Avoiding cabin fever vital
Guyana - Of all the analysis following world number one South Africa’s shock defeat to Bangladesh on Saturday, my favourite was from Reuters journalist Telford Vice.
“South Africa have hated spending the last two weeks in Guyana,” he told me. “They got off the plane, didn't see a McDonalds golden arch anywhere and decided it was a miserable place.”
That rings a bell somewhere.
This is not a holiday resort, as much of the rest of the Caribbean is, but those who take the trouble to find out more about Georgetown or explore Guyana’s interior have been rewarded, and I include myself in that.
Just like playing spin - as South Africa did so poorly on Saturday – you shouldn’t try to take Guyana on in an aggressive manner. You have to sit back and learn its intricacies, then go with the flow.
South Africa were in town for 13 nights but remained rooted in their hotel looking glum, cabin fever taking effect as it did with Nicholson in The Shining. All work and no play makes Jacques a dull boy.
Meanwhile, other teams have taken days off to travel up the Essequibo River or visit Kaieteur Falls, as my fellow blogger Andrew White of Ireland did this week.
Some would argue it makes no difference to their cricket. South Africa’s performance helps make a different case.
One of Guyana’s biggest fans in the cricketing fraternity is New Zealand coach John Bracewell, who toured here as a 26-year-old Test off-spinner in 1985.
“Returning to the West Indies after 20 years was something I’ve really looked forward to. Returning to the Pegasus Hotel was nice, the flatness of the Bourda [former Test ground] wicket hasn’t changed,” he said with a smile.
“I’ve found it a really enjoyable place. There’s a fascinating culture, history, architecture. The greenery suits me – I’m not really a beach bunny so going without swim and surf hasn’t bothered me.”
The Kiwi team of two decades ago had a chance to see the sights but that is a rarity in the modern game, where tight schedules mean teams are rarely in the same city for more than a couple of days.
The extended nature of this World Cup, though, has seen New Zealand in Guyana for six days before their game against Ireland, and they have another five-day break Grenada before their last Super 8 match against Australia.
“Our guys are really adaptable because that’s the nature of touring now. My biggest concern is that when they get days off they don’t know what to do with them,” said Bracewell.
“Because of the hustle and bustle of travel and play, they don’t know how to chill out and go out and see the world.”
It is not the fault of the players that they are focussed on games of cricket but the extended management teams that now accompany them must play a part in helping them to see the bigger picture.
Hopefully Bracewell’s enthusiasm for this corner of the Caribbean has rubbed off on his charges.