Harper delighted with WI's African success

Across the Board with the WICB
Stabroek News
August 19, 2001

THE WEST INDIES senior team returns home shortly after touring Zimbabwe and Kenya. In this week's column, coach Roger Harper, discusses their successes in Africa and looks to the future.

Q: How important was it for the West Indies to be successful on this tour and are you happy with the team's results?

A: "I am delighted with the team's results on this tour. The results of this tour will help to instil in the young players the poise and self-assurance needed for consistent success at this level. Bearing in mind the fact that we had not won a Test series away since 1995 in New Zealand, this is a very important result.

"When you take into account the relative youth and inexperience of the squad, particularly in the bowling department which lost key members due to injury, this is a significant achievement. I think that we can be proud of our achievements. The team also won the One-Day International tournament by defeating India in the finals. Remember, this is the same Indian team that had recently beaten the mighty Australians in the Test series in India and pushed them all the way in the One-Day games."

Q: What were the benchmarks for team growth and development that you set for this tour and have these benchmarks been reached or even surpassed?

A: "Prior to leaving we had set standards of performance for this tour and these benchmarks have generally been surpassed. Consistency, in terms of collective performance, was a benchmark set for team growth. In past series we have had one or two individuals performing well in an innings or in a match. The aim was to have the team perform well together.

"From a batting perspective, the aim was to score in excess of 300 runs in each innings of a Test match and more than 250 in the One?Day Internationals. On the bowling front, the object was to build pressure from both ends simultaneously. The only occasions we did not meet these goals was with our bowling and fielding performance in the second innings of the second Test and with our batting in the first One?Day game against India."

Q: How do you rate our performances and success on this tour bearing in mind that the West Indies lost key players due to injuries?

A: "In the context of India having a tough series against Zimbabwe and Australia being beaten in India, it is hard to do well against a team at home. Zimbabwe and Kenya may not be rated among the top teams in world cricket but Zimbabwe, in particular, is no pushover, especially on their own turf. Ask India, the team that stopped Australia's phenomenal run of Test victories. The fact that we can come to Africa and win everything on offer is a very positive sign and signifies progress. Future success can be built on our achievements on this tour.

Also, our players have tasted victory consistently and they know what it is to win and this is good for their development."

Q: The Chris Gayle-Daren Ganga opening combination has worked very effectively on this tour. To what do you attribute this?

A: "Chris and Daren applied themselves very well on this tour. They made the most of their opportunities and consistently gave the team good starts. This is something that has been lacking in the recent past and they were determined to capitalise on the good batting conditions on the tour.

"Daren did not play in the Tests against South Africa but experienced the tough series in Australia. Chris, on the other hand, had moderate success against South Africa. Having come off difficult series against two of the best teams in world cricket, they both realised that this tour was the perfect opportunity to try to establish themselves.

"Chris displayed his enormous appetite for runs, churning out big scores on a regular basis while Daren was finally able put together the scores commensurate with his solidity. It is instructive that these two have put in lots of work practising in the nets."

Q: What is your evaluation of our bowling and where do our bowlers go from here?

A: "The performances and results on this tour should instil greater belief and self-confidence in our bowlers. They should have a greater understanding of what is required for success at this level and strive to achieve it on a regular basis. We have to note and give credit for is the fact that the persons who formed our bowling attack and who had a combined experience of 21 Tests between them (Reon King, 12; Pedro Collins and Marlon Black, three each; Colin Stuart, two, and Neil McGarrell, one), twice managed to dismiss Zimbabwe for less than 160 runs and once for less than 250, on very good batting wickets.

"I agree that at times during the second innings of the second Test we did not bowl very well but, had we taken our catches, we would have won that match also. Of course, inconsistency is always a concern."

Q: What's next for the West Indies and within what time frame do you see us achieving consistent competitiveness with the top cricket teams again?

A: "The next stage for us is maturing both as a team and individually. At the moment we have many players in their early twenties with very little Test experience. As a matter of fact, the team that played against Zimbabwe in the first Test contained six players with less than ten Test matches to their names and two with less than 15 Test matches.

"The plan is for our players to develop and gain experience on future tours. Therefore, in another two years, most of these players would have played in excess of 25 Tests and would really have begun to mature at the international level. I could also see a team like Australia losing some of its established players to retirement by that time. So, yes, I would say that we would be really ready to compete with the likes of Australia and South Africa after another two years."

Q: There has been a lot of publicity on the positive influence which captain Carl Hooper is having on the younger guys. How has he achieved this?

A: "First, Carl really wants the team to be successful, and that means the players doing well. Carl communicates this to the team and more than anything else he is showing the younger players how it can be done. The young players have a positive example to follow and are responding to it."

Q: In the 18 months since you have been coach, we have played Zimbabwe, Pakistan, England, Australia, South Africa and India with mixed results. How do you feel about the job and are you satisfied with the pace of our players' development?

A: "In the face of all the challenges, I still feel very positive about the job. We are growing every day. The good thing is that the foundation is being laid and in a couple of years the Team will be a fairly experienced unit.

"Naturally, I would have liked to have won each of those series. However, it has to be understood that most of our present players are still learning their trade. The consistent results will come. I look at a player like Simon Katich (age 26) of Australia, who is making his Test debut in England as I write. His career first?class statistics read as follows: 61 matches, 15 centuries and 52.58 average.

"Now, compare that to the first?class records of most of our young players already playing Test cricket and you understand what I mean. Katich has had the grounding and is already a consistent performer in contrast to our young players who are learning about consistency, in all departments, when they get to the international level."