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KINGSTON, Jamaica - Former West Indies coach Roger Harper says he accepted the job as head coach of the Shell Cricket Academy of the St George's University because he wants to continue making a contribution to the future development of regional cricket.
"I think it involves the development of West Indies cricket to which Iím very committed and I think that here at the Academy I have a tremendous opportunity to make a contribution to the future of West Indies cricket," Harper said in an interview in the Spice Island.
"I think we have to understand that the strength of West Indies cricket lies in our grassroots and I think if we can have more quality players playing for West Indies and in our reserves we have a greater chance of achieving our goal of returning to the top of West Indies cricket," Harper reasoned.
Harper also explained the reason for coaches taking the players out of their comfort zone.
"Well, initially thatís the objective but what we want to do at the end of it is give them a much higher comfort zone so that they can operate under levels of immense pressure and still be very successful," Harper pointed out.
The former Guyana captain and West Indies' off-spinner, who spent the last three years coaching the West Indies Test and One-Day side said this experience should serve him well in his new job as he tries to harness the skills of two dozen young players, drawn from the various Caribbean territories.
"I see here an opportunity to increase the quality of West Indies cricket to bring my experience gathered at the international level as coach of the West Indies team and impart some of that knowledge to these young players," Harper said.
Noting there is plenty of talented cricketers in the West Indies, Harper said it is vital that they are drilled in the fundamentals of the game.
"We are all aware of the fact that West Indian players have a tremendous amount of natural ability. What we want to do is refine that and develop and instil the basics. Give them better fundamentals, so increase our technical efficiency," Harper asserted.
"But even more important than that is to teach them to manage that ability because when the top situations arise they must know how to use the skills they have effectively and at the end of this programme we expect them to be very capable of doing that," added Harper.
Speaking from a more philosophical perspective, Harper said the mental skills are one of biggest deficiencies facing West Indian players.
"What I want to say to the young fellas here, their goal mustnít be to make a West Indies team. No, and we have to stop telling our players that.
Their goal must be to take West Indies cricket back to the top and that means aiming to be the best player in the world," Harper said.
Harper said he is pleased to have former Barbados wicketkeeper Darnley Boxhill and former West Indian fast bowler Kenny Benjamin working with him at the Academy.
"These coaches bring special skills which will be utilised to the fullest in an effort to develop these players to their full potential," Harper said.
Commenting on the just ended four-match Test series, which Australia won 3-1, Harper agreed that there is a ray of hope for the West Indies, particularly from the young players.
"Well certainly, thereís always been a little light peeking through at the end of the tunnel," Harper said.
"Weíve seen the young players, weíve seen what they are capable of -- the young batsmen in particular. The fact that they have been producing, maybe not collectively often enough, but we knew that they were very capable and to see them deliver against a team the quality of the Australian team was really tremendous to watch," Harper remarked.
Harper said he was happy that 20-year-old Anguillan Omari Banks came into the Test team and made an immediate impact.
"I think it was a tremendous performance by him. Heís always shown that he has great composure and that, along with his ability, got him through in the end," Harper said.