'I used to get bored when I wasn't keeping'
Though West Indies were heavily beaten by Sri Lanka in their recent two-Test series, there were several silver linings in a young inexperienced squad that had been shorn of several of its leading players because of the ongoing contracts dispute. Among the stars was the 20-year-old wicketkeeper, Denesh Ramdin, who made a half-century on debut and took seven catches for the series.
Despite losing the Test series, you must be personally satisfied with your debut?
Yes, I am very happy. It's a good start for my cricketing career and I would like to continue in that vein, getting among the runs. I will strive to be one of the best batsmen on the team who will be able to win games for West Indies, batting down the order. It's obvious that my performance behind the stumps is also vital.
Was it difficult to maintain your concentration over two innings and five days?
Coming from first-class cricket where it is four days, I have had to make a step up on the mental and fitness levels to sustain five days of international cricket. We have not made it into the fifth day yet but I think that I am up to the challenge of five days of consecutive cricket. I am still doing work on my fitness and while I have been getting better, I do not think I have peaked as yet.
How did you prepare yourself mentally for the challenge?
I made a conscious effort to start reading more than I did previously to help with my concentration and focus. Immediately before a game I generally stay in my room and relax and I listen to a lot of music right up until we hit the field. Being a West Indian, it shouldn't be a surprise that music keeps me calm and relaxed.
You appeared completely nerveless in your debut innings. Did you tell yourself certain things to boost your confidence?
Yes I did, I reflected on the best of my past performances and thought about what I did then and how I went about it. I tried to replicate those and bat along those lines. I guess I was a bit aggressive but I tend to bat better when I play positively rather than get tied down. I play my game without any fear and without names in my mind. I play with bat and ball, not names, I forget about names.
|Bowling is too hard. It might sound strange but I find keeping is easier|
Did your original inclusion come as a surprise or were you expecting it?
I was expecting it and I was being prepared for it when the call came. I was pretty happy about it and that was the opportunity I was waiting for. Now I am working on grasping it with both hands and I will continue to work hard and do my best at all times once given the opportunity to play.
The West Indies' selectors seemed to have a lot of faith in you and they even named you as captain in one of the recent tour games against Bangladesh. Did that put you under pressure?
No, it didn't really put any pressure on me. I learnt that cricket was tough over fours days in those first-class games and that you have to play consistently throughout the four days. The players you come up against are good players so you have to be on top of your game all the time. Of course, Test cricket is a step up from that as well so the preparation is even tougher.
Your best innings to date was arguably that matchwinning 72 against England in the semi-finals of the Under-19 World Cup. How important was that performance?
In that game I just went out there and batted the way I know - positively. I was just being myself and things were going well for me so I continued batting my team into a winning position. I find that if I bat the way I know how, I bat better and that benefits the team and that is what is most important.
You were a fast bowler before you decided to take up wicketkeeping. When and why did you decide to trade the ball for the gloves?
I wanted to be more involved in the game and you are always in the game as a wicketkeeper because the ball is always coming to you. The keeper is always in contact with the ball. And when I'm not keeping it gets boring so I prefer keeping. It's enjoyable. Bowling is too hard. It might sound strange but I find keeping is easier than bowling.
You are a natural mover behind the wickets. It's as if you anticipate the path of the ball as it leaves the bowler's hands. Can you explain this natural tendency?
It is something that all keepers should have in them, the ability to anticipate line and length and the trajectory of the ball after it pitches so that you can get yourself in a good position to collect. It comes through a lot of practice, shadow-practice in the nets and also from someone throwing a lot of balls on both sides of the stumps, off side and leg side. You have to believe in yourself, and know that you can get the job done once you are mentally prepared. You also have to focus on the ball at all times and not the batsman so you can be efficient behind the stumps.
Have you had any formal coaching back home?
Not much. It was just natural when I started. After I came back from the Under-15 World Cup I did a couple sessions with [former West Indies keeper] David Williams and he sorted out my technique and glovework and feet movement for both pace and spin. I attended a wicketkeeping camp with Jeffrey Dujon in 2003 in Antigua which also helped me technically.
How about your batting: did Bennett King have anything in particular to tell you?
He told me to be natural, he knows what I am capable of and that I read the game well. I understand certain situations and the role I have to play as a lower-order batter, and he believes in me scoring centuries. That boosted my confidence and I just went out there and did what he told me to do. It was just like I always believed, there is no fancy formula, just playing with bat and ball, no names.
What was your life like as you were growing up?
When I started out in cricket it was a bit tough, because I didn't have any equipment so I was forced to borrow from other players which I didn't like doing. I felt uncomfortable about how they would feel if I used their equipment and then did well. I had one pair of cricket pants, one pair of shoes, one pair of socks and one white T-shirt. After every game I had to wash my pants, socks and shirt and put them behind the fridge for them to dry to play the next day. I always had good family support; when I was playing my mother was always there supporting me and bringing my lunch. My uncle also noticed my talent. He funded my equipment and took a special interest in me, and would bowl at me on his lawn even though I didn't have any pads, just a bat and gloves. I guess that was good practice for not getting out lbw.
Nagraj Gollapudi is sub-editor of Wisden Asia Cricket