The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Game against Australia will be my biggest challenge: Geoff Marsh
- Former Aussie star stays focussed on task in trouble-torn Zimbabwe

Harare: Geoff Marshís place in cricket history is assured. After all, he is the only one to have successfully featured in different roles in the World Cup ó player in 1987, coach in 1999. This time, of course, he is wearing the Zimbabwe hat.

The demands of the current job are greater, but Marsh manages to smile ó once in a while, at least. He generally avoids interviews and, despite being the No. 1 Ďstarí in the Zimbabwean contingent, prefers a low profile. However, Marsh took time off Tuesday afternoon, at the Harare Sports Club, to speak to The Telegraph.

The following are excerpts

On whether he maintains his biggest challenge is to make Zimbabwe world champions

(Smiles) You take to the World Cup with a belief that you can win it, otherwise thereís no point competing... Thereís no point just helping complete the numbers... Weíre taking one game at a time and qualifying for the Super Six is, for now, our main job. If we make it, we will then be only five matches away... Itís a fact, though, that we are in a tough pool.

On whether Zimbabwe have done enough, in the past year, to actually go the distance

Well, look at South Africa ó they took to the World Cup as one of the favourites yet, today, are just one game away from exiting. So... We donít look too far ahead and, as Iíve said, take one match at a time. (After a pause) Even getting to the semi-finals will be an enormous step for Zimbabwe.

On the experienced Alistair Campbell not being part of the campaign

The decision was made by the selectors... All I will say is that a batsman should consistently be scoring... Once the squad got picked, I had to get on with the job... Focus on the XV at hand...

On whether Campbell will get a recall

Iím sure he will... He should definitely be back.

On taking to the India game with eight points, including four by default (off England)

Initially, I did say we didnít wish to ride on the back of Ďbonusí points but, then, thereís a system in place (for the World Cup) and that gave us points for the England match... Thereís been quite a bit of negativity, but weíve been trying to remain focussed. At the end of the day, we had no control over whether or not England would come. Our control is over playing well.

On the controversies making a heavier demand on him as coach

The controversies began immediately after Christmas, yet thatís the time we set ourselves targets... We did have an initial discussion but, thereafter, just havenít talked about the issues. Why spend time on something over which I wonít have any control'

On whether, being an Australian, he felt uncomfortable when there was talk that even Australia may not play in Zimbabwe

No... Frankly, from pretty early, we knew that England wouldnít come. Equally, from pretty early, weíve known that Australia will come... The England and Australian players let that be known... Basically, itís a problem if you wish to make an issue; itís not a problem if you donít wish to make an issue. Personally, I donít see a security problem.

On having worked with a series of captains in the past few months

(Smiles again) Just keeps everyone on their toes! My approach is simple: Deal with it without making it a problem... Obviously, continuity helps, but you donít always get an ideal world... If I may add, the captaincy isnít a talking point in the dressing room, itís not a cancer which is growing...

On the black armbands issue

Itís been an individual thing and hasnít affected the team.

On the Australians

They are a class above everyone else and if we canít go the distance, Iíll be hoping Ricky Pontingís men retain the title... Theyíre the best side by a mile... Consistency, tale nt, leadership... Theyíve got everything.

On whether, emotionally, there will be a bit of Ďturmoilí when Zimbabwe face Australia (in Bulawayo, February 24)

Iíll be looking to the game as my biggest challenge. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the difference between coaching Australia and being the top gun in Zimbabwe

Thereís an enormous difference... The Australians were and are world class, while in Zimbabwe, the only one in the squad who really is in that category is Andy Flower... Getting the rest of the guys to deliver as world class players is my challenge. With the Australians, you just need to push a button to get the players into the right mood... Not so here.

On whether, despite being a World Cup-winning coach, he has learnt by coaching Zimbabwe

The challenge of making the players ó most of whom have had very little first-class experience ó competitive has definitely taught a few things. Because Zimbabwe doesnít have the numbers, domestic cricket isnít strong enough... The players quickly get into the fast track to international cricket but, once there, have to be made comp etitive... Like it is with the players, even coaches donít stop learning.

Finally, whether he is looking to continue beyond October, when his contract ends

(Grins) Havenít given it a thought... First, letís get over with the World Cup.

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