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Andy Roberts played 47 tests and claimed 202 wickets, but statistics fail to reveal the high speed, venom and accuracy that batsmen had to endure from this fearsome member of one of West Indies's legendary pace quartets. In this conversation, Andy shares some of his insights on two of our promising pacers, Mashrafe and Talha.

A conversation with Andy Roberts

Published: 28th August, 2005


Andy Roberts

Andy Roberts played 47 tests and claimed 202 wickets, but statistics fail to reveal the high speed, venom and accuracy that batsmen had to endure from this fearsome member of one of West Indies's legendary pace quartets.

Fortunately, Andy had shared some of his experiences with two of our promising pacers, namely Mashrafe Mortaza and Talha Zubair. Since both of them had benefited immensely from his coaching BCB had thought about bringing him in prior to the Sri Lanka tour. Unfortunately, the plan has been put on hold but in all likelihood, Andy will be brought in as a bowling coach soon. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of talking to him over the phone and it was clear that Andy cherishes his experiences with our young guns. We hope to see Andy in Bangladesh soon!

BanglaCricket (BC): First of all tell us about your work in Antigua?

Andy Roberts (AR): We are at present trying to get the Antigua World Cup Stadium up and running. Right now we are in the process of constructing a new stadium and are working on the outfield. And I am also involved with the pitch preparation.

BC: What kind of pitch are you preparing?

AR: We will be doing seven pitches and hopefully we will be getting bouncy pitches with a new design that is employed elsewhere in the world. We hope that with the special clay type that we are using we will achieve this.

BC: Is all this something that was missing from your days as a player?

AR: Yes. A lot of the know-how was not there before. We did not have the knowledge of the right type of clay to use. But more and more we are getting acquainted with the system that is used in first class venues around the world.

BC: Coming back to your early experience as part of the West Indies Cricket team, there are a number of theories why the Windies does not produce the caliber of bowlers as before, especially the pacers, do (you) have an opinion on this?

AR: I don't think they are strong enough. And that all goes back to your upbringing. When we were growing up we used walk and run for everything, you know we used to walk to the school, walk to the field and run. Now as soon as you go from point A to point B you simply do not walk anymore. You tire. So this lessens the amount of strength that you can gain in your legs.

BC: So mainly, strength is the main factor?

AR: Oh yes, the main factor is strength. A fast bowler must have strong legs. That is one of the most important things that a fast bowler has in his armour- strength in his legs. All this strength must be there before you are prepared for competitive cricket.

BC: Coming back to your bowling, you were known for your two bouncers, one obvious and another that took people by surprise. Is this something that you can teach?

AR: I think so. But you see it is a lot about discipline. You can't show any emotions, whatsoever. It is also, what I say in fast bowling - you must not be able to detect any changes at all. You simply cannot be predictable.

BC: So it's an advice you would give to a young fast bowler?

AR: Yes, I would say there must not be a change in the run up for either a fastball or a slow one, or anything. I call it deception. You are trying to, always trying to deceive them and lead them to a false sense of security.

BC: And that's why you changed your deliveries?

AR: Yes, in a way, it just has to be that way. Nobody must be able to detect what you are doing. So if you want to run up for a faster ball, then you want that run up to be in the same way as you run for an ordinary delivery or a slow ball. You simply cannot make the batsmen see that there is a change in your approach in any way. And that's why I say, it takes a lot of discipline.

BC: How much fast bowling should a young, fast, teenage bowler do to avoid injuries?

AR: You should not be over bowled. And that is what I find now in comparison to when I was growing up. I never started bowling fast in competitive cricket until I was the age of 16 or 17. That?s when I started bowling fast in competitive cricket. Mark my words, I said "competitive cricket". But today you are having all sorts of competitive cricket for the U-13, U 17, U-19 and what not. So the youngsters are put in the competitive stage from a very early age. And all this plays a lot of stress and strain on their bodies. If you look at all the fast bowlers in the world that are breaking down and having back problems you seldom find anyone over the age of 34 having these problems. They basically are younger bowlers whose bodies are not matured enough, who are having these problems.

BC: Coming back to Mashrafe, is that what you noticed in him?

AR: Well, before I left Bangladesh, I left clear instructions with them not to over bowl him. And then I subsequently learnt that in his first series that he was over bowled. That went contrary to instructions I left. Because you could just see that he was eager - all you needed to do with him was to hold him back. Don't unleash him - hold him back! But I think you found somebody here who was quicker than normal, whom you try to use as a spearhead, trying to use him to attack, trying to use him to defend!

BC: Mashrafe has returned into the team to bowl regularly, how do you see him progress?

AR: Frankly since I left Bangladesh I haven't seen him much. But I spoke to Michael Holding yesterday. He has said that Mashrafe looked really good out there in England. Holding was greatly impressed with him. And rest assured, I take Michael's judgment seriously.

BC: Was there anything else that you observed in your Bangladesh stint?

AR: The first observation that struck me was that there were a number of youngsters around just because they had height. And so they were sent to the pace camp. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean that to be a good fast bowler you have to be tall. Because the majority of the top class fast bowler, I would say the "genuine" fast bowlers, aren't really tall people. The taller you are you get that much bounce but doesn't mean you will get more pace.

BC: Yes, and there were bowlers amongst your peers who were taller than you, right?

AR: Right, there was Joel Garner and Colin Croft, and they certainly were a lot taller than I was. But that doesn't mean they were more effective than me. It was discipline and the use of the head that makes the difference. You see fast bowling is a mind thing. And to be a great fast bowler you have to have a mind that adapts. You must adapt to different situations and games. And you learn to adapt quickly because if you are on a pitch that is not favoring you then you need to adapt quickly.

BC: So what are the main attributes of a world-class pacer?

AR: Well I know it is a lot different in the West Indies and it is very difficult for me to say what goes on in other parts of the world today. But I know that the work ethics, commitment and dedication, that we had in us is simply not present at the moment. Fast bowling is something that you live it; you have to eat it; you have to sleep it and you have to dream about it!

Listen to the interview!
>>> Clip 1
>>> Clip 2

BC: Talent search still continues in Bangladesh. Do you have any ideas about how to go about looking for promising bowlers in Bangladesh?

AR: I don?t think they need to go head on and bring every bowler that is tall and strong looking. What I would like to see is that as a coach they give me a chance to look at them before they bring them into the training camp, i.e. before they say so and so will be part of the training squad. I would say you invite a number of them, look at them, and choose which are the ones that will make it. Sometimes the ones you think are going to make the cut simply don't make it!

BC: Lastly, do you feel bad that the West Indies team of today is so vastly different from what you were acquainted with? What are your thoughts about development?

AR: Very, very, very bad feeling about what I see right now here. Australia also went through a weak period, although not as poor as we are now, and they got beaten. But they went on to develop their game and pull up. So these bad patches can happen to every team. However, you see we seem not to be able to develop our cricket. So if you don't play close attention to your development constantly, then as you remember, England went through a period of nearly thirty years where everyone beat them.

So it's the people who administer the game that matter. For Bangladesh, with a 130 million people, you simply must be able to find better players. Frankly, I don?t think they are looking for those better players in Bangladesh. And the search is, I believe, concentrated only in Dhaka and Chittagong. You need to bring them in from everywhere in the country and develop them from an early age.


About the author(s): G. M. Bashar is a BanglaCricket supermoderator who is known as "oracle". He is a prolific contributor to our collection of fine articles. In addition to his obvious interest in cricket, he also has a keen desire to be our own version of David Frost - exemplified by the large number of interviews he has taken of key Bangladesh cricket personalities.


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