Kirk Edwards adds swagger and style to substance
Pizzazz - that's Kirk Edwards for you. He made a debut century, swaggered into the press conference room and gave a delightful talk. He didn't say much, but it was how he spoke. Some might have called it arrogant going by the quotes alone. But he was actually humble, especially in speaking about VVS Laxman and the Indian team; yet you could sense it's a proud mind that's buzzing inside Edwards. This writer is not qualified to talk about how he will be viewed in the Caribbean but suffice to say that while old India might have arched its eyebrows, modern India may just love him.
It was in his appreciation for the Dominica crowd that his angst came out, revealing also how it has shaped his reactions and perhaps his character as a player. "I have had a brilliant reception in Dominica and have enjoyed it," Edwards said. "It has really helped. Around the Caribbean you usually hear a lot of negatives. We are a new young team and guys are learning on the job. I take all the negatives and transfer it to positives. The more the people tell me I can't, I feel I can. You drive to the supermarket and people are saying, 'you can't play ... can't,' and you feel you can. And you want to prove all the people wrong. I guess people should keep saying I can't."
Test cricket can be cruel. Ask Dwayne Smith. He scored a hundred on debut against South Africa in Cape Town but couldn't hold down a permanent spot after that. He came to be known as a 'cowlasher', because of his tendency to slog to cow-corner, and doesn't play for West Indies anymore. So it's too early to say how Edwards' career will pan out but, in the here and now, it was refreshing to hear a cricketer show some excitement and joy about his debut hundred. There was no fancy, trained talk from him: he called it as he saw it.
Sample this: Are you [Edwards] always this frank even in the dressing room with all these players from different islands?
"In life. It's me. Always."
On using his feet to Harbhajan in the final session ... "I use my feet. Whether it's Harbhajan or not ... I don't play names." Arrogance or joyous exuberance? Take your pick.
And there were moments when he ceased to sound like a young man. Was he angry with people who kept putting him and West Indies down? "No I am not. In all fairness to people they have seen West Indies win and then it's hard to swallow us losing. So I am not angry with them; I sympathise with them. I understand life in a different way, I just think youngsters need support. You are not going to come and go boom."
What was his ambition, his destination? "I visualise what I want and go after it. I want to be a pillar of West Indies cricket. I played three ODIs [against India]; I was rusty in the first, in the second I got a good ball, and I was out off the second ball in the third game. I never spent time [at the crease]. Such is international cricket, it's never easy."
Edwards' fun personality came through when he described his early days and the kind of cricket he watched. "Growing up I watched a little bit of Viv Richards. To be honest I only saw Viv in the highlights packages. I love Viv. I never saw Viv leave a ball because I only saw highlights. When I grew up I saw Brian Lara and Carl Hooper. It was a proud feeling to go to the Kensington Oval as a young boy and watch the guys warm up and think to myself that one day I would be there. It's like a dream come true. I am grateful." His answers were to get more fuzzy and sentimental.
Edwards was asked about the time he spent with VVS Laxman during the Test. "[He is a] brilliant player. To have half the ability that VVS has would be great. I had a brilliant chat. To understand the thinking behind the great man [was great]."
And his personality came through in the follow-up question. What did Laxman tell him? "Nothing that I have never heard before, but to hear it from him was something special." Laughter. Edwards was just warming up.
Then there was a question about batting with Shivnarine Chanderpaul. "It's inspiring to bat with Shiv; someone with his kind of experience. I enjoyed every moment of it. I hope to see him at the crease sometime soon."
And what was all that drama over that single to get to the hundred? "[It was a] terrible thing. I hit the ball to mid-off and I thought to myself, 'I am quick and I can get there', but I forgot that Shiv wasn't that quick. Things worked out well and I am happy about it."
Edwards was really tested during the second session. The Indians bounced him and he was initially iffy but got better and better as the day progressed. What was happening during that tough phase? "At first I wasn't getting into a good position. Such is life. Fortunately with time I got cracking. To be honest I bat time; I bat session by session. Runs will come if you are at the crease."
His father, who used to be a club cricketer, and a stylish batsman from what the locals say, was there at the ground to watch Edwards reach his century. "He deserves it. I don't prefer to discuss my goals but what I can guarantee is that I will give 100% every time." He was full of praise for the Indian team and the way they have developed. "I have seen them come a long way especially in fielding. They have always had good batsmen. I am very impressed to see how they are fielding. It's a joy to see them."
Debut hundreds are special but would he have perhaps felt even better if he had stayed right till the end of the day? His exit opened the doors for India to gatecrash into what was turning into a West Indian party. "It's mixed feelings right now. We are behind the eight-ball. So If I had hung in there and we were on top of the game, I would have liked to go and have a beer. Now it's still at a difficult stage.
"We can still make a game out of this. We have lots of fighting characters. I am a fighter. We will fight."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo