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'Spin alone won?t work'

Despite wickets in WI slowing down, Andy Roberts feels pace still holds relevance, writes Atreyo Mukhopadhyay.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 05:04 IST

Sunil Gavaskar referred to him as a calm guy who was deceptively quick and bowled a bouncer from nowhere. Andy Roberts has remained more or less the emotionless man he was, over 20 years after quitting the game, save for the fact he smiles more often.

A terror during his heyday from 1973-1983 — a period in which he took 202 wickets in 47 Tests and formed the core of an attack the like of which cricket is yet to see — Roberts has been Windies’ coach for a short while, associated with the Antigua Cricket Association, before concentrating on a fishing business and development of Twenty20 format.

The 55-year-old dropped in at the Police Ground during India’s practice match against Antigua XI and interacted with the media before getting into a long chat with old foe-friend Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. Excerpts:

Would you agree if one says that the legacy of West Indian fast bowling has been severely diluted?

Let me say I would disagree. We’ve had patches. Before I came on the scene five or six years after Wes Hall, there was nobody. And after that we produced fast bowlers after fast bowlers for 10-15 years. Now it’s become docile again. We need to find some strong bowlers, not big bowlers. Modern technology has taken their toll over fast bowlers. Today’s bowlers spend much more time in the gym than going running in the hills or on the sands. There may be strength in their legs but is that strength good enough to last them six hours? To be a fast bowler you need strong legs. You don’t need big people to bowl fast. Fast bowlers are six-three or under. Over that, you can’t be genuinely quick.

What’s the difference between the technique of today’s batsmen and those of yesteryears?

The technique was a lot better in earlier days. Because of too many protective gears, today’s players don’t develop that technique, they don’t watch the ball that closely. Ricky Ponting is one of the few who handle the short ball well and also Matthew Hayden to an extent. Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar are not that good against short-pitched stuff — Rahul Dravid is better than them.

Who’s the best batsman you have bowled to?

It’s a difficult question, because their abilities varied according to conditions. I liked Ian Chappell, Sunny, Zaheer Abbas and Barry Richards. They were all very good, though Gundappa Viswanath was better than Sunny on bouncy pitches. If you ask me the best player I have played with, it’s Viv Richards. I never found any weakness in him. He played the short ball better than anybody. He drove, cut and played spin as well as anybody. Can’t say the same with Barry. He had problems against genuine fast bowling. Sunny had problems on bouncy pitches, but on pitches that suited him, there was nobody better.

What about Mohinder Amarnath?

He had a very good season against us down here and I think he played the short ball very well. After that, we went to India and he became a non-factor because we didn’t bowl the same way. We kept the ball up a lot more so that when he got the short ball he was in no position to play.

Can a team bank on spinners to win a Test series in the Caribbean?

They would be living in a fool’s paradise if they are thinking of winning a Test series solely on spinners. The change in the character of wickets here notwithstanding, only spin can never win you a Test series here.