Umesh Yadav's got pace, give him experience: Sir Andy Roberts

Windies pace great of the 1970s and early '80s, on everything that is wrong in today's cricket...

Sir Andy Roberts clearly remembers the two batsmen who hit him for a six in his 56-ODI career in which he claimed 87 wickets at an average of 20.35: Kim Hughes and Sunil Gavaskar.

Former West Indies pacer Sir Andy Roberts with wife Laverne at the Cricket Club of India lawns in Brabourne Stadium yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK
Former West Indies pacer Sir Andy Roberts with wife Laverne at the Cricket Club of India lawns in Brabourne Stadium yesterday. Pic/Suresh KK

Roberts, who became only the third West Indian pacer to claim more than 200 Test wickets in 1983, has a memory that is as sharp as his bowling was in his 10-season international career (1973-74 to 1983-84).

The 64-year-old is in Mumbai as a guest of Global Cricket School and will meet up with some of his old adversaries who played against him in the 1974-75 and 1983-84 series in India as well in the Caribbean in the 1975-76 and 1982-83 seasons apart from the one game in the 1979 World Cup.

In a freewheeling chat with mid-day at the Cricket Club of India lawns yesterday, Roberts spoke about his 1974-75 tour to India in which he claimed 32 wickets, fast bowling and of course, the decline of West Indies cricket.


On pacers breaking down frequently:
Today's training methods are all about hitting the gym. And that is why they get injured so regularly. There were gyms in our time too, but we never spent so much time there. We were mostly bowling in the nets. Apart from that, I would climb stairs, run on sand, water and swim in the sea to strengthen my shoulders and legs. None of the modern day players follow this now. These fitness trainers, who have passed out from some universities, make these bowlers train in the gym all the time. It is time the administrators open their eyes.

On the problems with Indian pacers:
Indian seamers were never really allowed to play or got the exposure. They get one or two matches before being dropped. For you to become great, you have to get that many opportunities in good and bad times. If he hasn't been through it (rough time), he will never learn. I don't understand why Umesh Yadav is not played often. He has the pace, so give him the experience. He can only learn from it. Kapil Dev got 400-plus wickets because he was captain most of the time and he bowled majority of the times. The pacers were like part-timers in the recent series against South Africa.

On Team India defending rank turners dished out vs SA:
The last series here, the pacers were almost non-existent because you (India) were so hell-bent on winning. I don't mind spin but not to that extent. It was unfair (on South Africa). You cannot become world champions by only playing at home. That's what happened to India when they became World No 1 (in Test cricket in 2009) and they never lasted (in that position) for a month. Do you think your Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin will win you series outside India? No. It is your pacers who will win it. If India has to dominate world cricket, it needs quality pace bowlers.

Playing in India in 1974-75:
Time spent then was totally different. Most of us were worried about the food in those days. The cricket we played was very interesting. We had some very good days and very bad days. We had to worry about the 11 players who were going to play against (us), and the two umpires. I make no bones about what happened in those days as far as umpiring was concerned. We had some rough times in India in terms of (umpiring) decisions. But cricket was played in great spirit. Both teams had a very good time. Although it was very competitive on the field, that competitiveness was not carried off the field. We had some tight matches. The first two Tests we almost blew the Indians away. They came back in the third and fourth Tests through some very good cricket. That is because they did not rely on spin. Contrary to what people think, you don't beat West Indies with spin but with some good fast bowling. When Madan Lal and Karsan Ghavri came into the side, they made the difference. Although I got some 12 wickets in Madras (now Chennai), India won the Test because Gundappa Viswanath (97 not out in the first innings) played a gem of an innings. The great West Indies era started from India. I was on my first tour, so were Gordon Greenidge and Vivian Richards. It was Clive Lloyd's first year as captain.

On conditions playing a major role in developing fast bowlers:
What conditions? If you could bowl fast, you could do that in any conditions. The ball does not come quicker off the pitch when you release it. The ball is quicker in the air. West Indies never had fast pitches, so we were accustomed to bowl on pitches which sometimes did not help fast bowling. These days everyone want everything easy. No one wants to work hard and fast bowling is hard work. Dennis Lillee to me he is one of greatest fast bowlers of all time. But he never had that success in the sub-continent. Why? The man did not put in that hard work. Is your condition any different than Pakistan? Then how can they produce so many fast bowlers? You have similar pitches and conditions as they have. Fast bowling is hard work. You have more than 60-70 million people playing cricket. West Indies does not even have seven million people. People associate fast bowling with long run-ups. That's a waste of time because 90 per cent of the same guys can bowl at the same pace from a shorter run-up.

India pacer Umesh Yadav during a training session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on August 5, 2015. Pic/AFP
India pacer Umesh Yadav during a training session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on August 5, 2015. Pic/AFP

On where WI cricket lost its way:
West Indies cricket started losing its way in the 1980s and not in the 1990s. When the second tier side went to South Africa on the rebel tour (1982-83), that's when the West Indies cricket starting losing its way. The great team of the 1980s had build a foundation earlier, so you had the great seven to eight players coming together for six to seven years. Once these guys started to dwindle away, we never had proper replacements. The guys who could replace them were never here.

On whether this is the worst phase for WI cricket:
There might be more. They are searching all over to find a cure as to why we are not winning. They brought people from Australia and South Africa to solve the problems, but everyone failed. When we were beating every team in the world, they were all West Indians. We built it from scratch, so why do you want to bring people from outside when you have all the people available in your country? They have all the tools available, but they are not using it. I think they need to look within themselves first before looking out. The architects of that foundation are still around, but are they being used? No. Only five per cent are utilised.

On whether WI should take a break from Test cricket:
Taking a break is not the solution. Once they do that, there will be no comeback. They have to choose wisely and get proper mentors for these players. These guys (players) should be grown up men. When we were playing, do you think the Board was any better than what it is today? Forget about the Board. You just go out there and perform. The Board did nothing to get the West Indies cricket to the heights it reached. West Indies are not competing, they are just playing. I don't know if they are playing only for formality, but they are definitely not playing for pride. It is very difficult to understand how you could reach the pinnacle and then sink to the depth of this game.

On why the Test side is failing:
There is a big difference between limited overs cricket and Tests. West Indies cricket hasn't done badly in limited overs. They (the current players) are not ready for Test cricket. It requires a different attitude and that is not there. When I was playing Test cricket, my main aim was to get wickets and not be tight. In limited overs, my duty was to not allow the batsmen to score because then the target would be smaller to chase.

On West Indies' fortunes in World T20:
T20 cricket is all about how you perform on that day. West Indies have calibre players as T20 cricket needs big hitters. You name the players and we have them. It all boils down to on that day. Luck plays a major role. In T20 cricket, you need bowlers who can use their head. I don't see any pacer being smart enough in T20s. Today, so many slow balls are being hit for six because every bowler is doing the same thing.

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