Sportstar archives: Andy Roberts on what's ailing Windies cricket

In this interview from 1995, West Indies coach Andy Roberts details the problems holding back West Indies cricket, over-reliance on Brian Lara and more.

Fearful foursome: When (left to right) Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner were at their peak, the West Indies ruled the cricket world.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The West Indies cricket team is not as formidable today as it was, say, in the Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards eras. Why? Andy Roberts, the team’s coach spells out the reasons in this interview with Jeff Lepps.

Excerpts:

Andy, you’ve inherited a young West Indian side with a lot of changes from the last Indian tour and they didn’t really perform as expected during the Australian tour to the West Indies and our tour to England. Why is that?

I think the team is different from the days when I was playing. Their ways of thinking, methods of preparation, everything – even their approach to the game – is different. I don’t know, but probably this is a worldwide phenomenon today as the youth are different from the older players.

The West Indian side today depends nearly entirely on Brian Lara. When Lara clicks, the team clicks; when Lara fails, the team fails.

Yes, unfortunately that is the case, as it was during the late ’70s and the early ’80s when we depended solely on Viv Richards. The problem we have today is that if Brian does not score runs, it seems the team can’t score runs. This is not good for our cricket. We need Brian without pressure of the knowledge that the rest of the team is depending solely on him.

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The rest of the team will have to lift their game. One or two players do lift their game from time to time, but we just can’t get the consistency amongst the batsmen. I think (Shivnarine) Chanderpaul is a player for the future and in the next one or two years he may lift his game to heights, maybe to Brian’s level.

Andy Roberts: The problem we have today is that if Brian (Lara) does not score runs, it seems the team can’t score runs. This is not good for our cricket.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

What about the two openers who have replaced Des Haynes and Gordon Greenidge?

Sherwin Campbell has been getting very good runs. (Stuart) Williams is inconsistent. We need both of them to think more about their approach to the game. Their approach is a little different; they are a little unorthodox. They are young, enthusiastic and think there is a world out there apart from cricket, and we need to get them to focus on cricket, pay more attention to their game. This will help them to raise the level of their game just a notch, which in turn will enable them to score more runs.

Carl Hooper, such a gifted player, has really not performed to his potential. Why do you think this has happened?

I don’t know. There is nothing I can say that hasn’t been said about Carl Hooper. I think it just boils down to how much he really needs it. That’s the difference between a good player, a gifted player and a great player – how much they really need it. I don’t know how much Carl Hooper needs it. He goes out to bat, he is the best timer of the ball I’ve seen since a long time, and he just gives it away. You know it’s amazing that a guy with so much talent has produced so little for the West Indies.

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They used to say that West Indian fast bowlers grew up on our beaches. I wouldn’t like to compare eras, but basically can’t we produce a slightly better quality of fast bowlers than we are producing now?

As you said, you can’t compare eras, but this is not an era of fast bowlers. Our fast bowling has started to decline after Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose – these are the last two. lan Bishop is now making a comeback, which is a blessing for West Indian cricket. Kenny Benjamin is a very good bowler, underrated I believe. But there’s more to cricket than just running up and bowling. When you are playing with a team, you have to understand that you have to give all for the team both on and off the field. The off-the-field part is just as important as on-the-field.

That’s another factor. There have been rumours that the discipline is not what it used to be. Is it because of the younger generation and their attitudes being different?

I think it is the younger generation and their attitude. Discipline has been allowed to go haywire. During the latter part of the ’70’s and ’80s, when we were winning, things that used to happen were just swept under the carpet; now it is very difficult to pull it back. You may have to give the example of one or two players in order to get the discipline right. Provided we can get the discipline right and get the players to approach the game the way it should be, I think we should be back on top of world cricket. We have the talent, there’s no doubt about that. The only thing that is lacking at present is a couple of young genuine fast bowlers on the horizon.

Don’t you find that now a majority of the teams are thinking strategies, studying video films – the strengths and weaknesses? Are we doing the same thing in this area?

I don’t think we even talk enough cricket. That is where we lack in our approach to the game. It is very difficult to get people to talk at team meetings. I’ve been stressing for a long time that everybody must be able to talk, everybody must observe something, everybody must have something to contribute, and there’s no point in having me as a coach leading the argument at the team meetings. Planning strategy when the bowlers themselves are not involved is useless since they are the ones who are going out to do it. I don’t think the batsmen can go out and do something that someone asked them to do without involving themselves. Only if we get all the players involved at meetings, planning how we are going to approach batting, bowling and what methods are to be used in the field, are we going to start a change – back to the old ways. In the old days, we used to discuss players from one to 11, how they bat, how we were going to bowl to them and which bowler would be most effective for which batsman. We don’t do those things now.

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What is the West Indian Board doing to improve the game at the younger levels? Are any camps being held at schools?

Not really. The West Indian Cricket Board has never done much by itself over the years to improve the standard of cricket except organise cricket at a regional level. I think most of it is done by regional boards and the players themselves just come up and start to play cricket. I myself played first-class cricket before I saw a Test match. In fact, I played my first Test match before actually watching a Test match live. That’s what it used to be like in the West Indies – we were all eager to play cricket. I don’t think that eagerness is there any more, nor are our players hungry enough to want to reach up, or willing to work and sacrifice to reach the top and remain there.

Andy Roberts: I think it is the younger generation and their attitude. Discipline has been allowed to go haywire.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

 

What if some of our senior players got back into the game in coaching and trying to help out? Do you think the young people of today would respond positively?

Yes, but if they were to do so, they would have to start at the under-15 level so that the young ones will get accustomed to somebody telling them what to do from an early age. It is very difficult in cases when someone starts telling a player who has been playing first-class cricket for eight or nine years, “I think you should try this or try that,” because the player is not accustomed to it. I feel we shall have to start at the under-15 level.

Most of the teams around the world today are carrying a spinner. The West Indies have tried when they brought Rajindra Dhanraj. Is there anybody who could fit into that mould?

I think we have always selected a team based on the best players that we have, be it batsmen, be it bowlers. So far we have always lacked a spinner and there isn’t any spinner around at present with the exception of Dhanny, who is worthwhile taking on a tour. Roger Harper is a very good one-day player; he has been tried at the Test level and he hasn’t really proved his worth there. He is experienced enough – Roger is now 32 going on to 33.

Now you have to look the other way if you are thinking of taking a spinner, no point looking backwards. In Test cricket nowadays, you have to think positive and look forward.

I feel Roger is an asset to any team in one-day cricket, but I wouldn’t say the same for Test cricket.

In the world today, who would you rate as the top five batsmen?

It’s very difficult because I haven’t seen the batsmen from India. I’ve just seen Sri Lankans in one-day cricket and it is very difficult to judge people from one-day cricket. However, I think Brian is definitely the best batsman in the world today.

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