ĎThe only thing foreign about me is my skin colourí
Stabroek News
April 4, 2003

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When Bennett Kingís name first surfaced in connection with the West Indies coaching job, many were surprised the Australian academy head coach was even interested and had applied. Then, when Bob Woolmerís name was added to the fray, Kingís name dropped down the list of contenders. That was, until Monday, when the WICB dropped the bombshell announcement that the former rugby player was its choice to replace Roger Harper.

The first foreigner to coach the Caribbean side, King is aware of the hurdles ahead. In thisinterview with CaribbeanCricket.com editor- in-chief Ryan Naraine, Bennett King discusses the Ďforeignerí label and shares his thoughts on Lara, Logie and the West Indies team...

Q: Were you surprised you got the job? Especially after the reports that Bob Woolmer was the frontrunner...

BK:Well, I donít have the job yet. Iím the preferred candidate but Iím not the West Indies coach yet. Itís all contingent on negotiations. We havenít even started discussions yet...

Q:But, at this stage, arenít those negotiations just a formality? They (the WICB) announced you are the man.

BK:Donít make that assumption that itís a done deal. There are a lot of things to be sorted out. Iím still employed by the Australia Cricket Board (ACB). Iíve been up front with my employers about my interest in the West Indies job but Iím annoyed at how this has played out. I interviewed for the job during the World Cup competition and I hadnít heard from the (West Indies) board until today. Then, Iím hearing from the media. I donít even have a job offer and an announcement was made to the media.

Q:When do you expect to start negotiating with the West Indies board?

BK:As of this moment, I have a lot of things to sort out. The process has to play out before I can say Iím the coach of the West Indies team. My employers (at the ACB) have been very supportive from day one. I expect to talk to the West Indies board soon and weíll take it from there.

NOTE: After this interview was conducted, the WICB issued a joint statement with Bennett King that said he was ďexcited about the prospect of being the coach of the West Indies team, but is awaiting a formal offer before confirming a decision.Ē

Q:What was it about the West Indies job that piqued your interest?

BK:I see a side that certainly has a lot of skill and ability. The West Indies team has a presence in international cricket. The results might not show it yet but there have been marked improvements lately. I have seen some very good things, especially in the batting.

I see a side that could potentially stay together for five to ten years. Itís a young side with developing talent. Iím used to working with young talent (at the Australian academy) so it fits into what I do well. This is a very good time to be working with the West Indies team. There are some high-quality players there.

Hopefully, they (the players) have the desire to take West Indies cricket back to the top. As coach, that would be my objective, to get the team to the head of the pack.

Q:Youíll be the first foreigner to coach the Caribbean team. Any trepidation coming into a situation where you might not be warmly welcomed by all?

BK:The only thing foreign about me is the colour of my skin. Iím a cricket coach. They are cricketers. Whatís so foreign about that? I might look like an outsider if you choose to look at my skin colour. Itís simple. Iíve got a passion for cricket. Iím a cricket coach. Theyíre international cricketers that should have that same passion. Thereís a common interest right there.

If people want to look at me as an outsider, thatís their choice. Thereís nothing I can do about that. From my standpoint, Iím a cricket coach hired to work with cricketers. I canít control how people view me.

Q:Cricket coaching has progressed towards technology and science. Do you embrace the new-age philosophies where the computer is as important as net practice?

BK:Iím all for using the technology. The coaching process is about using everything at your disposal to get the team prepared. Coaching is preparation. (At the academy), we integrate technology into the preparation process. But, more than that, I put a lot of emphasis on placing responsibility back within the team. On and off the field, players have to be responsible... to themselves and their teammates.

Q:You come from a rugby background. Do you bring that same Ďtough-as-nailsí rugby mentality to cricket coaching?

BK:(Laughs) I think youíd have to ask the players Iíve coached. I donít think Iím a Ďtoughí coach, so to speak. Iíve got two basic rules. One is to be punctual and the other is to play as hard as you can. Those are very simple rules but Iím strict about them. I try to put the emphasis on players being responsible. If they are punctual and they play hard all the time, thatís the responsibility I look for. I donít think thereís anything Ďtoughí about that.

Q:In terms of facilities and infrastructure for cricket, you are moving from the penthouse to the doghouse. How difficult will that be for you?

BK:Iíve seen the facilities before so I have a sense of whatís available. Iíll get to experience that some more. I did some work for the (Shell) Academy in Grenada for about 2-3 weeks. I donít see the lack of facilities as a major impediment. I see it as a way of creating new coaching techniques and standards.

Itís an opportunity to show there are ways you can coach by making use of what you have. You have to innovate further and make sure the players are prepared properly, regardless of whatís available.

Q:Gus Logie has been appointed as your assistant. Have you ever met him? What do you know about him?

BK:Iíve never met Gus. Iím sure Iíll be speaking with him very soon. I want to talk to him and to other members of the team before I even make a final decision. Itís pointless accepting the job if weíre not all on the same page. I donít want to be in a situation where there is a lot of talking behind backs and people trying to undermine everything. I donít believe thatís the case with Gus. When I interviewed for the job, (WICB CEO) Roger Brathwaite mentioned that Gus was one of the nicest guys around. Iíve only heard good things about Gus and I plan to talk to him pretty soon.

I look for loyalty and honesty from my players and my staff. Thatís important if we are to get the job done.

Q:And, Lara? Heís the new captain...

BK:I donít know Lara personally. Itís hard to have an opinion of someone youíve never met. As captain, Brian will be a very important part of the whole structure. Iíd expect weíd have to work closely on all matters pertaining to West Indies cricket. Heís a great batsman, I can tell you that. Sarwan too is a key part of the future. Sarwan is obviously a very, very good player. Whether he has leadership qualities or not, I donít know. I havenít spent any time with him. Like I said earlier, I like the team. Itís a team that will be together for a very long time. That was the attraction to the job in the first place.

Q:Do you plan to talk to Roger Harper, the man you will be replacing?

BK:If I get the opportunity, it would make sense to talk to Roger. Iíd appreciate the chance to talk to him about whatís in place. It would help with continuity.

Q:When do you expect to get the contractual issues cleared up?

BK:I donít have a time frame. Itís in the hands of the WICB. Our discussions havenít started yet. They told me they want me in time for the tour of Zimbabwe, which follows the Australia and Sri Lanka home series. Thereís still a lot of time to get things straightened out.

Q:Do you plan to watch the Australia series much more closely than normal?

BK:Whenever I watch cricket, I follow things closely. Iím a coach and thatís what coaches do. If it was Zimbabwe versus Kenya, Iíd be watching closely too. I always pay attention to cricket.

EDITORíS NOTE:

After this interview, the Australia Cricket Board (ACB) issued the following statement:

ďThe Australian Cricket Board (ACB) today clarified its advice regarding Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy head coach Mr Bennett King and the vacant head coach position of the West Indies cricket team.

The advice received is that the West Indies Cricket Board has endorsed Mr King as its preferred candidate to coach the national team, however no appointment or offer has been made or confirmed. The ACB also advised today that Mr King has kept the Board informed of the situation and that he has been a candidate for the position, which becomes available from 1 July 2003.

Mr King will coach the Australia A side from April 11 to April 13 in its series against South Africa A due to the unavailability of appointed coach Allan Border, who will be attending an ACB Directorís meeting during that periodĒ.

The Australia A team, which features six players from Australiaís World Cup Champion side, plays South Africa A in six limited-over and two three-day matches beginning in Brisbane on 4 April.

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