'As you get older, you come to appreciate the tough times'
My first visit to Sabina Park was when India came in 1976. I was only about eight years old at the time. But my dad would pop in there every so often to watch Jamaica play. He was very keen. He liked his cricket. He used to go with a friend, and they would take me along. So I used to enjoy it for more than just cricket reasons. It was quality time with my dad as well.
Every time you get two evenly matched teams, you're going to get spice, or what we call "edge". It's just a fact of life.
Merv Hughes and David Boon were in our dressing room almost every day. Almost every day. They came in with two six-packs. And they'd just drink them with anybody. It didn't matter. Sure, guys would be warring. So you'd have maybe Healy and Brian, or Healy and Dessie, warring. Nobody didn't pay it any mind. Merv and Boonie, they couldn't care less.
Every ground in the Caribbean gets lively when fast bowlers are operating at a certain level. I've heard about a spell Jeff Thomson bowled in Bridgetown in '78 and the locals were whooping it. They just love to see fast bowling, even when it's against us. It's something that just gets us excited.
They said it was "brutal" bowling but I disagree with that. Devon got hit a few times [in Kingston in 1994], but he got hit on his arse, which tells me you're not bowling bumpers. If I'm a brutal bowler, you're going to talk about hitting people higher than that. People never wrote about how every time Courtney pitched up, Devon was swinging through the line. And it was annoying, you know: you're hanging around and you're scoring boundaries. So, fine, let's see what he's prepared to do. Any fast bowler worth his salt would do the same thing.
What the senior Jamaica players did so well was, they kept reminding us that we were good enough, which, when you're a teenager, it just counts for so much. You're obviously playing against your peers and doing well, but when the big guns say, "Son, you're good enough to eventually get there," it's a massive, massive spur.
Playing club cricket in England taught me a lot when I was young - being asked to shoulder all the responsibility for results. The wickets weren't great and I learned a lot of discipline. It helped tighten my game and tighten my thinking. After a while it just becomes a good way to relax for a summer while playing enough competitive cricket to get by. I did a season of county cricket and it was too much cricket for me.
You talk about Test match cricket: it's about how much ammunition you have. We didn't have the ammunition we once had, and it was putting pressure on everybody. Ambrose and Walsh, when I started, and then Benjamin and Bishop, would say, "Listen: give us 300 runs and we'll win you the Test match." Three hundred runs now was sometimes only getting you past the follow-on. And it was pressure.
There's some professor in Fire in Babylon talking a load of bull, making it sound as though there was some big grand plan by people in the Caribbean to build this world-class team. That's a load of crap, man.
My Test debut against South Africa - their first after isolation - was a funny Test in a lot of ways. It was an empty ground in Barbados. They'd boycotted the game because Anderson Cummins wasn't selected.
I guess you work a few things out when you're very young. Some of the versions of the game that we played meant you had to find ways to stay in. If you had 50 kids with one bat and one ball, you might not bat again for the rest of the day, so if you did get an opportunity, you found a way to hang around.
I was kicking out of the rough. I had to. They prepared some interesting wickets on that tour [to India in 1994]. But the "Jimmy Padams" thing didn't bother me. The issue for me is productivity. And it helped us to save that series in the end.
I played decent football in school. I tended to play wide left. I'd have probably ended up using it as a vehicle to a college education in the States. What I would have studied, I don't know.
The Jamaica captain at the time, Marlon Tucker, asked me whether, rather than doing No. 6, I fancied doing No. 3. That to me was a no-brainer. I'd been stranded many times with the tail; I didn't have anything to lose; I wanted to make my name as a batsman. So I took it and sort of made it my position over the next few years, and made the West Indies team from that position.
When you get to a certain stage in your career, you've got to be consistent. If you're not consistent, there's always going to be a shout to take an inconsistent kid and build again.
The sacking as captain was because I didn't score any runs in Australia. It wasn't so much the results. People knew the relative strength of the teams. I just didn't get any runs on the tour.
I wasn't really getting the team I wanted, but I don't have any regrets taking on the job and having a look at that final bit of the puzzle. I'd pretty much seen everything else from every other angle.
