was over an hour after Yohan Blake had come in second in the 200m that he eventually meandered down to the end of the line of international media clustered to get his comments on the race. The man, obviously, was tired of all the various questions that he had fielded on the myriad aspects of that
race. Twenty seconds of running and an hour answering about its nuances would wring out anyone. However, one just had to throw the C word his way for Blake to shrug away the boredom and speak passionately about the sport he loves.
The clutch of waiting Indian journalists could hardly believe their ears when the second-fastest man in the world said he would any day place cricket way above running.
He had already mentioned at the world athletics championships at Daegu, South Korea, in 2011 that he is interested in playing the IPL but one certainly did not know that he was willing to take time off from his athletics training to come down to India for the annual T20 extravaganza.
The man's conviction reflects in his favourite phrase: Of course! There was hardly an answer that he did not pepper with that.
Excerpts from a free-wheeling interaction:
Tell us about your plans for playing IPL.
I am looking at some teams, Mumbai Indians and also Bangalore because of Chris Gayle as he's from the West Indies.
I am asking my agent to get me a shot to try out and I think I can make the team because I am really, really quick. I think I can be one of the fastest bowlers in the world.
How do you rate the Indian bowlers?
They are great. Praveen Kumar swings the ball and, of course, Zaheer Khan is a good left-hand bowl and Rohit Sharma (the Mumbai batsman had got a decent haul of wickets when he went to the Caribbeans with the India A squad in June-July) ... you guys have some wonderful spinners too. You have some good guys coming up too... I love them. My favourite bowler is of course Sharma, Rohit Sharma. My favourite international bowler is Jimmy Anderson from England.
Are you faster than the Indian bowlers?
Of course, I am faster than the Indian bowlers. They are not that quick, of course. They are bowling like 87-88 (mph), I am bowling 90-91 so... I am strong I know, I am very fast.
I am faster than Zaheer Khan for he's a medium-pace bowler who swings the ball and pushes it away from the batsman. I am faster than him. I am really faster than him.
You think you can replace him in the IPL?
You want to play the IPL for sure? You have the time?
Of course, I want to play the IPL. I have that time in my training window, of course. It won't hamper my practice. I just have to tell the coach that I am going down to play IPL ... and I am sure he'll understand if people are being good and they are supporting me.
Why would the second-fastest man in the world want to play IPL?
I want to show you that I am better at cricket than running! I am a really talented batsman. I am a T20 batsman. You guys need to see me in action. …I am a bowling machine that can bat all day. I have played some cricket... that's my love, that's my passion, every day I watch cricket.
Bolt wants to play football. It's very different for you...
When I was in growing up I watched cricket with my father. I have grown up to love the sport even more than track and field.
You rate cricket above track and field?
Of course! Even in training I am playing some cricket strokes.
You think you can beat Usain Bolt in cricket?
Of course! Even though he is starting to get more bounce than me sometimes, I am really quick. I bowl fast... sometimes I even swing the ball. But most of the time I bowl into the batsman. I bowl really good to left-handers because I swing back the ball inside.
And I am a right-hand batsman, a really powerful one.
Who do you like amongst the batsmen?
Technically, I would say Sachin and powerfully (sic) I would say Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag. Because when Sehwag gets going, he gets going from ball one. If you look back and see his games, every time he picks up the gaps and goes after them from the first ball.
How about Brian Lara?
Yeah, of course, he is a good guy. I look up to him.
How would you compare Sachin and Brian, who would you rate higher?
You are putting me in a spot, man (laughs).
(Twice more your correspondent put the same question to Blake but he just laughed and refused to give a straight answer — the only time in the interaction that he was not upfront.)
You like cricket so much that you will take time off from track to play?
Of course! That's my first love — my love of cricket. Once I get the chance to play ... I can even (bowl) out Sachin, you know, and Virender Sehwag. So, I know what I can do.
I am bowling fast, my speed is fast. You see when I run up like 93 (mph, speed), I can bowl really fast. I'll send u guys some videos, you see for yourself.
These questions were, of course, interspersed by many from other media congregating around the man eager to talk about his race. But each time Blake would move away from those and respond to our cricket queries with enthusiasm. The amazing humility in response to the most outlandish queries makes Blake a joy to interact with.
He is certainly not the showman that his more illustrious compatriot Bolt is, but he speaks straight and from the heart.
The only flip side to his coming for the IPL may well be that he may pick up the arrogant ways of many of our cricket stars.
On the other hand, perhaps they may learn a thing or two from him on just how to be humble even when you are a true world-beater and not just in a sport played seriously by ten-odd nations.
"I'll keep in touch with you guys," said Blake as he wrote down his phone number.
"Call me anytime for cricket, my phone works around the world," he grinned as he was moved away by exasperated athletics officials who looked to shoo him from talking on a sport far removed from the understanding of the majority of the press milling around. By then, however, he had already said more than enough.
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