Chairman of the West Indies selection panel, Roger Harper, believes that to be successful going forward and to compete with the best teams in the world, the West Indies need to have top-level players in all formats of the game at present. Harper was speaking on Isports on i95.5fm with host Andre Errol Baptiste on Saturday.
He said, “We need to have World Class players in our West Indies teams, players who will compete in terms of performance and in terms of the world teams and that is how our cricket and our teams will get to the top of the pile. If we have several World Class players in the team giving us World Class performances consistently.
"If you are just making 30 and the press is clamouring that he deserves a try, I would like my job to be easy so if you making 30 and the other guy is making 31, then I have to try and decide who is better but if you are averaging 60 or 70, then all I have to do is write your name down, you are picking yourself and that is what we have to encourage our players to do, think bigger, aim higher and think of putting in World Class performances to match with World Class players.”
Harper, a former West Indies player under the great captain Clive Lloyd, also believes the regional territories need to take more responsibility.
"I think the development of the young players is a combination of both (Regional Boards and Cricket West Indies). I believe that the West Indies fans are from the territories, the West Indies team comes from the territories, they don’t fall out of the sky so we are always pointing to the West Indies board but I think the territories have a serious responsibility as well, they are the ones who need to take responsibility in my opinion to develop the World Class players, this is what was done in the past and I think that a lot of buck-passing has been done.
"Okay, so we are very proud to say when Brian Lara was breaking all those records. He's from Trinidad and Tobago but if a player isn’t doing well, you are saying,'Oh my what is the West Indies Cricket Board doing?” said Harper.
“So I think there is some inconsistency and you need to get back to what was done in the past and take the responsibility to develop quality and World Class, players. We have several World Class players, we have a number of them in the shortest format of the game and shortest format in particular but we also have World Class players in the Test format. You just look at the Test captain Jason Holder, who has been ranked the number one all-rounder in Test cricket for a while and then Kemar Roach up there for a while, and Shannon Gabriel whose has been doing pretty well but we need to have a team of World Class players not a scattering of World Class players."
With the World T20 Finals planned for in October, Harper was quick to explain no one knows what is going on but the players and administrators have work that can be done during this period to ensure everyone is ready whenever cricket resumes.
“Generally, we have seen some improvements and it is just a matter of turning those improvements in terms of performances into consistent, positive results. As to the World Cup team, it depends on when things come back to some form of normalcy. If you just have to pick a team to go directly into that World Cup, it is going to be a little bit of a challenge because we were in the process of narrowing what we thought our best squad would be. We had a few more series to do but we don’t know when we will have a chance to do that.
“But I think, we just have to make the best of whatever the situation is, pick what we think our best team is and give it our best shot. I still think that we can put a team out there that will be very, very competitive,” said Harper, who has been in this role since October.
Looking back at the previous tournament the West Indies won in 2016, he said, "That team that we managed to put out for that World Cup was filled with a lot of experienced T20 specialist and now we have a little blend of a few of the experienced T20 players in there and some of the young guns coming through so don’t get me wrong, I still think that we have a good shot of winning the tournament but I don’t think we will be going into the tournament as the overwhelming favourite, so it is a matter of getting what we think our best squad would be together. Picking our best 11 for each game and looking forward to them performing at their best and making smart decisions and winning the critical moments of the game.
“We have a lot of young players in the squad (experience as well), relatively young compared to the champions of 2016, but we also have a few of those champions in the team and very experience T20 players, and they understand that part of their role is to nurture the youngsters and bring them on and guide them. I think the coach and the captain and the senior guys, they understand that and they are trying to do just that.”
Harper, who in his heyday, was considered one of the fittest players in the World and a top-class fielder to add to his all-round strength with bat and ball, had a strong message for all players during this World lockdown on all sports about staying fit and their overall fitness and remaining in contact with their respective strength and conditioning coaches in the region.
He said, "If you want something bad enough and you are determined to achieve it, you will find a way to achieve it, if you want to find an excuse you will find one, if you want to find a way to achieve it, you will find one as well.”