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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Interview > Roger Harper

'There is not much you can do with Lara'

February 20, 2003

Roger HarperWest Indies coach Roger Harper, a fine off-spinner and brilliant fielder in his time, assesses his team and the opposition in a conversation with Ashish Magotra.

You played with the West Indies at the height of their glory. Now as coach you are guiding them back to their best. How difficult was it for you to make that transition?

When I played for the West Indies it was a very mature team. A number of players were in their prime; already established great players. It was a wonderful team, very well led and successful. This is a young team. Many players started their careers when my tenure (as coach) began. Only now are they beginning to show some of the experience they have gained.

What have you done differently as coach that brought the team together? There have been reports of inter-island rivalry coming to the fore on some tours. How have you dealt with that?

One of the problems West Indian cricket has had to guard against is that we all come from different islands. We also have slightly different cultures and ideals. The important thing is these players have played together for sometime and learnt to understand each other. We work hard together and are beginning to mature together. The older players have been able to learn from them as well.

The Harper–Hooper combination seems to have worked well. Carl Hooper seems very calm on and off the field. What effect has he had on the team?

Carl is a very experienced campaigner. He is a very calm personality. That calming effect has rubbed off on some of his younger team-mates, helped them steady themselves, be a little more thoughtful on the field.

You were a brilliant fielder. Have you been disappointed with the team's fielding in the World Cup?

Fielding takes a special attitude if you are going to be very good at it. Technique does help, but the attitude makes the difference. That will to save every run, the desire to stop every ball is something we are working on.

What is the one thing you feel every coach should do? Does he work on the mental aspect or the physical or a combination of both?

It is a combination of both. If you have players who have technical skills but don't know how to use them, you will not get anywhere with them. Players who have mental skills have an advantage if they also have some physical ability. At this level it is very important to teach players how to manage their technical skills.

Most teams have star players. Do you think it is important for a coach to have played international cricket to earn the respect of such players?

I don't think so. Look at coaches like John Buchanan from Australia. He hasn't played international cricket but he leads a very successful team. What helps quite a lot is if you have players who have come from a system where they have been exposed to coaching from a very young age. So they are used to it and understand what it is all about. The coach is just trying to get the best out and the suggestions made are strictly for that purpose.

Having played international cricket does help in some cases because you have actually been there and you understand a bit of what the player is going through. But I don't see it as a necessity.

Your tenure as West Indies coach ends in March. Do you want to continue?

That will be decided when this World Cup is over. At the moment this tournament is foremost on my mind. That is what I am focusing on.

You mentioned John Buchanan and the success he has had with the Australian team. Have you spoken to the other coaches and maybe picked up a few tricks of the trade?

Oh yes! I have spoken to a lot of the other coaches and tried to learn a lot. Not only coaches but other players as well. While you learn from people you have to apply (the learning) to your unique circumstances because your players are different not only in terms of skill but also their personalities. That is something you have to understand.

Teams like New Zealand and Australia always come up with innovations. Do the West Indies rely on their natural talent to win?

Under Clive Lloyd we were the first team to sit down and discuss players (from rival teams). How we were going to attack them. That is why some people thought Clive Lloyd did not have much work to do because he had planned things out so well before getting on to the field.

Australia are very, very good at executing their plan. That is the key. That is something we are working on, the ability to go out there and execute our plans to perfection.

Jermaine Lawson has not got a game in this World Cup. Are you saving him for later, as a surprise weapon?

We have the chairman of selectors, Viv Richards, here. We pick what we think is the best squad. When the time is right Jermaine will play.

You played around a hundred ODIs, but very few Tests. Do you think you did justice to your talent?

During my time, there were a number of very talented bowlers. The bowling attack was dominated by fast bowlers. I had the opportunity to play. I lost form and my place in the side. I would like to think that in the times I was selected I always gave my best.

Brian LaraHow do you coach someone like Brian Lara? Do you coach him at all?

Brian has unique talents and abilities. There is not much you can do with a player like him except point out a few things and remind him of a couple of things on a few occasions. The important thing is to see that Brian gets the work and practise he needs to go and display his style.

Ricardo Powell is doing very well. As a result a batsman of the caliber of Marlon Samuels can't find a place in the squad. Is it for the first time in years that you have an embarrassment of riches to choose from?

It is comforting to know we have that depth, someone of his (Samuels') caliber to call on. We still have a long way to go in the tournament, hopefully. I am sure opportunities will come his way.

The abandoned game against Bangladesh. How will it affect the West Indies?

Had we won that game we would have just needed to win two more games to make it to the Super Six. We have to win all our remaining games. It has been made tough for us, but the onus is on us as long as we have no further interference from the weather.

Did the tour of India last winter hold any significance for the West Indies? Do you see it as being the break-through tour?

A lot of people have forgotten the West Indies won the Test series against India in the West Indies by two Tests to one, coming from behind. Also, the West Indies beat the Kiwis in the ODIs. It was a pity we lost to India in the first two Tests in India. You have to remember we played in very alien conditions where the ball turned on the first day itself. So
it was surprising to see the Indians complain when they were in New Zealand.

The Calcutta Test was the first match where we actually had a good pitch and we played well there. The confidence came from there. Four of our players, Wavell Hinds, Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, Samuels and Chris Gayle, got
good scores in that Test. They took that form into the ODI series. The pitches were very, very good for batting in the ODI series and our team displayed its capabilities.

Do you believe the home side should have an advantage?

Home teams will always have an advantage, but how much of an advantage will always be a question. There will have to be a clear stipulation as to what the condition of pitches should be like. The ICC should lay down the law. What the West Indies experienced in the first two Tests in India, India experienced something similar in New Zealand.

Do you believe having seven batsmen in the team like India does is a negative way to go about your cricket? Is it just a matter of playing to your strengths?

I think you have to play to your capabilities…that is key. I would not like to compare us to the Indian team. It's a combination that worked for us in the past. If we play very well it will work for us again. It is something we are monitoring; we will change the composition when required.

Do you think this team has all the components in place to beat the Aussies?

Playing at our very best we are still capable of taking the Aussies on. Ideally, this team would be a finished product with a fast bowling all-rounder. Someone capable of scoring 50 runs and being a front-line fast bowler as well. We are still on the lookout for a player like that. When we do find him it will make a tremendous difference to the team.

Are you surprised spinners have done well in this World Cup?

Spinners will always make a contribution. But fast bowlers who have bowled with discipline and pace have done very well too.

What is your prediction for the World Cup?

We would like to go as far as possible and be there at the end of the championship with a good chance of winning. At the moment, it means we have to take one game at a time. A majority of players in this team have a long way to go and will become much, much better with continued hard work and dedication.

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