded Elite division in 2012) for YMPC, Carlton and UWI; Benfica (BCA Intermediate division), Crusaders (Barbados Cricket League); in the United Kingdom for Farnworth Social Circle (Bolton League), Maidenhead & Bray (Thames Valley League), Sutton (Surrey Championship), Hampshire County Cricket Club 2nd team; Norfolk (Minor County Championship), Clone Cricket Club (Lancashire League), Sub Pro for Hartley Alleyne.
NB: Also a former ICC Development Officer for the Americas. Was manager of the West Indies ‘A’ team in 2006 for the Home series against England and a Rest of the World team versus West Indies in 2007, just prior to the World Cup. Current coach of BCA Division 1 club, Yorkshire.