Couch Talk 126 (Play)
Guests: Colin Croft
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to Couch Talk. The guest today is former West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft. He talks about his international career that lasted only 27 Tests, his attitude towards his craft and cricket, the great West Indies teams he played on, the pressure on the modern cricketers amongst other things.
Welcome to the show, Crofty!
Colin Croft (CC)– No problem!
SJ– In the documentary, Fire In Babylon, there is this famous thing where Joel Garner says, “Hey Crofty, if your mother was at the other end batting….” you would say, “she is a target.” I want to know where this aggression come from in you as a fast bowler?
CC– This is not about aggression, it is about professionalism. If you hire a guy to be a pilot – I have been a pilot in my lifetime – you expect him to fly and give you a nice take off, nice smooth transition, and then he lands, the plane rolls out and you come out with no sweat. You are expecting me to do that if I am trained properly, an organized pilot. Whereas, fast bowler is a professional cricketer. That was my job to get people out. I couldn’t be bothered about who is at the other end. The second part of it is I will use any means to get you out. It is as simple as that. I have got 10 other guys who are there with me to try and get the batsman out. Whatever legal means I could use, I will use, because that is the purpose of selecting me – to get wickets.
SJ– In that documentary, David Frith says that your opponents would say that Crofty would rather hit the batsmen than get them out. Is that so? You are saying that you were only interested in taking the wickets…
CC– I couldn’t be bothered about hitting batsmen. My purpose was getting them out. Hitting them was a way of getting them out. Now, if they are babies and if they can’t cope with it, they shouldn’t be playing professional cricket anyway. I will also say this – Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft – we probably have played only 11 or 12 Test matches together, and I am very sure that my record stands up just as good as any of those other three. I am very, very sure of it because I have checked it. While they might be considered greats and I only got 125 wickets in 27 Tests, so that is not great in not my mind. That was excellent returns for a short career. I always maintain that I was just as good as them when we played together.
SJ– Absolutely. I don’t think people question that aspect of it. I want to ask this thing about the mean aspect of fast bowling. You were on cricinfo, named as one of the 11 meanest bowlers alongside Sylvester Clarke and others.
CC– Well, you guys have this thing about “mean”. My purpose was to get people out. The batsmen were never my friends. I never even talked to some of my teammates, never mind the opposition. Cricket at the highest level is not a joke. It is my job. If a batsmen gets a hundred, it means that two things have happened – he has batted exceptionally well and/or I have not done the damn job they have selected me for. It is simple as that. In my short 27 Tests there might have been a couple of Test matches where I saw really good batsmanship. Kim Hughes got 100 against us in Australia once. Peter Willey got 100 at Antigua in the first Test match that we played. Graeme Gooch got a hundred against us in Barbados in the same Test match that everyone talks about of Michael Holding and how fast he bowls. Nobody remembers that I got the most wickets in that Test, but that is for another time. Greg Chappell got a brilliant hundred in the first Test match in Australia in the 1979/80 series. But the point is, they have to bat well because I am not going to give away runs and I am certainly not going to give away any quarter when I am bowling. My point is to get you out by any means necessary.
SJ– That is absolutely fair, and I agree with you on that. But, is there a feeling that West Indies fast bowlers were unfairly criticised for how they approached their job, compared to say, Jeff Thomson, who also went head hunting. He also wanted to get people out, wanted to hurt them…
CC– When you go back, the head hunting business… The purpose of aggression is to get batsmen out. At the top level, if the batsmen are not good enough then they should go and play tennis or golf, but don’t be telling me that you can’t be coping with fast bowling because you are ill prepared. That is crap.
SJ– Is there ever a feeling that even though there were other bowlers not from West Indies following similar methods like yours, that West Indies bowlers got – perhaps unfairly – the criticism than the others.
CC– Well, I don’t know why that is. It could be because for a small nation of 7.5 million, we were beating all the world. We were beating Australia with their 18-25 million, we were beating England with 60 million and we were beating India with nearly 1 billion. It doesn’t matter. When you go to a cricket field, 11 guys against 11 guys, I don’t care about the population you come from, and we were fortunate – I would say fortunate because I know Clive Lloyd planned to get a good team after beaten so badly in Australia 1975/76 by Thomson-Lillee-Gilmore-Walker. I think it was just opportune… There’s a word called ‘Synchronicity’. For Clive Lloyd, that was synchronicity. At one stage just after that, he had Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Sylvester Clarke, Wayne Daniel and Norbert Phillip – about 7 or 8 guys from which he could pick 4 form and be just as aggressive. I was fortunate because my returns and my fitness, I stayed in the team from the start to the finish of my career. That was synchronicity for Clive Lloyd in terms of the bowling. But then he also had three wicket keepers to pick one. He had maybe four opening batsmen to pick two. He had about 10000 middle order batsmen to pick five. Synchronicity happens, it happens in WI cricket between 1976 and 1995, especially between from when Clive Lloyd was the captain up to about 1986-87.
I want to talk about the great years of WI cricket and compare it with the great Australian sides of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But first, I want to talk about your bowling action itself.
CC– Let’s talk about the teams first, and then about my action.
The first time WI beat Australia in Australia was in the 1979/80, and the team that we beat then would have beaten Steve Waugh’s team. It is as simple as that. The difference between Ian and Greg Chappell’s team and Steve Waugh’s team was Shane Warne. A brilliant leg spinner, but he was the only person who stood out. Don’t misunderstand me – Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, and before them Allan Border were brilliant batsmen. The combination that played under Ian and Greg Chappell would have beaten the Australian team that became world champions in the 2000s, except for Shane Warne.
SJ– I look at the numbers – WI team for a stretch from 1976 to 1985 played 61 Tests and won 32 of those Tests, whereas the Australian team of 1999 to 2006/07 won 70 of the 95 Tests, at a much superior rate. Why do you think that was so?
CC– They had a much superior rate because the rest of the opposition became crap. It is simple as that. When we were playing, every team that we played against could have beaten us. We had to play out of our skin to beat Pakistan with Majid Khan and Zaheer Abbas and Wasim Raja and Imran Khan and Safraz Nawaz , the Mohammads –Sadiq and Mushtaq. Against India, we had to play Sunil Gavaskar, (Gundappa) Vishwanath, Kapil Dev, Roger Binny, Surinder and Mohinder Amarnath. Against England – (David) Gower, Garaham Gooch, (Ian) Botham, and those guys. Mike Hendrick and Bob Willis too. Australia, I don’t have to talk about Australia at all.. They had the two Chappells, Hughes, Border, Thomson, Lillee, Len Pascoe and those guys. We had to play out of our skins to beat every team. When Australia became world champions, most team had just two players. Australia, when we beat them had 11, at least 9 who were world class. It is not so much the numbers but the standard of the teams that they were playing.
SJ– Okay. Fair enough, when you put it that way. I want to talk about you as a bowler, your action and how you went along with the rest of the other fast bowlers.
CC– Bowling action to me – and I have got all the coaching qualifications like everybody else at the WICB has. Bowling is about being confident and being relaxed and being normal. It is like sprinting. You have to be, I suppose the right word is, natural. Natural. You don’t change a guy’s approach or his delivery or his follow through unless it is dangerous to his health. That is why most of the coaches now are having such a bad time now, because they feel they have to change some thing. Most cricketers don’t need to be changed, they just need to be tweaked here and there. But you don’t change just for the sake of changing. One coach once told me that a guy bowled right hand, but looked like he could be a left hand bowler. That is the kind of stupidity you have in coaches.
SJ– You had a very straight run up, but you jumped wide in your delivery stride…
CC– Again, it was about being at ease. Nobody taught me to bowl, I bowled because I was comfortable and confident and at ease and natural when I bowled. If I were in England, I am not sure about Australia because they like a bit of maverick in their cricketers, but if I were in the England in the 1970s, I would have never been able to play for the team because they would have tried to coach me out of how I bowled naturally.
SJ– So, that action of yours, did that give any additional advantage in it? Did you see any benefits in it?
CC– I don’t know if it gave anybody else an advantage, it must have given me advantage. It gave me 125 wickets in 27 Tests at 5 wickets a test. If I get 5 wickets a Test and we have 4 bowlers, we should win most Test matches.
SJ– Of course. How was your bowling, not just the style and substance of it – the whole package – how was it complementary to the other three bowlers?
CC– That is an interesting question. When I started playing for the WI in 1976/77 against Pakistan, I was an opening bowler. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I did really, really well. In my first test series I got 33 wickets against Pakistan. But that is because the Pakistanis played WI type cricket, and we just outplayed them 2 to 1. The truth is they probably should have won the first Test match, and it should have been 2-2. They should have won the first Test at Barbados. Had they won that, who knows? They may have beaten us. We managed to draw it. That was my first Test. Myself and Andy Roberts managed to hold on at the end. We drew the Test match. Then we went to Trinidad and I got 8/29 and we won that Test match. We went to Guyana, drew there and came back to the same Trinidad and Tobago and lost. And then, won in Jamaica. Pakistan, in my first Test series could have beaten us.
I opened the bowling, but did really well but I was never comfortable with it. I was replacing Michael Holding who was injured in the 1976/77 after coming from England. Wayne Daniel was also injured. When Holding managed to get back into the team, he opened the bowling with Roberts, I was even more comfortable bowling at first change or second change. In some Test matches in Australia, I even bowled at no.5 . I got the most wickets. I couldn’t be bothered. If I were to be asked, did I like a new ball? The answer would be “No”. Second new ball? Yes. If it got that far. But not the first new ball.
SJ– in terms of the bowling styles as well. This theory of having variety in your bowlers – you don’t want everyone to be a right hander. You don’t want everyone to be a left hander, and those stuff. How did you guys go about it?
CC– Every one of the WI fast bowlers, every single one of them were individual. They all did different things with the ball and they all had different trajectories. They were all of different heights, angles of attack, all sorts of things. Everything was different from everyone else. While we were all collectively fast bowlers, none of us were the same.
SJ– You still have only 20 wickets to take in a Test match and it has to go between 4 bowlers. What is the competition like?
CC– The competition of the bowling team is to get 20 wickets. If someone gets five in the game, if someone gets 8 in the game, if someone gets 2 in the game but bowls – well that is how it works. If you compare my record to Holding or Roberts or Garner, I stand very well. The point of the four bowlers is to get 20 wickets. How is this divided really doesn’t matter the least. When I got a ball in my hand, I want to get wickets. That is how my strike rates were so high. My purpose was to get people out. I don’t know about defending and all that crap, we have to get the batsman out. That is why I am bowling. I don’t want to run 25-30 m every time just because I want to be defending – that is a waste of time.
SJ– That is also a very typically Pakistani fast bowler mentality. Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar – similar mentality. Around the world you see the managing of fast bowler, managing their work load…
CC– Because, I told you – coaches have to find something to do. You know what I am saying? Cricketers are playing much more cricket now. And, the truth be told, very few people are getting injured bowling. Batsmen are getting hit more now, and they are all padded up like knights. They are getting hit in their back of their head more than I played. I can recall the batsmen who I played with. I never played against Daryl Cullinan but brilliant footwork. Steve Waugh had brilliant footwork. Jimmy Adams, Rahul Dravid, Inzamam, Alec Stewart. Look at those guys. How many times have you seen them getting hit anywhere? They don’t get hit. In our times, the Chappells would hook and cut. When was the last time you see the batsmen hook or cut? All they do is duck, because they have armour. And they still get hit. They are not scared; they are just not as mobile as they were 30 years ago, as simple as that.
SJ– Looking back at it, 30-40 years later, there is always that aura about the WI fast bowlers. You must have gone through some tough spells?
CC– WI does not have any fast bowlers right now. They have ‘opening’ bowlers.
SJ– I am talking about from your time, from the 1970s and the ‘80s. But you must have gone through, even as great as you guys were, you must have gone through some bad spells when you were getting hammered or not getting the batsmen out.
CC– Personally, I may have had one bad Test in the 27 that I played, the only Test match that I played at Lord’s. Outside of that, I can’t think about any other Test match that I played in that was not a good one. I bowled well that day, I just didn’t get any wickets. Actually, I got a couple of wickets with no-ball. I got three wickets on no-balls in that Test, the only Test I played without a wicket. But, outside of that, I can’t think of any bad spells that I bowled or the team has had. There have been times where we had drawn Test matches. Of course, we had drawn Test matches because the other teams are good too. But then, there were other times where we just blew the opposition away. It had nothing to do with styles or abilities or struggles or stresses. It is just that the opposition was just as good on that Test match, or on those occasions.
