The newest fast bowler on the block March 3, 2004

Fidel rides the bicycle

Fidel Edwards was a nonentity until he bagged his fairytale five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka at Sabina Park on his first day in Test cricket

Fidel Edwards was an unknown until he bagged his fairytale five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka at Sabina Park on his first day in Test cricket. Having elevated himself to the status of spearhead of the West Indian team, Edwards gives an insight into how and why he holds the right to take the new ball for West Indies.

Fidel Edwards on his way to five wickets on Test debut

Can you talk about your cricketing background?
I come from a pretty big family of nine, and its pretty popular, too, as my half-brother, Pedro Collins, plays for West Indies. My father played club cricket in America, so I picked up my basics from him. When I was young I used to play football, too, and represented a local club, Kocnokibraves, in the first division. When I was 16, my sister's boyfriend invited me to the Boscobel Sports Club, where he used to play. That was my initiation to proper cricket and from thereon I played the second division for two years before graduating to the first division. I continued my passion for the game playing with my half-brother Pedro Collins, and our neighbour Correy Collymore, another national cricketer.

Did you always want to be a fast bowler?
Yes, right from a young age. When I was in primary school the school coach cut my run-up to five yards, but I wanted it to be more like eight yards, as I could bowl much faster.

How and when did Brian Lara spot you?
When West Indies were playing Australia last season [2002-03] in Barbados, I was one of the guys who was asked to bowl to the home-team batsmen. That was the very first time Brian Lara saw me. He gave me the ball and told me to keep bowling straight. I bowled my natural line and length.

So how did it feel to bowl to the likes of Lara?
I had seen a lot of him on TV and I always wanted to bowl to him. And when the opportunity came I was ready and not nervous at all. And I think I did pretty well in those nets. I was pretty relaxed and when Sir Garfield Sobers cautioned me about running a bit too straight, coming wide of the crease, a thought echoed by Lara, too, later when he spoke to me, I thought I had served myself well.

I share the same passion as the former great West Indian fast bowlers, and it really hurts when I see the team struggle in the field

And your name was announced for the West Indies squad based on that performance ...
I was really surprised. In the two years that I was with the Barbados team, I was looking to get into the national team, and when my name was announced I was shocked. And also nervous.

Did you ever dream that you would play for West Indies?
No, not really. But when I started understanding the finer points about the game, I started enjoying [it], and that's when I thought, maybe one day I will play for the country.

Have you ever had a bowling coach?
From the age of 18 I have been working with Wendell Coppin, who played for the West Indies Under-19 team, and is now the coach at the first-division club, YMPC, in my hometown. He has helped me maintain my focus as well as a good line and length - the basic ingredients [one need] to be a good fast bowler.

Can you talk about your round-arm slinging action?
My action has been always the same throughout. I never copied anyone, its just natural. People feel it's a very difficult action but its like riding a bicycle. And the main advantage I get bowling in that fashion is I can swing the ball more, especially the old one. Yes, at times the swing is too wide and a few more extras are added, but I am coping with that.

The round-arm slingshot action that helps Edwards swing the ball more
© Getty Images

Don't you think that with your action, you may be prone to back injury?
Yes, I am aware of that, but I have to deal with it. And one way to avoid that would be to get myself much more stronger.

How much does discipline play a part in your make-up?
To be a good player you need to have discipline. I try to listen to everybody and do the right things. Pedro is a very disciplined player and growing up with him has taught me the same.

Fast bowlers feed on aggression whereas you are a pace bowler without an aggressive body language ...
It's just in my nature not have an aggressive posture. But I am pretty aggressive with the ball. I am a silent person and like to keep by myself most of the times.

Who were the bowlers you liked watching when you were growing up?
As a youngster I used to watch the videotapes of Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. Ambrose is my favourite fast bowler because he was so aggressive with the ball and could keep taking wickets on any sort of pitch.

How aware are you of the great West Indian tradition of fast bowling?
I have always had great respect for the great fast bowlers that West Indies produced in the past - especially someone like Malcolm Marshall, whose dedication was tremendous. He and the other greats had a higher knowledge of the game and a lot of passion. I share the same passion as these guys, and it really hurts when I see West Indies struggle in the field.

You had a fairytale start to your career as in your first Test match [only his second first-class match] you took five wickets at Sabina Park.
It was a dream come true. To make your debut with a five-wicket haul was never at the back of my mind. In fact, I was nervous for a few moments after I received my first West Indies cap. But once I bowled that first over I settled down and concentrated on my bowling.

Then about the batting to save the game against Zimbabwe. You handled the pressure very well. What was going through your mind and how did you keep your cool?
I was pretty confident with the bat. And you want your country to win always, and I like winning always. So I enjoyed batting in that situation. I enjoy batting whenever I get a chance and our coach [Gus Logie] helps me a lot with my batting.

In South Africa you went for runs [4 Tests, 8 wickets at 81.00] and Graeme Smith rubbed it in by saying you were hyped more than you deserved. How do you react to that kind of statement?
It was all psychological warfare and he was trying to get back to me as I had worried him a lot and had taken his wicket three times. As for my not performing that well, I was carrying an injury to my shins from the Zimbabwe tour. I am flat-footed and the hard shoe base didn't help. I got it fixed after the Test series in South Africa, having got the insole done, with which I have practised in the nets and am comfortable.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a sub editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine.