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Andy Roberts

'Gavaskar was better than Boycott'

What's the matter with West Indies cricket? How far ahead do you need to plan a dismissal? Andy Roberts answers these questions and more from Cricinfo readers

Nagraj Gollapudi

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Andy Roberts bowls, England v West Indies, fourth Test, Headingley, 23 July, 1976
At Headingley in 1976 © Getty Images
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During matches you seemed so cool outwardly. What were you like on the inside? asked Jeremy Hall from New Zealand
I was always cool. I tried to not get frustrated easily. When you show anger or are less cool, you tend to exert more effort and energy than when you are calm. As a youngster I always tried that.

We are seeing young quicks getting injured very often. What according to you will make a fast bowler survive in international cricket for a long time? asked Sapthagiri from India
What is happening today is that you find a lot of young players are bowling a number of overs at a very early age. I think most of these fast bowlers, when they enter the Test arena, their bodies aren't mature enough. When you look at the fast bowlers in the past, when they made their Test debuts they were already 21, 22, 23 as opposed to the 18- and 19-year-olds of today. So today's fast bowlers are not physically strong enough to withstand the rigours of fast bowling. One solution is bowl less at an early age. Even if bowlers are to play a lot of Twenty20 cricket, it is only four overs. There is not much of a physical demand on the bowler in this format; the demands are more mental.

Why can't West Indies play as different country teams (Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and so on) in the changed cricketing world, instead of the combined West Indies entity? asked Murali Narayanan from Singapore
We don't have the population for that. Jamaica is probably the most populated, with about two million. Antigua is just about 100,000. So we don't have the population to play on our own as the pool of talent is very small. And to add to it, fewer people are playing cricket in the Caribbean now.

How far ahead did you plan when you try to get a batsman out? Were you trying to get a wicket every ball, or did you build up for a few balls or overs before delivering the wicket ball? asked Mohit from USA
Sometimes three to four overs. You have to plan and work on that plan. Obviously you can't get a wicket with every ball, so you build pressure and force a batsman into a sense of false security. So it is all about planning and it normally takes four to five overs to execute the plan. In my time there were no video-analysis tools, so I tried to bowl four to five different deliveries and see how the batsman reacted to each delivery. Based on his reaction I would judge the right ball to bowl. Let's say you bowl a ball into his ribs and see him cringe as he plays the shot - then you know it is a sign of weakness. If you bowl him a wide and he has a tendency to go after it then you know that is something you can work on.

Who do you rate the better opener - Sunil Gavaskar or Geoffrey Boycott? asked Shareef from the UK
Sunil Gavaskar. Just because he was a much better player than Geoff Boycott. I played a lot more against Gavaskar than against Boycott. A good batsman is one who capitalises on his strengths and tries to make the most of his weaknesses. Sunil was very short in stature and we knew he had a problem with the bouncing ball, but he tried to make the most of it.

What was your best ever spell of fast bowling? asked Venkat from Malaysia
The spell in Leeds in 1976, against England. I only got three wickets, but in my mind there was a decision given against me. It was a leg-before decision against Peter Willey, where he played right back onto his stumps to a fuller delivery. I would've bowled England out that afternoon if the umpire had given me the decision.

Leaving aside the recent off-field troubles West Indies have had, what do you see as the causes of the team's decline from its glory days? Is there less talent around now, or is it not being nurtured in the same way as 25 years ago? asked Michael from Australia
Players of today don't have their cricket at heart - they are more in it for the money. It is more a case of what they can earn, than how good they can be. As for talent, one has to define exactly what it is: is it the ability to play pretty shots or have the right action? I don't think the players have the commitment.

 
 
"Players of today don't have their cricket at heart - they are more in it for the money. It is more a case of what they can earn, than how good they can be"
 

When do you think you were at the peak of your prowess? asked Mohammed Talha from USA
When I was about 27, 28. And those years were spent playing the Packer Series, where I learned a lot bowling against better quality batsmen.

Who is the one bowler you were worried about facing as a batsman? asked Sriram Hariharan from the USA
I was never worried about facing anyone because I knew I was not there for too long

I am a 13-year-old tall medium-fast bowler, but I really struggle to bowl faster. My height is good - 5ft 8in - and I get decent bounce. How do I increase my pace? asked Tejas Srinivasan from India
To increase your pace you have to increase your strength. You see fast bowlers are not made, they are born to bowl fast. Not everybody can bowl fast. What I would tell that youngster is to focus on what he thinks are his strengths. The bounce is more important than pace because it is more disconcerting when the ball bounces than when the ball comes through at an alarming pace. That is why you found bowlers like Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Glenn McGrath were not genuinely out-and-out fast bowlers, but they made use of their height by getting the ball to bounce. You can tell that youngster: if he doesn't have the pace, once he has the bounce and he can work on his control then he has everything in his favour.

Did you enjoy bowling to GR Viswanath when he scored 97 not out in the Chepauk Test, or were you irritated? asked MM Mahendran from UAE
Yes. It was a challenge to bowl to him because Vishy was playing all the shots. The pitch was a very good one and he played very, very well.

How can one make a bouncer more deceptive? asked Prasun Nagar from India
By not showing any signs that you doing anything out of the way. A lot of bowlers you know when they are going to bowl a bouncer because their approach to the wicket changes. But if a bowler comes with the same approach for a yorker, a half-volley, a good-length ball or a bouncer, it is very difficult for anyone to detect. But most fast bowlers tend to run a lot faster when they want to put more effort in and they give themselves away.

As told to Nagraj Gollapudi

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