Badree finds hope in Twenty20 cricket
One of the charms of the Champions League Twenty20 is the opportunity it provides for fans to discover the talents of journeymen cricketers. Take the case of Trinidad & Tobago legspinner, Samuel Badree, owner of the most frugal economy-rate in Twenty20 cricket (4.58), whose day job is teaching physical education to teenagers at the Barrackpore East Secondary School in southern Trinidad.
He doesn't possess the gargantuan legbreak that makes leg spin such an exciting art to watch but a grab bag of straighter ones and googlies with the new ball have made him a knotty bowler to face. Ask Leicestershire, who after clouting his first ball for a boundary were only able to take three runs off his remaining 3.5 overs - resulting in the most economical spell in the tournament.
So what's his formula for Twenty20 success? "I try to use some variety because if you get predictable in this game it is easy for batsmen to pick you off," Badree told ESPNcricinfo. "Some skidders, some wrong 'uns, try to get some turn off the legbreak as well, main thing is to keep your eyes on the batsmen as long as possible, see what they are doing and try to out-think them."
Opening the bowling with a spinner is now almost standard practice in Twenty20s, and it's a role Badree plays particularly well. "It's always difficult to bowl in the Powerplay overs, new ball coming on to the bat, the batsmen are looking to capitalise," he says. "I think I have been consistent in terms of line and length, I bowl to my field, things are just working out fine for me, I guess I'm a bit lucky as well."
Things have been working out well for the 30-year-old Badree over the past year or so, getting a regular place in a T&T side filled with spinners, giving away less than four runs an over during the Caribbean T20 in January, and having begun the CLT20 with four solid games. But it hasn't been a trouble-free ride for him. His career began promisingly as he progressed from playing cricket at Naparima College with future T&T team-mates, Daren and Sherwin Ganga, to making his first-class debut while still a teenager. That was nearly a decade ago though, and his first-class career has sputtered since, with only a dozen caps, and his last match in early 2009.
"Twenty20 is more of a defensive game, whereas in first-class cricket you need to take wickets," Badree says. "I'm more of a defensive bowler than a wicket-taker that is why my first-class career hasn't taken off as much probably as my Twenty20."
Even the Twenty20 career seemed to be in jeopardy when T&T made the world sit up and take notice at the inaugural Champions League two years ago. Sherwin Ganga and chinaman bowler Dave Mohammed, he of the outrageous celebrations fame, were the lead spinners in the side and Badree got only a few chances. His tournament ended after a pasting in the match against New South Wales, the match most remembered for catapulting Kieron Pollard to Twenty20 superstardom. In Badree's only over in the game, David Warner clobbered him for 24 runs. When the two sides met in the CLT20 this year, Badree's first over to Warner was a maiden.
"The experience in 2009 really serves me in good stead, because I know what the pitches hold, how batsmen are approaching the game," Badree says. "I use that to any advantage, I think bowling at the top you need a bit of luck, I think so far in these games I have been lucky, I hope that luck continues in the rest of the tournament."
Since then, he's conceded little more than four an over in Twenty20s and has leapfrogged Mohammed to become one of T&T's frontline bowlers. At 30, it may seem that an international career is out of his grasp but with West Indies looking beyond Sulieman Benn and Nikita Miller to fill the spinners ' spot, there might still be an opening for a Twenty20 place. He certainly hasn't given up.
"My childhood dream was to play for the West Indies, and hopefully I can do well in this tournament and make the selectors look in my direction," he says. "As long as I am playing for T&T, the aim is to play for West Indies. The day that I do not feel that I do not want to play for West Indies is the day I will give up playing for my country."
Is there some aspect of his bowling he would like to improve? "If I could get the legbreak to turn a bit more, that will be an additional ball in my armoury. I would be much more effective, I have to keep working on that."
Even if the international career passes him by, the CLT20 puts him in the shop window for a chance at Twenty20 contracts in domestic leagues around the world, a well-trod path that the biggest names of T&T cricket have taken. "When you come on the world stage, a lot of teams are looking at you. I'm only trying to do my best , whatever comes my way I will consider it but I'm concentrating on T&T right now and my bowling. Whatever happens after that, we will think about after that. "
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo