Mumbai, Oct.10: Even as a player, between 1983-84 and 1995-96, Roger Harper wasnít the gregarious sort. If anything, as the West Indies coach, the former off-spinner has become quieter. Forever making notes, Harper spoke to The Telegraph on the eve of the first Test.
The following are excerpts
On his coaching-credentials
Well, I was with West Indies A for three years before getting the present assignment. Also, I spent a number of years in England, where I was player-coach at my club in Lancashire... Besides, I did complete coaching-specific courses in the UK. My contract is till the World Cup.
On getting selected after formally applying and being interviewed
I forwarded my CV because I felt I had a contribution to make beyond the A side... Then, over the years, I had begun to enjoy coaching.
[Incidentally, among the applicants was Sir Vivian Richards, the current chairman of selectors.]
On his understanding of a coachís job
Basically, itís improving the skill-level and getting all 11 to play to potential. In fact, the aim should be to encourage a performance which exceeds the sum total of the 11. If thatís achieved, the coach can take some credit. Of course, man-management is a critical area. As is the captain-coach understanding. Carl (Hooper) and I complement each other.
On whether he has himself learnt from coaches
(After a pause) Not necessarily coaches but, yes, one has tried imbibing certain qualities of some individuals. For instance, I hold Clive Lloyd in high esteem. He was my first captain and, those days, we didnít have coaches. Clive, therefore, was both captain and coach and the manner he got the best out of the players was remarkable. Essentially, it was excellent man-management.
On having assumed charge when the West Indies had little to show by way of performance
I knew the graph wasnít impressive, but I also knew if we worked hard, we would begin to climb the tree... In a way, then, it was a big challenge and I didnít have second thoughts.
On what exactly, in his opinion, has been wrong with cricket in the West Indies
Largely that a lot of the players coming through havenít had proper grounding... This was my belief then and, in more recent times, has only got confirmed. After all, unless the base is solid, itís not easy to compete at the highest level day in and day out. The grounding, as I see it, must cover technique, attitude and fitness.
On the pressure he is himself subjected to
Thatís there... As coach, Iím not only concerned about whether we win or lose, but how we play... Honestly, once the boys get tougher in the mind, they will overcome possible shortcomings in skill. Itís an understatement to say cricket is now more a mental game.
On whether his players interact with a psychologist
They have, on a couple of occasions, but you need the right person and you need him over a period of time. Moreover, the players should get exposed to psychologists at the provincial stage, something that happens in Australia. Thereís no denying that some of the things our boys get exposed to, at the international level, have already been available to other teams from the juniorsí stage.
On the technological support
Itís been available to us, but only from very recently. (Adds laughing) You know, when the computer analyst first came on board, many of the players werenít enthusiastic as they thought only their weaknesses would be highlighted. They didnít see the computer as a tool to enhance performance. So, as coach, I had to sell the Ďconceptí when, in fact, they should themselves have embraced it straightaway. The point Iím making is that if the players had been exposed to this aid, early on, their reaction would have been different.
On the likes of Sir Gary Sobers interacting with the team
Look, the players can only benefit... Itís but natural that they will passionately take to any suggestion from a Sobers or a Viv Richards... An interaction of that kind does have tremendous value.
On having the chief selector on tour
Itís a plus... Viv can share his experience... Offer inputs for strategy...
On whether he will welcome specialist coaches as part of his Support Team
I wouldnít have a problem... A more hands-on-deck scenario is acceptable. However, the strategy must come from one person ó the overall coach. The players, after all, should not be exposed to possibly conflicting voices. Also, the right individuals must be appointed.
On whether, having been an outstanding fielder, he has been working overtime in that department
(Grins) One has to... The growth of the one-day game has made everyone realise the importance of saving every run... You can have the best attack, but if the fielders donít complement the bowlers, the team wonít go anywhere. For my part, I keep telling the boys they must enjoy fielding. It shouldnít be seen as a chore.
On whether the Academy in Grenada is going to make a significant difference
If you ask me, we need an academy in every island and the very best should then move to one central set-up... I know there are financial constraints, but one academy isnít going to serve the purpose. Personally, I would advocate a campaign at the grassroots, in the schools... In the clubs... The better the foundation, the better the players at the top. At the same time, short-term measures must also be taken, steps that will make the present lot more competitive. Thereís a terrific development programme but, today, itís on paper. Once implemented, things are bound to change.
On whether the youngsters back in the West Indies are taking more to baseball and basketball, thanks to the channels which keep beaming them
Itís not just satellite TV... Indoor games have become fashionable and, then, thereís the Internet. The distractions, clearly, are many... Iíve got two sons and I know just how difficult it has become to get them out of our house in Georgetown. To get the youngsters interested, cricket will have to be marketed exceedingly well. The package offered must be attractive. Perhaps, we need to learn from the Americansí approach to marketing.
Finally, on whether itís been difficult handling Brian Lara, who is known to be temperamental
Generally, there hasnít been a problem. Having said that, you must remember players of Brianís ability and talent are bound to view things somewhat differently from those with less ability. Moreover, when Brian switches on, thereís nobody in the world to match him.