‘Comply or get the boot’- Harper on Simmons’ sacking
By Avenash Ramzan
Former Guyana batsman Mark Harper says there is the suspicion that if one speaks or acts in a way that is not complaint with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), he or she faces the risk of being sidelined.
He was at the time sharing his thoughts on the board’s sacking of Head Coach Phil Simmons in an exclusive interview with News Room on Wednesday.
“I think we have to look at this thing in a wider way, and we have to go back to Chris Gayle incident a couple of years ago. We had [Daren] Sammy, who spoke out at the World Cup after West Indies won. He’s no longer there. We also had Clive Lloyd, who spoke about a bit of interference with the selection. He’s no longer there. And then we had Simmons, who recently spoke about not getting the teams to do his job,” Harper reasoned.
He added, “So I think one could easily draw the conclusion that if you’re not really compliant to some of the things the West Indies Cricket Board wants you to do, it seems you would be out. I think it is very, very shameful…I can’t find the exact word to say that Simmons has been fired. On what grounds?”
Harper, who is now a Level Two Coach, questioned the rationale behind Simmons’ removal, citing some progress the former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies all-rounder, and the ex-Ireland coach was able to make.
“The guy just won the T20 World Cup. We played in a three-nation tournament with two of the strongest teams in the world and we were in the final. We have seen some improvement in our Test team, and I think from where we were when he took over the team you can’t say that you expect them to be world beaters,” Harper pointed out.
He continued, “It has to be a process, and that process must include strong cricket development and we’re not seeing that in West Indies cricket. We’re seeing a lot of talented players come to the West Indies team, but they’re found wanting at that level.”
Simmons was previously sacked and later reinstated after remarks he made in relation to the selection of the ODI squad, which he said was influenced by outside forces, something he said was “wrong” and he did not like.
Those remarks were made in September 2015, and the WICB said his reinstatement was “conditioned upon” two criteria: “issuance to him of a letter of reprimand for his inappropriate public comments”, and him “making a public apology to the WICB and persons whom he may have offended.”
Meanwhile, Harper opined that the coach and the captain should have some input in the selection of the team, as they are the ones who are tasked with producing the results.
“If you look at the Australia set-up, the captain is not a selector. I’m not sure if the coach is a selector, but I know that they influence their team selection very much. After all, you’re giving me a job to do and if you’re not giving me the tools…I’m the guy, along with the captain, who would form the tactic and strategy so we know what tools we want- we would like this player for this condition and what have you.”
“If you’re not getting the players, how you’re going to turn around and hold me responsible? I think it’s very disappointing. Something needs to be done because we can’t keep going on every five minutes somebody says something about the WICB and next thing you know they seem to be sidelined.”
Harper argued that the current ‘chop and change’ method does not auger well for development, and the move to part ties with Simmons does not help the cause of West Indies cricket.
“We were world champions; we were world beaters. We dominated the game, but the game has left the Caribbean. We’ve remained stagnant. We don’t have any constructive or meaningful developmental process. Everything seems to be ad hoc, and at the whims and fancies of certain individuals,” Harper asserted.
Harper also posited that the coaching set-up in the West Indies must be properly structured.
“If you go to England or Australia, you know that X coach is appointed to the A team and he’s given a contract. We don’t get that [in the Caribbean]. We get a guy that comes in for a period of time and the next tour somebody else comes in. We have a history of fast bowling; where are the fast bowling camps? Where are the fast bowling coaches? Who is grooming the batsmen? Who is grooming the wicketkeepers? Where are the programmes to bring [forth] the talents? We’re not seeing that. We’re seeing a lot of talk, but we’re not seeing any meaningful programmes. Where is the West Indies cricket academy? I think these are questions we need to ask,” Harper queried.
Simmons was appointed West Indies Head Coach on a three-year deal after the 2015 World Cup.
During his tenure, West Indies won one of fourteen Test matches, but was more successful in the limited-over versions, lifting the World T20 title for a second time and reaching the final of the Tri-Nation Series involving Australia and South Africa earlier this year.
Cover photo caption: Mark Harper (right) being interviewed by News Room journalist Avenash Ramzan