SJ– What sort of relation did you have with your captain Clive Lloyd? Also, a bowler s supposed to have a good relationship with the wicketkeepers. What kind of relationship did you have with your captain and your wicketkeepers?
CC– I had a very good relationship with Clive Lloyd, because of two things. He came from Guyana. I was in high school when I saw Clive Lloyd, Lance Gibbs, Roy Fredericks playing for Guyana against Barbados, I think, in 1967-68, and I was in high school. And so, by a year later, I was talking to people like Joe Solomon and Basil Butcher who were in charge of Guyana’s youth team where I first played in 1969/70 where I played alongside people like Clyde Walcott who was there in Guyana coaching. I had a very good relationship with all of them. They were all extremely helpful. This is a point that I need to make – the best coaches of fast bowling are batsmen. The best coaches of batting are probably bowlers, because they know how to get people out.
My first sojourn out of Guyana, internationally was to Warwickshire in 1972. I was on a scholarship sponsorship by one of the newspapers in Guyana, Guyana’s Chronicle. Lance Gibbs, at that time was playing for Warwickshire. He, Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran and Deryck Murray were all playing for Warwickshire that time. I became very good friends with them because they helped me a lot. I stayed at their house. To this day, we are very good friends when we meet. We crack a joke, we talk about old times and those kind of stuff. That kind of relationship has always remained. I have had no problems. Deryck Murray, for that matter was the first person to have bought a proper set of bowling boots for me from Australia in 1975/76, I never paid him a penny. The same boots that Thomson and Lillee bowled in the 1975/76, he brought a pair for me. I asked him about it when they were going in 1975/76, he did it and he never asked a penny for it. That pair of cricket boots lasted almost my entire career. I had three of them together, but that one lasted till a little early to the end of my career from 1976 to 1983.
SJ– Did you have any guidance from them on the field?
CC– Of course I had guidance in terms of bowling. As I told you, the best coach for a bowler are batsmen. They know what can get people out. They know what trajectories, what lengths you should be bowling. Remember, if you look at a guy like, say, Roy Fredericks, or even Sir Vivian Richards, and then you look at Clive Lloyd who is way taller than the both of them, then you have to bowl differently for those two guys. In the nets and have gotten them out. When we played regional cricket, against Barbados I have gotten Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge and Vivian Richards for that matter. The reason being, you have to be able to adjust your cricket based on what you know about them and maybe what they themselves would have taught you.
SJ– Earlier on in the conversation, you had mentioned about taking 8/29 against Pakistan in only your second Test in Port of Spain. Did that set a level of expectation on you by yourself or the fans or the team itself?
CC– A couple of things about that. 8/29 was my second Test. In my first Test, I got 3/65 and 4/47 I think. I got to check that.
SJ– I can tell you that. 3/85 and 4/47.
CC– Correct, I had 7 wickets in my first Test. That is not a bad start and in the next Test, 8 for 29. I’ll say that officially 8/29 is my best figure but I’ve bowled much better than that in my life. At Queen’s Park Oval, I got 5/40 against England in 1981 when we beat them a long way. In the first Test match [of that series] in Antigua, Let’s see what I got – 6/74 or 7/64, I could never remember that.
The 8/29 was a good spell but it was more or less in my mind, a semi-fluke. I bowled some deliveries that were really, really good. One of them I remember, it was a leg-cutter to Asif Iqbal – you can call him, a batsman who could bat out of this world and used his feet like you can’t believe – and it pitched outside legstump and it was caught behind by Deryck Murray. It was a leg break. I bowled to Intikhab Alam who I think I was batting at 9, an off-break. It pitched outside the off stump and hit leg stump. It was just my 2nd Test match. I was experimenting and it worked.
SJ– Did that kind of returns – 8 for 29 – put any pressure on you at all?
CC– No, not for me. All I wanteed to do was play and I managed to do that. But the main ingredient of fast bowling – and I’ll say this to anybody and you can confirm it with Courtney Walsh, or Sir Curtley Ambrose, or Allan Donald, Ian Bishop, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar or whomever – is to be superbly fit. From about 1968-69 when I started playing proper cricket in Guyana and until 1999-00, I would run somewhere between five and 20 miles every day, you know? And that’s just running, right before you go bowling. So for about 30 years, I ran about 15-20 miles every single day. That’s the main ingredient to being a good fast bowler. You have got to be physically fit!
You can’t get physically fit in a gym. You can get strong in the gym, you get fit by running in the park. Cricket is not an indoor game. Regardless of how much treadmill work you do, the breathing wouldn’t be the same as running up the hills or running in golf courses. Never.
SJ– Right now, we have a Mitchell Johnson who can be called an out-and-out fast bowler and perhaps, occasionally Dale Steyn or a Morne Steyn…
CC– Well, it depends on what you call fast. In my mind, to be fast – don’t misunderstand me, there are some very good bowlers who bowl somewhere between 75 and 90 mph, and bowl magnificent spells and get wickets – you have to be above 90 mph, to be a real fast bowler. It takes about one-third to one-half of a second from the hand to the bat. That’s fast bowling. Not the crappy 75 mph bowling.
SJ– I agree. I’m saying there are few bowlers now who can consistently hit that speeds. Mitchell Johnson does it. From time to time, Morkel, Steyn and Steve Finn do as well but not a lot of fast bowlers now. Why do you think that is?
CC– A couple of things have changed. The bowlers have recognized that by bowling fast, you are not going to necessarilty get the wickets. The batsmen have become much, much easier to get out than my time. I’ve got to tell you that. These batsmen nowadays are far too easy to get out because they can’t get out of their own way. Nobody leaves the ball, they all think they need to hit the ball. Once you are playing at the ball, I’m happy because you’re gonna get out. It’s as simple as that.
Cricket now has become a much faster game beginning with the Australians, you have got to give them credit for that. So the batsmen now, are, I’m not sure what the right word for it is…
SJ– Impatient? Would you say the batsmen now are more impatient?
CC– No, I’d say the batsmen are more invigored with the game becoming faster. I enjoy Test cricket and I love T20 too. I was doing a bit of commentary for ESPN during the WT20, and I love T20 with a passion. What it has done is that it has strode out the bowlers – fast and slow, it has made the batsmen much more agitated and the fielding has been out of this world. So, T20s have served their purpose. But a lot of the batsmen bring that T20 attitude to Test cricket and they lose out.
[At the time of recording], Sri Lanka played against England in the ODIs. Same thing happened to both teams. England played as if they were playing a T20. You can’t get less than 250 runs in a 50-overs game. That’s foolishness. Sri Lanka did the same thing couple of games earlier. The 50-over game becomes literally like a Test match! If you got good bowlers, in a Test match, you can get a team out in less than 50 overs now!
SJ– Can you imagine, for a second, if you’d had T20s in the 1970’s and the 80’s, when you guys were dominating the world, would the same thing have happened to the batsmen around the world at that time?
CC– I think so. But the T20 scores would have been very low. In those days, batsmen tended to line up the delivery more and left a lot more deliveries. When we won the world cup in 1979, in 60 overs, we managed 290-something  runs. Nowadays, South Africa, England, Australia, Pakistan, India, in 50 overs they could get 350 runs. Even the West Indies of today, if everyone bats well could get you 320+ because batting has become a little quicker and the bowling has become a little easier to hit. The bowling isn’t consistenly good or consistently fast.
SJ– Talking about T20s, franchise cricket has given rise to another problem, that of club v country. Recently, Sunil Narine stayed back in India to play in the IPL final and missing the camps for the West Indies Test series vs New Zealand…
CC– Sunil Narine situation is a very unique one, let me explain why I say that. Narine did not come to world’s notice by playing for the West Indies. He came to world’s notice by playing in the Champions League for Trinidad & Tobago (T&T). He was an average cricketer in T&T. Dinanath Ramnraine and Darren Ganga saw a little bit of promise in the guy and gave him a shot. He came to the Champions League and mesmerized the whole world. Suddenly, he is playing T20s but the guy hadn’t played for the West Indies at all. Narine has only played about 6 Test matches for the West Indies and he hasn’t a lot of ODIs either for that matter. So, he came about in an indirect way.
Most of us that played county cricket in the 70’s and 80’s, except for Gordon Greenidge and Andy Roberts – and may be Clive Lloyd, after playing Tests for the West Indies. Very few of us played county cricket before we played Test cricket. That’s the difference. Most of us ended up playing county cricket and learned a lot form it. However, we were first seen on the Test field. So Sunil Narine did not get seen by playing for the West Indies.
