Cayman Islands junior cricket has improved significantly in the past decade thanks to two coaches with many years of invaluable experience between them.
Andy Myles is the island’s head coach and Theo Cuffy the technical director. Between them they have nurtured Cayman juniors into accomplished seniors who will soon by vying for a Cayman squad place in the lucrative Stanford 20/20 league.
Football loving Myles lives cricket 24-7 now, yet it wasn’t until he was in his 20s that the Caymanian native focused all his energies into the longer game.
He has no regrets.
‘I want to see Cayman cricket grow and not just develop great players but also good citizens,’ he says. ‘Cricket can do that for you. I’m here to serve my country.’
The standard of West Indies cricket has suffered since the 90s. Myles said he feels youngsters have lost interest.
‘We’ve got to get the passion back in kids. Every field, pasture, road needs to be playing it, like we used to. It was a way of showing our colonial masters that we could master the game they introduced to us.
‘Kids have short attention spans now. They don’t look into the history of the game and what it’s done for us. When West Indies do well we love it and enjoy ourselves, when they don’t we cry and moan.’
He hopes to produce some West Indies players from the current batch of youths. The Under-19s fly to King St, near Toronto on Saturday to compete in the World Cup qualifiers against Argentina, Canada, Bermuda and Bahamas. ‘We’d like to win, it won’t be easy but anywhere in the top three will be a good result,’ says Myles.
If the nucleus of the team performs to expectations, he has no doubt they can qualify. Players like Ramon Sealy, Darren Cato, Kervin Ebanks, Sacha de Alwis, Vincent Ebanks and Zachary McLaughlin are all capable of winning matches single-handedly when on top form.
‘We recently went to Trinidad for a training camp, met Brian Lara and got top class coaching,’ says Myles. ‘It’s helped build their confidence and they know they have to bowl a good line and length, play positive, aggressive cricket and field properly to get through. McLaughlin and Cato recently went to England playing with a senior team and did well.
‘This is the best preparation we’ve had for a U-19 tournament so the ball’s in their court now. They’ve learned to eat and drink cricket. It was very intensive in Trinidad. They realised how much dedication you need to make it. I couldn’t get them to run before. We did runs in Trinidad at 6am and some of them have continued that here. It instilled in them the need for hard work and motivation.
‘The problem in Cayman is that things come so easily for them, they’re not really challenged. We have such a small pool to draw from they don’t have to work as hard as some other islands to get into the team. We saw the U-19 standard in Trinidad was way above them, partly because they’re hungry. Cayman kids’ parents make good money and their children can travel when they want to. In some Caribbean countries the kids are so hungry just to get out of their village team that getting into the town side is an achievement. Going overseas is a bonus. We met a boy from Tobago who was in Port of Spain for the first time. He was so thrilled for the chance.
‘Cayman always comes in the top three in youth tournaments. One year our U-15s came second in the Disneyland Cup and our U-19s just missed out on the World Cup finals a couple of years ago, so the potential is there.’
All-rounder Zachary McLaughlin, 17, enjoyed the four matches he played in England for the Cayman Island Royal Police Force. ‘We played in London and it was a great experience,’ he says. ‘It helped prepare me mentally.
‘I’ve been coached by Andy since I was 12 and he’s helped me a lot with my batting and bowling.’
Darren Cato is only 15 and already tipped for big things. He too went to London and impressed. ‘I’ve been playing seriously since I was nine,’ says Cato. ‘I want to go as far as my talent can take me. I’ve always dreamed of playing for the West Indies. I enjoyed batting best in England and had to adapt because the ball swings more. Their bowlers were more experienced than what I’m used to but I still made 70 not out in my first game, four in another game and 57 in another.
‘Coach Andy’s guidance has helped me to understand the game better and improved my hand to eye coordination. He’s taken me a long way and I appreciate all that he’s done for me.’
Myles, 48, has been a talented cricketer since his high school days. He learned in the road, neighbour’s back yard, in fields, literally anywhere he could find. A Barbadian coach, Winston Skinner, schooled him in the rudiments of the game and ignited his passion for cricket, which at the time came second to football. ‘Cricket is more of a brain sport than football,’ says Myles. ‘It’s 80 per cent brain and 20 per cent technique. Football is more physical.’
He grew up in the rough part of George Town, Miles Road, aka Monkey Town or Central Town. ‘Cricket was my way out. I had a father figure in police officer Kenrick Hall who took me under his wing. He helped me to calm down because I was a hot-head them times; very short tempered.’
Myles was a firefighter for 10 years after leaving school and worked for two years in environmental health. Skinner hired him as a sports instructor specialising in football, which was still his first sporting love. Myles played for 12 years for the Cayman side and even went on a coaching course in Germany for a month and attended a course in Jamaica. Then a serious knee injury shattered his playing career in 1983. He went into coaching both sports from then, always preferring football.
In 1996 Myles was given the option to concentrate solely on cricket.
‘The government wanted a full-time cricket coach and I was asked to work with Cuffy who had just come over from Barbados until he settled down. We’ve been together ever since. He too has been like a father figure to me. He’s given me a tremendous work ethic, confidence and helped me believe in myself and a gentle push when necessary. Anywhere he’s going, I’m always there and he never hides anything from me.’
The respect is reciprocated.
‘Andy has been my assistant since I came here,’ says Cuffy. ‘He has been one of the most loyal supporters of the programme. He believes that cricket is a good medium to develop young people and I don’t think the programme could have gone as well as it has without him.’
International travel is always seen as a perk for cricketers and Myles has enjoyed that to the max. ‘I’ve been all around the world; Trinidad, England on courses, Argentina, Australia, America, all over the Caribbean. We have a saying in cricket: ‘Play cricket and see the world’. ‘I’ve worked with some legends of the game too; Charlie Griffith used to give me pointers and I’ve also worked with Jeff Dujon in Cayman and Jamaica. It’s like a big family, everyone I’ve met has been positive.’
The jet setting has not spoilt the staunch family man.
Married to supportive wife Sandra for 23 years they live in Savannah. Myles hoped his son Meshach, 26, would pursue a cricketing career too. ‘He used to be into cricket and football but thanks to Michael Jordan he went into basketball instead.’
Daughter Gabrelle, 24, lives in Canada and between his offspring they have already given him three grandkids.
All cricketers hope to score a century at least once in their careers. Myles is thankful that he achieved it seven years ago in the twilight of his playing days.
‘It was for Cable & Wireless School in West Bay. I got 108 not out and the man of the match. I was out there for so long – about three hours – that it was mentally and physically really draining and really made me hungry.
‘I’m sorry I didn’t do a cricket course in my teenage years because I would have benefited from things like how to build an innings by concentrating really hard and shot selection. It’s not just about talent, you have to be mentally strong, take your time. Cricket’s a waiting game.’