Andy Roberts: ‘If you are not a genuine fast bowler, don’t try to bowl fast’

West Indies pace great Sir Andy Roberts believes today’s pacers don’t run enough which takes a toll on their body, rates Umesh Yadav as the “quickest” among the Indian speedsters.

West Indies great Sir Andy Roberts believes the current crop of fast bowlers are not running enough as part of their training regime.   -  Vijay Bate

Back in the seventies, the trend of pacers breathing down a batsman’s neck gained cult status; courtesy, the renowned quartet comprising Michael Holding, Sir Andy Roberts, Joel Garner and Colin Croft of West Indies. Batsmen feared them, and they treasured the fear.

Among the four, Roberts sent down chills for his deception. He had two different bouncers, which were unleashed reading the batsman’s mind — a slower one, and then, the lethal one. Former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan went on record to confess that Roberts was the most terrifying speedster he ever faced.

The 66-year-old and the first Antiguan to wear the whites for West Indies called it a day in 1983 with 202 Test scalps (47 matches) and 87 wickets in 56 ODI games. However, the veteran never lost touch with cricket. He had his stints as an administrator, as coach, a mentor to bowlers in Bangladesh and also, Irfan Pathan of India in his early days. On the sidelines of West Indies’ ongoing series against New Zealand, Sportstar rang him up at his residence for a quick review on today’s fast bowlers.

Excerpts:

It is not my concern how cricket is run in countries like India and Australia. My concern is how it is being done in West Indies. And it is not being run properly here. The International Cricket Council (ICC) should step in and do something about it.

In your generation, fast bowlers never faced as many injuries they nurse today. Is it due to unlimited cricket throughout the year?

I don’t think so. The more you play, is better. If they are injured, there is something wrong with the body. I don’t think a lot of fast bowlers, today, run enough. They probably spend a lot of time at the gym. But being in the gym is not being out in the middle. Cricket is a running game and fast bowling is like a marathon. Of course, you have to strengthen your body but there needs to be a balance. I don’t believe a lot of them do that.

But their upper body seems fine…

Most of them have a good upper body but all the problems lie waist down. Fast bowling isn’t just anything. You need a lot of dedication.

What are your thoughts on the current Indian pacers? India never had a pace battery in the past, but there seems to be a deluge of fast bowlers now…

India finally completed the sentence that you can’t be No. 1 in the world with spinners. You can’t be. If you don’t have good fast bowlers, you can’t win. That’s why when they play in India, they dominate but whenever they go abroad, they struggle.

West Indies fast bowler Andy Roberts seen in action during the West Indies tour of India during the 1974-75 series.   -  The Hindu Archives

  Which Indian pacer impressed you the most recently?

I have been watching many of the bowlers recently. Every minute, there is one out and one in. Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and then, there is Bhuvneshwar Kumar. I think Yadav is probably the quickest of the lot. You need good fast bowlers who can also swing the ball, or else, you are going to struggle abroad.

India is next touring South Africa, where the pitches are known for pace and bounce. What would be your advice to them?

Your bowlers have to bowl within themselves, there is no other choice. If you are not a genuine fast bowler, don’t try to bowl fast. You need to work on your strengths. I think once you have pace, you have most of the things. But you have to learn to bowl in the middle. What you do at nets doesn’t count, you have to make most of the opportunity when you are out in the middle.

READ: What’s wrong with West Indies?

You’ve expressed that you aren’t happy how the Caribbeans are approaching their cricket today. But are you satisfied how the game is run globally?

It is not my concern how cricket is run in countries like India and Australia. My concern is how it is being done in West Indies. And it is not being run properly here. The International Cricket Council (ICC) should step in and do something about it.

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