He wants to play for West Indies but owes a lot of his success and popularity for playing in T20s for T&T. Having played in the Champions League T20s, he owes a debt of gratitude for whomever selected him in the IPL – he plays for KKR correct? He has always played for them, correct? So, there you go. I can understand it. It’s not that the guy doesn’t play for the West Indies but his loyalties are severely divided and severely tested.
I have got great respect for the guys playing cricket now. The other day I was talking to Dwayne Bravo and he said to me, “Crofty, I know you guys played professional cricket, but it’s real hard these days to be a professional cricketer.” When we played, I’d play may be 3-4 months in the Caribbean, may be 2-3 months in England, and tour at the end of the year for 3 months. That’s about 6-8 months maximum in a year. These guys nowadays are playing 10-11 months a year. They have families, but they have to do what we could not do, and that is [to save for the future].
I was watching a program on NFL the other day. These guys are at the height of their professional career for may be 15 years and that’s not normal. Ten years is about normal. So, from age 20 to age 35, you got to make enough money to last you from the age 35 till age 85. It’s not easy. That’s why they do the sacrifices, of playing 10-11 months a year. It’s very hard on them. I know it’s very difficult to keep your intensity up for 11 months a year. But they are professionals and I really feel for them some times. But there is nothing they could do about it. The game has gone on, and has become, so lucrative and so expansive. They have no choice; they just have got to play.
SJ– okay. I understand that and I don’t blame a player making the choice one way or the other. Those are his personal choices…
CC– Well, I could tell you about those choices. Everybody called people like myself that went to South Africa in 1983 as mercenaries. I don’t like broaching that subject but I had to actually borrow money to get the down payment on the house I was building for my mother while I was playing for the West Indies. You heard what I just said?
CC– I had to borrow money to the get the down payment for the house I was building for my mother in Guyana!
That house was worth about $30,000 in 1978-79 and I was playing for the West Indies! I cannot now go to a grocery in Guyana, or Barbados or Trindiad & Tobago, Florida or the United Kingdom, and tell them my name is Colin Croft. They might probably call the police or the paramedics on me.
I had to buy stuff. I had to look after my son. So it’s all well and good for people to say all sorts of things. Cricketers made a very paltry living. Personally, I played professional cricket but I wasn’t a professional cricketer. There is a difference. For me, cricket was fun. A lot of fun. I had a lot of abilities. I suppose, if I were an American, I would have played American Football. With my height of 6 foot-6inches, and 220-230 pounds, I probably would have been a Tight End and a damn good one. I am sure of it because my attitude to sport was that, “Either do it properly or don’t do it at all.” Or for that matter, in life. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
There is no point in being a fast bowler if you can’t bowl fast, or bat, bowl or keep wickets. If you can’t do it properly, don’t do it.
SJ– You had tremendous abilities but your international playing career lasted only 5 years because of the travel to South Africa. Are there any regrets?
CC– Well, as I said, I played professional cricket for West Indies and I was paid for it. Paltry, but I was paid for it. My first series against Pakistan, I took 33 wickets, Man of the Series, West Indies Cricketer of the Year, Guyana Sportsman of the Year, and I got the equivalent of 3,000 TT dollars which in today’s money is $500, for playing 5 Tests and 2 ODIs. What the hell am I gonna buy with that? But, more than that, cricket for me was just fun.
I started out thinking I wanted to be an airline pilot before I was in high school. I didn’t how I was gonna get there. After I became a teacher from 1971-73, I became an Air Traffic Controller from 1973 till 1981. While I was playing for West Indies, I was an ATC as well. Playing for Kerry Packer, playing for West Indies and playing in South Africa, allowed me to get a proper education and get myself fully in to aviation.
SJ– Are there any left over bad feelings or regrets? Because, the ones that went to South Africa, were made in to outcasts and the pariahs…
CC– I’ll answer that. But do you know that when we played World Series Cricket for Kerry Packer, we were also banned?
CC– We were actually banned. The only reason we were brought back in to the West Indies team in 1979 was because we were the defending champions. The entire West Indies cricket team was banned from playing after we went to play in WSC in 1978. Isn’t that the same thing?
