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West Indies cricket not making any progress whatsoever: Roberts

Last updated on: June 16, 2011 09:35 IST

West Indies cricket is not making any progress whatsoever: Roberts


C James

He terrorised batsmen with his bouncers.

Part of the quartet that also included Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding, Andy Roberts had a relatively shorter career compared to the other three bowlers. 

Nonetheless, a haul of 202 wickets in just 47 Tests is a flattering figure, considering his career didn't even last a decade.

The first Antiguan to play Test cricket, Roberts was part of the West Indies squad that won successive World Cups in 1975 and 1979.

- Nice feeling that I'm not forgotten: Durrani

Now 60 and having enjoyed a stint as an administrator post-retirement, Roberts is still involved with the game.

In a candid chat with C James, the West Indies legend talks about the current state of Caribbean cricket, what the future holds and what makes the present Indian team so successful.  

Andy, from what you have been seeing of the West Indies team, not only in this present series against India but also the Pakistan series, do you see the team evolving?

I must admit that we are not making any progress whatsoever. Instead of going forward we are actually going backwards. It's time that something is done for the sake of West Indies cricket, because I do not think we have the calibre of players that all of us thought we had.

But we have been hearing about this talent, this ability. So what is wrong?

What is talent? When you have a mediocre player coming up against a mediocre player they all look good. We need to get our players to commit themselves to personal development.

They have to develop their technique and their own style of play. We don't see anything that will make the spectators going to watch. There's absolutely nothing!

Image: Andy Roberts
Photographs: Reuters

'We haven't had any world-class talent'

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Are you saying that since Brian Lara we haven't produced world-class talent?

We haven't had any world-class talent. The only one we have had in the last five years is [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul. He's a mixture of hardwork, commitment and dedication. The other players haven't got that.

What I would do now is to keep Chanderpaul in the Test team provided he can pass on some of his past experience to the younger players. If he can't do that then I don't see any need for him to be in the Test team. That's what we need of him right now.

Let's take a look a little more closely at some of the players in the current team. There's Chris Gayle, [Ramnaresh] Sarwan, Marlon Samuels who have already been there and know what it's all about. What's wrong?

If you watch every single one of them... you watch Sarwan from 2004, 2003 and 2011, and he gets out basically the same way all the time, then he needs to go back to the drawing board.

Image: Shivnarine Chanderpaul

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'Gayle is a day-to-day player'

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Gayle? I know he's not there in the current team, but...

Same thing. Yes, Gayle is a day-to-day player.

On his day he will destroy any attack in the world; but that is on his day! And those days don't come often enough.

And Marlon Samuels coming back into the team?

Marlon Samuels is a disappointment. He needs to go and look at himself and see how he is getting out and try to correct that.

Let's look at ways he has been dismissed in the last two one-dayers... Identical. But coming down the wicket with both feet together... nobody goes down with both feet together. Have you ever seen a man walk with both feet together? One must be in front of the other.

Image: Chris Gayle

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How can these guys be tired?

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Well, the bowler Kemar Roach came on, but some people are saying he must be tired. Do you agree?

Tired from doing what? Bowling four overs, bowling ten overs?

We haven't played a Test match since Sri Lanka. And that was how long ago? And we never had a full Test match in Sri Lanka either.

I think these guys need to look at themselves and try to figure out if there is something other than what is happening on the field that is cause for their demise. Or, it could be off-the-field factors.

All these guys are saying they are tired; tired of doing what? How many of them have bowled 300 overs in a season? Not one of them. So how can they be tired?

They train far harder than what we used to train. But the difference between what we used to was we used to train for specifics. I used to get fit to be able to last a full day on the field.

And there mustn't be any difference in pace at 11 o'clock, 10 o'clock or 4 or 5 o'clock, because that's what we train for. I am not training to go for a marathon. I am no marathon runner; I am a fast bowler. I need to be able to do it on the field.

These guys, from my understanding, I could be wrong, that if you are not fully, fully fit -- because I don't know what fully fit is -- you cannot play for West Indies.

Okay. Coming back now to what's considered the biomechanics of today's sportsman, from a former cricketer who used to, maybe, use the natural environment to train?

I used to use the natural environment. Today they use a gym. They spend more time in the gym than practising the art of what they are supposed to be doing.

I know if I am a fast bowler then I should spend at least three or four hours a day trying to put the ball in a particular spot. Maybe, one hour training.

But it's the other way round; nowadays, 24 hours training and 15-20 minutes of trying to put the ball in the right spot. That's why none of our fast bowlers can be consistent; because they don't practise enough.

Image: Kemar Roach

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Kohli, Sharma have been impressive for India

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Let's look at the Indian team. They seem to be having more of a reserve team out here in the Caribbean rather than a full-strength first choice team.

I think this is their second team, because nine of their first team players aren't here. If you have a billion people then you will find at least 300 million playing cricket. But we don't have that luxury anymore.

We don't have too many people playing cricket. So what we need is to get the best of what we have; try to educate them in such a way that they will try to develop themselves.

Don't depend on West Indies Cricket Board to help develop you, because that will never happen. Don't depend on the Antigua Cricket Association to try and develop you, for that will never happen. Don't depend on the BCA (Barbados Cricket Association) to develop you, because that will never happen!

You will have to develop yourself. You have to spend majority of your time working away from your team-mates and from other people, training to hone your skills.

Anyone from the Indian team who has impressed you during the present tour?

The youngster [Virat] Kohli. He showed that when India was in trouble. He's a 22-year-old; he batted through the innings to try and see them to victory (in Trinidad).

The same thing with [Rohit] Sharma in the last game here. You finally have a player, young in age, but mature in stature. But plain hard work.

Just plain hard work?

Just plain hard work. Where can talent take you if you don't have the hard work and commitment. Where can that take you?

People felt that we had an abundance of talent when we were playing. I didn't have it. I worked hard, I practised hard. I practised daily and I made sacrifices. None of these guys are making any sacrifices.

Image: Virat Kohli

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'West Indies got away from the basics in the mid-90s'

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So you are saying the West Indies should go back to the basics?

West Indies got away from the basics in the mid-90s. We had a new dispensation that took over cricket; it felt that it should be university boys who should administer the game.

That's when it got away from us. From then we embarked on a coaching drive, because we felt that coaching would be our saviour. Coaching today is our downfall.

Let me ask you a practical question. I have a son who wants to play cricket. What should he be doing?

What should he be doing? Try to develop his skills as a batsman or bowler, try to develop his game.

And if he happens to have a coach, then I am hoping the coach will work along with what he has, to try and refine it to the finest finished product.

Should he watch television and try and emulate the players from there?

I don't think so, because he doesn't have any model of today's players. Absolutely nothing!

Would you want your son to be playing a legspinner having both feet planted? No, you wouldn't!

Image: Darren Sammy

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'India will always struggle as long as the ball is bouncing'

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India are favourites to beat the West Indies in the Test series. Do you think the West Indies have what it takes to bounce back and beat the World champions?

Well, India may be favourites, but India will always struggle as long as the ball is bouncing; always!

If West Indies can unearth, somehow, two genuine fast bowlers between now and the first Test in Jamaica, then we have a golden opportunity of beating India.

And prepare the pitches for it; leave plenty of grass on it. Once they go out and see plenty grass, then the defeatist attitude takes over them.

You met up with Sunil Gavaskar on the sidelines of the fourth ODI at Antigua. What were you talking to him about?

Well, I haven't had a long chat with him as yet. We always had good contests. He's a great batsman and I admire him for his strength. On a bouncing pitch he would surrender, but on a pitch that was to his liking that was a different story.

Image: West Indies team

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