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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
Champion for the underdog
By Oliver Brett
BBC Sport

Bob Woolmer is a man who has fallen in love with cricket's lesser lights.

Bob Woolmer is a man in demand
Bob Woolmer is a coach who is often in high demand
The International Cricket Council employed him for 18 months leading up to the World Cup as its "high performance" director.

This was a managerial post which saw him oversee coaching for the four non-Test playing nations.

And he has clearly impressed the game's governing body enough to be awarded a fresh two-year contract in the role.

The World Cup was hardly a classic of its type, but it did see the emergence of some talented players from outside the 10 Test nations.

Kenya, of course, stole much of the limelight by reaching the semi-finals.

But Holland and Canada both had their moments, and even Namibia put one very promising young batsman on show, in Jan-Berry Burger.

But Woolmer, sometimes regarded the finest cricket coach of his generation, knows an enormous gulf still exists between the average Test sides and the best non-Test teams.

A man very much in demand, he has been wooed by Sri Lanka and West Indies in recent weeks too, but he has decided to stick with the minnows.

"I did say at my meeting with the West Indies board that to do a full-time job coaching day-in, day-out... that I was possibly too old for that," he told BBC Sport.

B Woolmer
This is clearly a long-term role and I don't see the contractual side being a problem
Bob Woolmer

Woolmer, currently enjoying some time off in the South African tourist resort of Grahamstown, adds: "I am really keen to do something worthwhile for the ICC.

"I think it's a fantastic cricketing project."

Woolmer's vision for the future would be to strip the barrier that currently exists between the Test teams and the best of the other sides.

He believes there should instead be two leagues of eight teams, with promotion and relegation systems.

"I will be trying to get the teams up to speed and hopefully to give them opportunities to play more cricket.

Namibia's JB Burger
Namibia's JB Burger is the future of a second tier in world cricket

"I want to have an A and B league if the high performance programme is to be of any consequence.

"Of course there is a long way to go before we get to that scenario.

"But if we are to get teams like Kenya, Namibia - even Bangladesh, who I know are a Test nation - up to international status, there has to be a process."

It is a view that would find plenty of backing among those who feel a Test match between Australia and Bangladesh is simply too one-sided to benefit anyone.

Woolmer is also keen to make domestic cricket in the associate nations more competitive.

Although his current contract takes him to 2005, the 54-year-old certainly does not see himself bowing out of the job then.

"Nobody likes to commit themselves for longer than two years these days but this is clearly a long-term role and I don't see the contractual side being a problem."

Certainly, plenty of recently-jettisoned national coaches will perhaps envy Woolmer's situation, and it is understood he is being handsomely paid for his troubles.

But if he grows the game substantially and increases its competitive edge, he will be well worth his salary.

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