SJ– Which is why I’m asking you this: You didn’t go to play in South Africa for any ideological or philosophical reasons. You went there to make money. As you said, you had to borrow money to make a down payment for your mother’s house.
CC– More than that, I had to feed a child who was born in 1980.
SJ– So you made these choices for your existential crises…
CC– People make choices all the time. I made a choice not to live in Guyana and live in the U.S. Whatever the reason, I had to make a choice.
SJ– But when you hear from your peers from West Indies and outside the West Indies, making such claims about your character…
CC– It doesn’t matter one way or the other to me. You see, what people think about me, does not matter. I’d learned a long time ago that you can’t change people’s opinions. An opinion is neither right or worng; it belongs to the person suggesting it. What you think about me is your business, not mine. I don’t care what people think about me. I’ve never been to jail, never broke any rules in any country. I’ve been in a courtroom 3 times in my lifetime, all of them for normal reasons.
SJ– I agree, but that is now, in 2014. What about when these things were happening, in 1980’s?
CC– No sir, even back then. I’ve been the same person from the time I know me.
SJ– Okay. Fair enough. Are there any regrets at all that you played international cricket only for 5 years?
CC– I guess, in retrospect, when I thinking about it now, yes. I could have got to 200 wickets too. Or even 300 Test wickets. That’s the only regret. But so what? I played for the West Indies. I was honored enough to have been selected, I was good enough to be considered even in 2014 as one of the most devastating fast bowlers ever, my record stands up to anybody who’s been around, and I’ve had a good time.
What I would like to do is to transpose some of my experiences and my attitude to some of those playing or in the future. They are all too soft. They all think it’s a joke, and they laugh.
I have never, in my entire career, had a beer with any of my opposition. They were not my friends, why the hell am I having a beer with them? They are the enemy, I got to get them out by any means necessary. Your job as a batsman is try to get hundreds. I don’t clap when a batsman gets a hundred, you know? He is doing his job. When a bowler takes 5 wickets, I don’t clap. That’s his job. What do they think were picked for?
SJ– But there is appreciaition of sport as well, correct?
CC– At Test level, cricket is not a sport, it’s a job. It’s entertainment but it’s a job. Michael Jackson was the best entertainer. Every time he’d turn up at the Orange Bowl, where I saw him in 1983, or Rihanna when turns up in some park with 100,000 people watching her, you think she is doing it for free? It’s their damn job. She gets paid for that. Cricket might be entertainment for the people attending but for the 22 people involved in it, it’s their job, and therefore, It’s not funny.
Ian Chappell, the hardest man I played against in Australia, Greg Chappell, Boycott, Gooch, Gower, Botham, Majid Khan, Sunil Gavaskar… you call the names… Bruce Edgar, John Wright, all those guys. You ask any of them, they would tell you I have never disrespected them on or off the field. Never. We never talked on the field, I see them on the street, I say “Hello” but we were never friends. We were respected enemies in my mind. It’s like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. They never liked each other but Joe Frazier dies recognizing that without Ali, he would not have been anything.
We never said a word, you know? I never sledged anybody in my life. We didn’t need to. I have had a few run-ins here and there with people on the field, with cricketers and umpires, as you well know…
SJ– True. Truly a run in, of course.
CC– The beer off the field never happened. I recognized those guys were doing the same job as I was doing to the best of their abilities. People like Joel Garner, Mikey Holding, Clive Lloyd, and them, they’d share a beer, with mutual respect. I couldn’t. I was at war for 5 days every Test match, as simple as that.
SJ– Does this take an emotional toll on you, when you are so focused and so intense?
CC– No. When I went home and talked to my son, I was a big teddy bear. He’d tell you that.
I couldn’t be bothered once I left the cricket field. It’s like doing cricket commentary. What I said last night, I can’t remember now, because, what I said was exactly what I thought at that moment. End of story. It doesn’t come with me to tomorrow. That’s how I operate in every part of my life. When I fly, you make a good landing, wonderful. Next time, you might not make such a good landing, but you walked away from it, still wonderful! You know what I mean? Life goes on. You don’t stress about the small things, man.
SJ– Fantastic. I want to leave the conversation on that note, Crofty. That’s perfect.
CC– Whatever you say, sir. Thanks for the opportunity.
SJ– My pleasure. Thank you.
Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman