Harper fends off critics
By Ezra Stuart
Guyana Chronicle
March 10, 2003

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - Coach Roger Harper has shrugged off criticism that the West Indies were not flexible in their team selection in the early group matches of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

“I don’t think that it was inflexibility that cost us in the end, maybe mental inflexibility, that is probably what cost us,” Harper told reporters on his return to the Caribbean from South Africa on Friday.

During the World Cup, the West Indies stuck with the opening combination of Chris Gayle and Wavell Hinds for the first five matches even though the duo failed to put together sizeable partnerships.

“I think that in a way the inability to execute our plans, particularly from a batting perspective, that is what cost us in the end,” noted Harper.

Harper remained mum on the exclusion of the West Indies’ fastest bowler, Jermaine Lawson, for all but the final match of the World Cup against Kenya when the regional team had no chance of qualifying for the Super Six stage.

The 21-year-old Lawson created a stir when he came on as first-change bowler in the game against Kenya in Kimberley when he took two wickets for 16 runs in eight fiery overs.

The tall, athletic Jamaican unsettled the Kenyan batsmen with his pace as he constantly clocked over 90 miles an hour with his express deliveries.

Concerning his immediate future, Harper, who has not reapplied for the job as West Indies coach on completion of his three-year contract, was philosophical.

“The Pakistanis have a way of using the phrase In-Sh-Allah, God willing and whatever is God’s will for me, I will gladly accept,” was all Harper would prepare to say.

Reflecting on the technical support he had during his stint as coach, Harper believes the players could have benefited from extra assistance on an individual basis.

“I think in all honesty, most teams have more technical staff on board which means that the players can have a lot more one-on-one attention and that is something that will have to be looked at,” Harper said.

“But I think the availability of more technical staff as in coaches will allow the players to have more individual attention in the specialist areas,” added Harper.

However the former Guyana captain said he was not hindered in his duties because of lack of proper facilities in the Caribbean.

“I think we accept that improvements can be made but certainly I don’t think they have hindered me personally. What I would say though is that our young cricketers in some cases may not have the greatest exposure to the facilities needed to develop their talents.

Harper also revealed he had the respect of the players throughout his three-year stint.

“I think generally I would say yes. I had the respect of all the players. I think at times you would have problems but it is how you solve their problems out,” Harper declared.

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