'Criticism helped me get back on track' - Powell
Daren Powell, the latest name on the ever-growing list of West Indian fast bowlers, is confident this time around that he has come back at the right time. Dropped after the trip to Bangladesh in 2002-03, Powell returned after the sponsorship crisis forced the regular bowlers to sit out the first Test against South Africa in Guyana. In this exclusive interview Powell tells us the story of how he made it back:
Were you surprised when the selectors' call came?
No, I was not surprised because of the work I put in earlier on in the season. I learnt about my inclusion when I was playing on the third day of the finals of the Carib Beer Series.
Your comeback has been impressive. Even though you picked up only three wickets in Guyana, you seemed to have the batsmen under control?
I never thought South Africa would crumble so easily. They are a good team, and to get them out for under 200 in the first innings in Guyana was an impressive performance by us and a total team effort.
But they came back strongly in Trinidad ...
Yes, they came back and fought and won the second Test, but if we continue doing the basic things right, we could dismiss them cheaply again and win.
Let's go back to your beginnings. Where did cricket begin for you?
I started playing at a very tender age - about nine or ten. My father was a cricketer, like almost everyone else around me. I had an opportunity to play for St Elizabeth Technical High School in Jamaica and that is where the serious cricket really started.
You were an offspinner to begin with. How did you become a fast bowler?
During a club match we didn't have a seamer, and I opted to bowl seamers and ended up taking seven wickets in the game. A man from the opposing side then offered me to play for his team - and a job as well. I went on to play for Kensington Cricket Club and everything came after that.
In Guyana you hurried batsmen with your pace. Was it a conscious effort?
Yeah, I was looking to bowl fast, but I think that I mainly have to continue doing some upper-body strength work to continue bowling over 88mph with the old ball on any given day and on any given pitch.
Is speed very important to you? Do you consistently aim to touch 90-plus mph?
In the back of any fast bowler's mind that is something that will be nagging him. Once you are fit and strong it can be done easily, you can dismiss batsmen with pace, and especially if you are getting some sideways movement with that pace as well.
Which are your stock deliveries?
[Big smile] Ah come on, I'm not going to give away secrets of my trade.
People have always been impressed with your bowling. Do you think you didn't get enough opportunities to prove yourself last time?
This is a bit of a secret but I told my parents when I was first selected for the West Indies team that I didn't think I was ready for that level of cricket. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I thought I was not ready because I needed more experience and exposure to first-class cricket. I was happy for the experience though, and now I think I am a much better bowler.
You had a short stint with Gauteng, but there were some whispers about your attitude - what happened there?
I had a back injury and that caused me not to be fit for bowling.
So was your performance in the first Test a sort of revenge to get back at those people who pointed fingers at you back in South Africa?
No, once you're a sportsman you are expected to perform, and when you're not producing you're going to come under criticism and you have to expect it. I use it as a motivation, and it helps me to prepare better and to get me back on track in the team - but it is not revenge.
How did you go in the Carib Beer Cup this season?
I felt good even though I didn't pick up a five-wicket haul. I worked hard and I always have this motto which I believe in and it's very simple, that "hard work is the key to success". This season I found that to be true, and I'm happy for that.
In the past West Indies have unearthed many young rookie fast bowlers who have struggled after a few appearances. How do you aim to avoid that happening to you?
To put in the hard work in training and come out on match day and produce, do my best and give 110%.
Have you sought advice from any former bowlers, and what did they tell you?
Michael Holding and Andy Roberts. They stress on strength, my own physical strength.
The current West Indies coach Bennett King stresses more on fitness. How do you maintain your fitness, and also the strength?
There is a difference between fitness as a whole and bowling fitness, and I think to maintain your allround fitness you have to keep on doing what you've been doing, maybe not with the intensity during a game as you would before the season. I do a lot of running, swimming and stretching.
Tell us about that high-handed and rhythmical bowling action?
That came naturally, I didn't make too many technical changes to my bowling action. The only problem I had was learning to control the swing of the ball and I am working on that. Richard Austin [former West Indies player] taught me my run-up back in 1999, at Kensington Cricket Club.
You like speed - how will it be having someone of Fidel Edwards's pace at the other end?
I would be willing to bowl with whoever is at the other end. Fidel is a good quick bowler but so are a number of other bowlers that we have, including his brother Pedro Collins, who I share the new ball with now and who swings the ball a lot.