December 25, 2011

'I've always enjoyed having people a little scared of me'

It took a serious injury for Ravi Rampaul to understand his body and his bowling, and to come back stronger and more effective

The leader of the West Indies attack is a man of Indian origin. He doesn't have a pronounced jump in his delivery stride, and prefers to run through the crease - more Waqar Younis than Curtly Ambrose. His default setting isn't the fierce bumper sent down with the intention of knocking the batsman over. His disposition is mild-mannered, and he doesn't readily convey menace to the opponent.

When Ravi Rampaul started playing the game, such a prototype would have been laughable. Yet it has taken him only 13 Tests to assume charge of the Caribbean bowling unit, while defying several conventions along the way.

Caribbean cricketers of Indian descent traditionally idolised Sonny Ramadhin and pursued spin, or took up batting, inspired by the likes of Rohan Kanhai and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Rampaul, however, charted a new trail for himself by perfecting what he loved while playing in the streets of Trinidad - sprinting in and bowling as fast as he could.

"When I used to bat and when I had my mates bowl to me, they always tried to hit my head or hit me all over my body," he recollects with a chuckle. "I just couldn't hit the ball. So I thought to myself: if they can do this to me, I can do just as well to them. That's why I took up fast bowling, just to get back at them! And I found a love for it, and continued it.

"Growing up, I have always enjoyed having people a little scared of me. I just stuck with it and worked hard to be able to bowl fast at the highest level."

Rampaul's unique style and effectiveness took him through the age-group systems quickly. Perhaps too quickly. He was handed an ODI debut at 19, a dodgy age for a fast bowler, since the core muscles are yet to fill out. The stress caught up with him, and after 17 ODIs, he was sidelined by shin splints, a condition that stems from overloaded muscles. His career went into standby mode.

"I was playing Under-15 and U-19, and then suddenly I was playing for the senior team," Rampaul recalls. "The impact all that cricket had on me - I was probably overloaded and the shin gave way. It took me two years to recover. I wasn't able to train, run or do any gym work because of the great pain I was in, and my shin wasn't working properly."

It was the sort of injury that could end a career but Rampaul wasn't ready to give in. By the time he could resume training, he had visibly bulked up. "That period led to me putting on some weight, and it was a bit of a downfall in my career. After recovering, I started training hard and putting my life back together in the cricket field. The hard work I put in then has got me to where I am today."

Rampaul came back to the one-day side after exactly three years - fitter, wiser and more aware of his body and its limitations. He took four wickets against England in his second game on return, delivering West Indies a win in Birmingham. With Jerome Taylor fading away, and Fidel Edwards struggling with a spate of injuries, Rampaul found himself taking on more of a load, but this time he was ready for it.

"Fidel is our fastest bowler, so he attacks more and tries to be aggressive. I am a little different - I attack when needed, and I can also defend and bowl consistently to build pressure, if that is the requirement. The role changes from time to time and I just try to manage the situation properly"

"A lot of hard work has gone into my bowling," he explains. "Because of my injury, it makes me aware that I need to train harder and be a lot fitter to reduce the chance of getting injured. Since my comeback I have been doing a lot of gym work and fitness, and I want to continue that discipline as long as I can carry on playing.

"My fitness plan is to do the same amount of gym, cardio, running, and nets, and mix it up well. It is about maintaining the rigour till the point when you need it the most in the middle. Then, once you are in a match situation, you are ready since your body is already accustomed to that workload."

After 41 ODIs spread over nearly six years, a tough initiation to Tests came in Australia, in 2009. A return of four wickets in three Tests spurred Rampaul towards another round of self-appraisal. "In that series, I realised I still wasn't where I wanted to be, to compete against the world in Test cricket," he says. "I just went back to a lot of training and analysing. I watched a lot of videos and spoke to past players, who helped me through. I constantly talk to Ian Bishop. Ottis Gibson is a great support, and at times even Courtney Walsh. I ask them how they approach the game, how they react to, and think, in different situations, and how to prepare for a Test match."

All the hard work came together in 2011, starting with a match-winning seven-wicket haul against Pakistan in Providence. Rampaul hasn't looked back since, picking up 24 wickets in seven Tests, a creditable feat considering all those games were on slow pitches at home and in the subcontinent.

"The wickets in India are quite similar to Trinidad, so it wasn't a new thing for me. If anything, there was more dew than back home, so it was a little bit better to bowl. It was a tough tour, but I learned a lot of stuff for the future. So the next time I come up to India, I will be even better prepared. The tours of Bangladesh and India did a lot for my bowling."

Rampaul believes his versatility allows him to bridge the diverse styles of Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach. "Fidel is our fastest bowler, so he attacks more and tries to be aggressive. I am a little different - I attack when needed, and I can also defend and bowl consistently to build pressure, if that is the requirement. The role changes from time to time and I just try to manage the situation properly."

West Indies don't have the results to show for their efforts on the India tour, but they ran the home team close in a few games. "As long as we keep playing together, maintain the team spirit and continue believing in ourselves, I am sure we will start winning soon," Rampaul says.

He won himself several fans in India, but by dismissing Sachin Tendulkar six short of his 100th century, some of that admiration was grudging. "It is amazing to play cricket in India, with the crowds chanting while Tendulkar is batting. It is an experience I will treasure for life," he says.

