December 20, 2017

'If you never give up, you will never fail'

Samuel Badree talks perseverance, giving back to the community, and the art of legspin in T20

Samuel Badree struck every 16.6 balls in the seven games he played in the 2017 IPL © BCCI

You have become an icon of slow bowling in T20s.
When I first started, a lot of people thought spinners wouldn't have too much of an impact on T20 cricket. They thought the spinners would be hit out of the park regularly. The economy rates would be high, but since then to now, we have seen that wristspinners have been match-winners in most teams.

They are quite a valuable asset when teams are sorting their squad. We have seen the likes of Imran Tahir, myself and other wristspinners doing really well, not only in international T20 cricket but franchise cricket throughout the world.

What would you attribute it to?
I think the wristspinners provide a wicket-taking opportunity for the teams. For the most part, both right- and left-hand wristspinners have the legspinner and the wrong'un. It presents a challenge for most batsmen, especially if you are not picking.

Traditional fingerspinners - right- or left-arm orthodox - tend to go one way most times. They are the ones who are more or less taken apart, unless you are like Sunil Narine, who has a good knuckleball.

Wristspinners have that deception and guile that can work well against both right- and left-hand batsmen. They are wicket-taking and attacking options, so they get a lot of wickets, and that puts a lot of pressure on the opposition teams. Most successful teams in the world have quality spinners in their team at the moment.

You place a high premium on bowling accurately.
My type of spin bowler is a bit different from the traditional legspinners, like Tahir and [Tabraiz] Shamsi. I normally bowl in the first six overs, when there are only two guys outside [the circle]. I have got to be accurate. I have to look less at spin and more at pace and variation, because the protection is not there. The slower I bowl, it becomes a little easier for batsmen.

After the Powerplay, it becomes more of a case of trying different varieties. Bowling in the Powerplay is especially difficult on a good pitch when you are coming up against top-class batsmen. In that case, you have to work a lot on your variety and accuracy, and there has to be a lot of planning against the opposition team.

What is it like to bowl against someone who is thinking about you, trying to attack you in different ways, not just simply going after you from ball one?
A lot of teams try to capitalise in the first six overs - it is the time when most of the runs are scored. It is always a game of cat and mouse - you against the opposition batsman. Trying to figure out what he is coming with and you trying to counteract that. It is quite a challenge and something that I have tried throughout my career. It is something that I will continue to enjoy.

"I have got to be accurate. I have to look less at spin and more at pace and variation, because the protection is not there. The slower I bowl, it becomes a little easier for batsmen"

Name five legspinners who you consider T20 specialists.
I think Imran Tahir is up there as one of the best. There's Kuldeep Yadav from India, who has done really well in the IPL. I must include Sunil Narine, although you said legspinner. He is a genius. He is someone who has been successful throughout the world. Brad Hogg, even at the age of 40, has been exceptional. He has done well in the Big Bash.

There's one more: Rashid Khan. He is really good. He is so young, he has so much potential. No batsman in the world seems to have got the better of him as yet. It is early stages in his career, he will need to develop some more variety as batsmen get more familiar with him. But he has tremendous potential.

But you're the one who started it all in T20s. You made legspin viable. Do you remember the first day you opened the bowling in a game?
I would like to take credit for being the pioneer in that regard. I started bowling for Trinidad & Tobago. I did it for my club team, a local rural country team. I was quite successful, so they decided to give me a go in the territorial team. I did really well in the Stanford T20s. From there, I had consistent performances for a number of years.

Eventually I did get my chance in 2012 in Sri Lanka, in the World T20. Even then I had to wait out a couple of matches in the tournament until the seam bowlers were taken apart. They decided to give me a go against England. I remember that game quite well. I had a strong performance, and then I continued to play through the tournament.

I opened the bowling in the World T20 final against Sri Lanka. We ended up winning that tournament. It went upward from there. I went to the IPL, and then I have been a consistent member of the West Indies team.

I think I have opened the bowling every single time for the West Indies. I have currently, I think, the most amount of wickets, tied with Dwayne Bravo. I started quite late, at the age of maybe 29. I am really happy at the way my career panned out thus far.

Who has been the most challenging batsman you've faced?
In the West Indies, Chris Gayle, obviously. David Warner has been really difficult to bowl at. This might sound strange but Sunil Narine had the better of me twice. He knows all my tricks. Aaron Finch is the right-hander that I find difficult.

Was it frustrating to sit out most matches in the BPL recently?
It becomes frustrating. The tournament becomes that much longer when you are sitting on the sidelines. But it is a team sport and I understand the dynamics of the team, especially with five foreign players and the composition of our team. I have been around the circuit long enough to know what's required in a team environment.

I support the younger guys. We have some good spinners. [Sohag] Gazi and [Nazmul Islam] Apu have done well. I try to encourage them, share my experiences. At the end of the day, it is about the team winning; it is not about me as an individual. If I can contribute off the field, then I am happy.

"Cricket has given me everything in my life. I think it is my turn now to give back to the youth in my community and country." © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Do you have any plans to open a legspin academy?
I have a youth academy in Trinidad, called Badree's Academy of Sport Education. It is where I coach children aged five to 15, both boys and girls. It is using cricket as a vehicle to teach life skills such as discipline, tolerance, production and commitment. I have an intake of about a hundred students in rural Trinidad. I have some sponsors on board.

It is my way of giving back to the community. Cricket has given me everything in my life. I think it is my turn now to give back to the youth in my community and country.

You are also a curriculum officer.
I used to be a PE teacher. In 2016 I was promoted to a curriculum officer for physical education and sport. My role is basically to help teachers implement the physical education and sport curriculum in primary and secondary schools in Trinidad & Tobago.

We see more and more children are inactive. They are more engaged in social media, computers, iPads and televisions. When I was a kid, after school we used to play a lot. Our parents used to bring us back from the field to do our homework. Now it is the other way around. They have to carry the children outside. We need children to be more physically active, more engaged and healthy.

As someone who got your break quite late, what would you say to anyone who is still awaiting their chance in cricket, at any level?
I think you only fail when you give up. If you never give up, you will never fail. I think that was the credo throughout my career: don't ever give up.

I would admit that I was frustrated many times after having performed really consistently in the domestic competitions. I have seen spinners who didn't do so well get opportunities ahead of me in the West Indies team. But I never gave up. I was always persistent. My frustration only gave me encouragement to continue to work hard.

I had good family support. I always had a stable job. I never depended solely on cricket for my livelihood. It gave me the hope that when my time comes, it will come, and when it does, I have to grasp it with both hands. It was a never case for me to put all the eggs in one basket. I always had something on which I could fall back. I think that gave me the balance in my life, so I was never too disappointed.

Some people who have all their eggs in one basket and it doesn't work out for them. They might get so frustrated that they might want to give up. But in my case, I had the balance in my life that I was still able to push myself in both areas. If one worked out I was happy, if both worked out, it was even better.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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