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Cricketers reflect on their lives and times

Jeff Dujon

'We played for respect'

On life behind the stumps as part of the world-conquering West Indies side of the 1980s

Interview by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

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'It's the wicketkeeper's job to keep everyone in high spirits' Randy Brooks
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I was introduced to the game very early. I guess I've been playing cricket since I was four - though I never played competitive cricket till I went to high school. I used to go to the Kingston Club with my father on weekends. During the tea break I used to be out there batting and having a good time.

Wicketkeeping keeps you in the game. Early on I didn't really enjoy bowling, and I didn't like fielding that much, because you're not in the game.

Just ahead of me in school was a very good wicketkeeper called Jeffery Mordecai who went on to play youth cricket. I followed him through the ranks right up to schools cricket - it was a natural progression.

Being part of a great side meant that we had to constantly raise the bar. We had an excellent record away from home - which most teams don't have. That was because we raised the level of our game in difficult conditions and against tough opposition. We had to show character and we did it almost every single time.

Playing squash was my main form of preparation, because it is a game played at a quick pace and it exercises all parts of the body. It helps you speed off the mark, build good reflexes, and gives you the ability to change direction quickly - the three attributes you need while keeping to fast bowling.

I had good ball skills, so that helped when I took up wicketkeeping.

Malcolm Marshall was the best fast bowler I kept to. He was an excellent assessor of situations and batsmen. He could use any conditions to his advantage. A look at the number of wickets he took in India is an indication of how capable a fast bowler he was. He had the full package.

We didn't need to sledge. We had the batsmen scared enough anyway.

None of us will forget the 1983 World Cup final. I remember walking off the field at the halfway mark and having a strange feeling. When we batted, it was like a runaway train. Even if India had made 400, we would still have approached it the same way. I can guarantee that it had nothing to do with over-confidence. It just happened to be the day everything went wrong.

Racial comments have no place on a cricket field. Things like that tend to make you wonder about the sincerity of the opposition, even socially.

When Viv Richards was batting, the best place to be was the non-striker's end. You just wanted to take a single and watch him. He had everything - power, timing, perfect balance, and amazing levels of confidence. When other batsmen walked out to bat, the opposition fielders came up a few steps. When Viv walked out, the infielders actually took a few steps back. I never saw any other batsman have such an effect on the opposition.

We wanted to win to get respect. We played within the rules.

Targeting the opposition captain was a tactic that our fast bowlers came up with. We always felt that if the leader's confidence was low, it could creep into other parts of his game, like formulating tactics. If the captain was in good form and batting well, we used to back off a bit and go back to basics. But it was always good if the opposition captain was a batsman.

The Australians tried sledging me early in my career, but it didn't really work. After that, when I came to the wicket, Allan Border told them, "Don't talk to him." Sledging made me concentrate more. While keeping, if I had something to say, I would say it over the batsman to the bowler.

The ultimate respect we got was when they changed the rule to limit short-pitched bowling. And even that couldn't stop us from winning.

It's the wicketkeeper's job to get everyone going and keep them in high spirits.

Kerry Packer helped realise the potential of West Indies cricket. Before the Packer series, West Indies weren't a team. They were a bunch of talented individuals. What Packer proved was that they weren't very fit. He also realised that they weren't taking the game seriously because they weren't getting much money from it. That was when they got Dennis Waight as a fitness trainer, and performance levels went up significantly. When they came back, they were fitter, stronger, and faster. Packer created the conditions for West Indies to go to another level.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

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