Harper turns to next assignment
By Tony Cozier
December 21, 2002
ONE major assignment out of the way, Roger Harper has turned his attention to the next.
Even throughout the West Indies' combined tour of Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh over the past three months that ended on Wednesday, the World Cup in South Africa come February and March was never far from the team coach's thoughts.
It is a crucial tournament for a young team and for Harper personally. It puts the recent resurgence that began in the one-day internationals in India and his own position further under the microscope.
The West Indies have won their last three one-day series - 3-1 over New Zealand in the Caribbean, 4-3 in India and 2-0 here - and an extension of Harper's three-year tenure that expires on February 28 during the first round in South Africa could well depend on the their performance.
He has had the benefit of assessing 16 players in 12 one-day matches in three similar, if separate, countries against four opponents on this trip.
It has also been "a tremendous advantage", Harper said, to be able watch on television as South Africa played Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan on all the grounds to be used for the World Cup and Australia, England and Sri Lanka contested the current triangular series in Australia.
Two sports channels in this part of the world carry live, ball-by-ball coverage of most international cricket and Harper and his players have been keen observers.
They could switch yesterday from India's travails in the second Test against New Zealand in Hamilton in the morning to England's one-day match against Sri Lanka in Perth in the afternoon.
"I think it's something our fans and our cricketers in the West Indies are missing out on," he said. "It throws a whole new perspective on things when you see the game played in a different part of the world in different conditions."
Harper, Hooper and the senior players have also assessed what is necessary for the two-week preparatory camp in the Caribbean and sent their recommendations to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
Details are to be finalised at a meeting of the executive committee this weekend.
"We've played a lot of competitive cricket in recent times but it's going to be important to adapt to conditions we're likely to encounter in South Africa," he noted.
"In Asia, the pitches were flatter and tended not to do as much as they'll do in South Africa," he said. "They're going to be quicker, they're going to bounce a bit more and they're probably going to give a little more lateral movement."
The team has eight days in South Africa to acclimatise before the opening match of the World Cup against South Africa in Cape Town February 9.
"We've got to try to prepare ourselves for that as well as just fine-tuning our one-day approach (during the camp)," Harper explained.
According to Harper, fast bowler Vasbert Drakes, who has had six seasons with Border before his recall to West Indies' colours on the present tour, should play a part in planning during the tournament.
"He has in-depth knowledge of the conditions in South Africa and we need that kind of input," he said. "It'll be important to draw on the knowledge of people who have had experience there."
Harper himself was coach of the 'A' team on its tour of South Africa in 1997-98.
His one-time West Indies teammate, Eldine Baptiste, has played and coached at provincial level for the past 10 years while former West Indies captain, Jiimmy Adams, has led Free State for the past two seasons.
Both are likely to be consulted before and during the tournament.