Was he subject to any banter when he returned to the Wankhede outfield after getting Tendulkar out "to a plan"? Rampaul laughs. "They were heckling me a little bit, but it is all good fun. Tendulkar is their hero so it was only natural that they were upset. But I am sure they will soon forget it and be okay with it."

Nitin Sundar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Metman on December 28, 2011, 22:57 GMT

    @S J Ramlogan....My point is ...up to early May 2011 ,Rampaul was on the verged of being dropped with 4 wickets at over 109 runs apiece in TESTS.India and Pakistan send teams to the WI minus their big guns in mid May....Rampaul gets some wickets,allowing him to regain confidence....gets some more in India,and all of a sudden he is the leader of the WI attack.Roach,on the other hand up to early May this year , was the spearhead of the WI attack with 36 wickets in 9 tests,av.30.02,having performed consistently since making his debut.Since mid May,he has been in and out of the team,and as you say ,because of Sammy !..Both made their debuts in 2009 ,Roach performs poorly for 6 months ,Rampaul performs poorly for 22 months and you saying that Rampaul is ahead of Roach ?An attack with Bravo man ?.....Bravo's batting is going downhill fast,and his bowling is already at the bottom.Look ! an ideal bowling attack would have to be Edwards,Roach,Taylor,Bishoo,with Benn and Russell as reserves.

  • dummy4fb on December 27, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    wat wrong with metman dread ...edwards then roach .....yeah edwards 1st but not roach ...roach waste ah time ...he cant even make test side cuz of sammy and when he does he get 2 for 169 in india ..rampaul is very good ..image having a attach with ...F edwards, Taylor, Rampaul, Bravo Bishoo and another spinner maybe benn and having roach russel as 12 man is pretty cool

  • Metman on December 26, 2011, 23:45 GMT

    Rampaul is the leader of the TnT attack,NOT the WI ! On what basis is he the leader of the WI attack,may I asked ? Edwards in my opinion, with 151 test scalps under his belt IS the leader,and next to him Roach with 43 wickets in 14 tests at 32.62.....a year ago Rampaul's av. was 4 wickets in his first 5 tests,at an av. of a whopping 109.75...down now to 35 wickets in 13 tests at 34.71...even A.Cummins of Bajan boycott fame, after 5 tests ,had a better av. at that stage .Yes ! he has shown some improvement,but he still has a long way to go to become a good bowler at the Int'l level.S.Clarke and W .Daniel with 11 and 10 tests scattered over 4 to 6 years,had more wickets at a better av.By the way,riverlime,...better to boycott than to riot !

  • christy29 on December 26, 2011, 10:06 GMT

    an attack of roach, taylor and edwards? that would scare the hell out of opposition, could it be 80s all over again?

  • VivGilchrist on December 25, 2011, 22:49 GMT

    @NavadaSmith, you clearly have a dislike of Australians. Ravi has come a long way and is a very good bowler in all three forms. He is far and away WI best ODI bowler and his batting is destructive. WI need a fit Taylor to accompany him. Roach has potential and Edwards is ok but massively overrated inside the Carribean. Sammy you must remember will always play the third seamer though. Looking forward to the Aus v WI tour when my two favorite teams meet. I just hope that politics don't prevent both teams from choosing there BEST squads.

  • Nerk on December 25, 2011, 21:38 GMT

    Ravi's first test series in Australia did not hint at his quality. He bowled too wide of off stump, a good ODI line but useless in tests. But he learnt quickly and is now one of the best bowlers in the world. I think is hard work ethic and talent is right to lead the pace attack, something which the Windies have not had for a long time. If Ravi, Taylor and Edwards play in the same match, look out opponents everywhere!

  • dummy4fb on December 25, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    I like his bowling, he good. In fact very very good. But, I do not like his arrogance. Man u should remember, you play for West Indies #9/10 side in the world. I saw West Indians played for #1 side and they were very nice people. It is important too. At least when you are playing cricket.

  • Frasera on December 25, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    I have always said that Ravi would have done well in all forms of cricket once he was afforded the opportunity eversince he played in the sucessful U15 WI Costcutter team. His batting should be never underestimated, he will deliver some telling knocks. I can't wait to see an attack with a fit Jerome Talyor, Roach, Edwars, Ravi and Russel. Having four out of the five playing in a WI together with Bishoo or Narain will make a good bowling unit.

  • rumcork69 on December 25, 2011, 13:02 GMT

    Rampaul well done to you, I was so happy when you debuted for West Indies. But injuries held you back, keep fighting every game and the rest would take care of itself. Congratulations. Proud Trini

  • Percy_Fender on December 25, 2011, 12:08 GMT

    The Australians are so chuffed upat having got Cummins and Pattinson aspace bowlers,that they just do not know that there are bowlers like Rampaul,Edwards and Taylor who are superbwith their skills when they are fit. Come the visit of the West Indies to Australia and there will not be the cockinessone seesin their greenhorns and of course their supporters who comment so often.Een the last time the Carribeans visited Australia, they gave them arun for their money.Now they have Ravi RampaulFidel Edwards and JeromeTaylor all fit and ready. Add to that, Devendra Bishoo and Sulaiman Benn and you can see a great revival again. Ravi could be a great fast bowler if he keeps himself fit.He has pace and all the variations. His bouncer is similar to Marshalls. It just follows the batsman and either gets himor his wicket.In Australia it will be great to watch this humble great. None of the Aussie type talk after taking off shoes after playing his first Test innings or 5 fors on drop in wickets.

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