'There is massive interest in the game in Canada'

In this interview to The Sportstar Woolmer dwells on his new role.

G. VISWANATH

"I needed a new challenge and wanted to research coaching and I needed different environments and teams to work with," says Bob Woolmer.-— Pic. N. SRIDHARAN

Bob Woolmer was South Africa's coach for five years. He and Hansie Cronje moulded a successful team and put South Africa on the top rung of international cri<130>cket. Woolmer finished his five-year term as South Africa's coach after the 1999 World Cup in England and did not seek reappointment. Thereafter, he was appointed as the High Performance Officer of the International Cricket Council, a job created in order to help the ICC qualifiers for the World Cup in South Africa. In this interview to The Sportstar Woolmer dwells on his new role.

Question: What encouraged or prompted you to take up the ICC assignment?

Answer: I needed a new challenge and wanted to research coaching methods and I needed different environments and teams to work with.

* Having coached a top team like South Africa, it must have been a different experience to deal with cricketers of Namibia, Canada and Holland.

Indeed there were two main differences. One being amateurs, they had no idea what they might be able to achieve. Secondly, they had no idea of what it would be like to face the best. However, they were extremely responsive and it was a pleasure to work with them.

* What were your impressions of these cricketers?

You have to remember that I have coached amateurs before and that I was one myself once. So I had a good idea what challenges I faced. They were as I expected very responsive and eager to learn. Somewhat in awe of what they might be facing.

* Were they able to grasp the nuances of the game?

They have all done very well, however they cannot experience all the nuances of the game by just playing one-day cricket. However, there were a lot of drills and practices that would have helped them.

* How did you approach your task?

With enthusiasm and a plan that hopefully will start to take effect over a period of time. Essentially I used the following six `S' for success : 1. Skill, 2. Stamina, 3. Suppleness, 4. Speed, 5. Strength 6. Spirit.

* How long will they take to make an impact?

I hope they are beginning to make an impression already. However in order to take on the big boys I think it will take four to five years assuming the countries are able to institute the plans that we have formulated for them. Essentially the only way they will be able to compete at the top level is when they can afford some semblance of professionalism.

* Canada has done well against Bangladesh and Kenya. Do you see Canada progressing further and taking interest in the game?

There is massive interest in the game in Canada already and hopefully some success at this World Cup will spur on the sponsors and people in Canada to embrace the sport some more. There is a lot of work off the field and that has to be done before Canada can enter the next stage.

* Cricket needs mass base. Do these countries have it?

Potentially, yes. But the structures are still fairly weak and the competition at local leagues is still poor. This can change with financial aid and good structures.

* Were you surprised by Canada's upset win over Bangladesh?

Having watched Bangladesh in Namibia recently I was not overly surprised, but pleasantly surprised. The Canadians have a lot of good players in the country and if they play well they can challenge some good sides.

* What do you think of Bangladesh? It has to improve.

I do not know enough about Bangladesh and their cricket, but I know they will be very disappointed by their showing at this World cup so far. However, they have some fine young players so I am sure there is a way forward.

* Do you think playing in national tournaments of other countries will help Canada, Namibia and Holland? For example an India `A' team is taking part in the national event of the West Indies?

All the emerging nations need more competitive cricket and the ICC is formulating plans to try and assist them. It is a big challenge.