There's a certain level of insularity in West Indies cricket. It's always been there. It gets suppressed if the team's doing well. If it isn't, then people start saying quite a few things.
The 48 not out against Pakistan in Antigua - 200-odd balls, no boundaries - is a knock I remember quite fondly because of the situation of the game. Waqar hadn't been the force that he was, so Wasim and Saqi were the main threats. We had a bit of luck along the way, sure. I nicked one off Wasim and the umpire said not out. Twice we were in the same crease and twice they didn't gather the ball. It was chaos, man. Proper pressure.
If I faced extreme pace I just tried to get in position as early as possible.
Andre van Troost didn't bowl particularly fast the day he broke my jaw. I was just shattered, mentally. Really tired, and was just making bad decisions.
Ambi [Curtly Ambrose] has never bowled as fast as he bowled in regional cricket in 1988 for Leeward Islands. He tells a story of making a promise to himself after his first Test against Pakistan, in Guyana on a very flat pitch, where he went for four runs an over and Malcolm [Marshall] chewed him out about it. He vowed to never again lose his lengths either looking for pace or through getting upset. And he pretty much stuck true to his words through the rest of his career.
There were a lot of us - I was one of them - who thought that, on sheer talent, Pakistan were by far the most talented team between the late '80s and mid-'90s, when Wasim and Waqar were at their peak.
We figured we were going to have to bowl out of our skins on a good pitch to defend 190, which is what England had to make, and within an hour it was over. There was a run-out early, and that was when we could smell the fear. That was when everything was ramped up. You sort of realise that England probably were stressing it.
The thing about Brian in that series is that he was scoring at four runs an over. So at the end of the first day, you knew that if he batted the next day he'd be very close to the record. And Brian knew that. If there's one thing about Brian, he'd have done his calculations even before we did. He has the ability to map stuff out like that. His brain works quicker than almost anybody I've seen, and I mean that in a positive, genuine way.
Over the years, Lara's best partnerships were with the likes of myself and Chanderpaul. Viv's best partnerships were with Larry Gomes. A lot of times when you have what they call "the shot men" together, they want the same bowler. It can be a distraction sometimes, in terms of the bigger picture.
I tell you now: I'd pay money to watch Hooper bat. I think he's just the sweetest on the eye that I've played with or against.
I was reading this magazine on the plane and had this French roll. The crust was very thick. I'm reading and poking it. I had a regular knife, but very thin metal - it's not that sharp, it's just thin. I gave it enough force and it went right through the crust and pinged the tendon in my hand. That was my tour done and dusted. I came off the plane and went straight to the hospital.
There were some key issues - issues that we thought were reasonable for international players - that were supposed to have been sorted by the end of October '98, when the party was in the Caribbean playing regional cricket and we'd signed off on certain things, but when the contracts came out the board had reneged on the agreements. That was just the tipping point for a lot of us.
People had their own views: "You're going to South Africa, inaugural tour, black people waiting to see you play" and so on, but at the end of the day there was a lot of fed-up players. And I was certainly fed up. I was at a point where I accepted that my career could be over because of the stance I was taking, but at that point in time I'd had enough. The key thing, for me, was the attitude they had towards us as players.
The million-dollar question that you're going to be asking about athletes ten years from now, 20 years from now, is: how much of it is a non-negotiable approach, and how much of it is a freedom to express? How much of that freedom do you try and regulate, or put a framework around?
I got four wickets in the game [against South Africa in Barbados, 1992], but if you check the clips there was some bad batting. Trust me. But making 79 not out, and at a crucial time, gave me a lot of self-belief. Massive, massive.
I didn't give my stats any thought at the time. You're so busy playing. You're enjoying the fact that you were doing well and sort of living in the moment, to be honest. It was still very much "Let's milk this for as much as we can so they don't drop me when everyone's fit." I've come away believing in upward pressure.
I lived my dream for nine years at international level. Not many people live their dream, so yeah I'm satisfied with my career. As you get older, you come to appreciate the tough times more, if that makes sense. Because you've had to apply the lessons learned from the tough times far more than the lessons learned from the good times.
Scott Oliver tweets here