Couch Talk 136 (Play)
Host: Subash Jayaraman
Subash Jayaraman (SJ)– Hello and welcome to couch talk. Today’s guest is former west indian cricketer ian bradshaw. He talks about his playing career, his aspirations to lead West Indies, playing under brian lara’s captaincy, club cricket in Barbados and the famous 2004 champions trophy final amongst other things,
Welcome to the show, Ian! Thanks for being on.
You were the captain of the u-19 West Indies (WI) team in your time and you were Barbados captain as well. Did those opportunities to lead a side allow you to dream of captaining the WI team also, at one time?
Ian Bradshaw (IB)– I think it is a dream of any young cricketer to lead their nation in international cricket. I won’t deny the fact that as I grew up, one of the things I wanted to do in my time was to lead the WI team. Unfortunately, that did not happen. But I got to lead my native country, Barbados. That was a great opportunity for me. We actually won the cup that year. And then, also before that I led the u-19 team. That was a privilege as well.
I can give you a brief story about the opportunity I might have had to lead the WI ODI team. We were playing a match in India. i was asked to be the vice-captain for the game if necessary, if the need be. I think Brian Lara was the captain, he didn’t play the match and Chris Gayle led the team. I remember that at the water break, Chris said that if we are on the field and he had to go off quickly, and I thought, “Ian, this is your moment in time.” Just as I was about to get the guys together and make a plan I saw Chris running back down the stairs and thought, “Oh no! Opportunity gone.” My dream was never realised. But to have played [for WI], I can live with that.
SJ– You were always known as a guy who puts substance over style. But, naturally and a lot of the times, you associate WI players as style-over-substance. Any player that you can think of, when you think of WI player, you think of flair more than anything else. Would that have been a right fit for you in that team? Because, later on you had Darren Sammy as a captain, who was in your mould, as in someone who delivered, tried to do the things that the team required rather than a superlative cricketer.
IB– I do not quite agree that WI cricketers are all style and flair. We have been labelled as that for years. It is true that we have been blessed with guys who are athletic enough and explosive enough that their performances are ones that the people want to come out and see. Over the years, he great Sir Garfield Sobers – he batted and fielded and even in the way he walked to the wicket – it was so captivating. Then you had someone like Sir Vivian Richards – so dominant and powerful. In the later years, in Brian Lara. We have always had players in the WI who were naturally blessed, who play the game well and play in a manner that is attractive to watch. Not everyone can do that. So, you find a person, probably like myself, who just tries to concentrate and get the most out of our limited talent. We let our talent speak, our performances speak for themselves.
SJ– You had mentioned earlier about Brian Lara as captain. It was said that he wasn’t the best leader of men. He was a terrific batsmen, of course, he was fearless as a batsman. But, as a leader of men, to put it mildly, he was ordinary. Especially when it comes to you, as a bowler in the team, you had certain strengths. You were an accurate bowler who kept the batsmen tied down which may not work in the death overs because the batsmen are going hell for leather. But, Lara made you bowl in the death even though it didn’t really suit you. What are your thoughts on Lara’s captaincy, on how he utilised you as a player within the team?
IB– Within a team, you have to understand that we all have our places. I remember clearly, in my early stages, Brian speaking to the team about understanding our role within the team, doing things that would be for the good of the team. That’s what we tried to achieve as a group and Brian as a leader tried to get the most out of the team. We could all sit back and see that this guy’s captaincy was strange, some of his choices were questionable. Once you are a leader, you get all those questions.
But I didn’t have any problems playing under Brian Lara, nor did I have any problem under Shiv(narine Chanderpaul). They all had individual strengths. But when you play as a team, it is a matter of how you fit into the team concept and what you are trying to achieve as a team. That is what we tried to focus in the team when I was there.
SJ– There is one point that I want to ask. There are people like this, like Brian Lara, supremely gifted. You can look at Sachin Tendulkar also, in India. Both are phenomenal batsmen, but not great captains. Would WI cricket have been better served if someone else have been captaining the team and Brian Lara been given the responsibility of just batting – nothing else – bat and score your runs – team is better served that way than him as the leader of the team.
IB– I don’t want to compare the different teams, because you could understand that Sachin played in a team where he had the support of so many other greats of the time. Brian didn’t have that. Quite often we sit on the sidelines and make a judgment on whether that guy is a good captain or a bad captain. Sometimes you are as good as the team that you select, that you are asked to lead. I think it will be really folly for us to say that those great guys were not great captains. Yes, indeed they may not have records that may stack up against the all times great captains, but you just look a bit deeper for reasons why they were not successful during their tenure. In our case in the WI, in the last 20 or so years, we haven’t had good results. I don’t think anyone captaining can take responsibility for that. We, just as a group, were not strong enough to put up consistent performances. I can’t support the theory that this guys is a bad captain just because of the performance on the field didn’t quite match up.
SJ– Fair enough, I agree.
I want to talk about your Test career. Unfortunately, you didn’t get to play too many for the WI. But, one of the Test that you played in was an absolutely thrilling draw at St. Johns. The WI last pair for Pedro Collins and Fidel Edwards batted for a little more than 3 overs to secure the draw. But, personally for you, in the 2nd innings you bowled 40 overs including a marathon 25 over spell. First of all, how tired were you after that spell?
IB– It was a really tiring day on a flat wicket. The Indian team had enough time in the game to build up a lead, the batsmen were not taking any chances. It was a flat wicket, and any batsmen can sit back and score. It wasn’t easy. I kept running in and hit my lengths and trying to create opportunities, but those guys were batting well. The opening batsmen [Wasim Jaffer] dug in, and don’t remember how much he got, but he got a god score for himself. I just told myself that, “Ian, you have to put in all this effort before getting any reward.” I got a couple of wickets or so in that match. More importantly, I was able to control the scoring. I didn’t let the game get away from us. By the time they chose to declare, the time that we had to bat in the game was greatly reduced. I think that was important.
SJ– But, 25 overs on the trot! I think you started before lunch on day-4 and ended your spell well after Tea on day-4. That is some super-human effort. Seriously, how exhausted were you?
IB– If you had to go back to some of my first class games, I grew up bowling long spells playing for Barbados – maybe not that long. Once you are fit, it is just a matter of mental strength, trying to keep your concentration for that length of time. Once you put in your work before hand, you will go through. What I will tell you is that after the game I was very tired. After a couple of days, the stiffness kicked in. The players asked me what was I thinking. In the heat of the moment, you are bowling competitively for your country and you are doing what has to be done. That was probably my third Test. I was new into the team. You don’t really want to not have the ball in your hand. I was trying to make a name for myself. I didn’t think too much when I was given the opportunity.
SJ– I am assuming you would have loved to play more Tests for the WI. Why do you think that did not pan out that way?
IB– I will be really honest and say that in Test cricket you need your four most penetrative bowlers to play. if you look at it, I probably won’t have fit in the top 4 consistently. That was some of the reason why I didn’t go on to play more Test matches. I started late in my career age wise. I wasn’t going to play 15 years of Test cricket. But, as I said, I am happy to have played the 5. They were the games that I will always remember. It is always a cricketer’s dream to play a Test match. You can play some ODI games and have some success, but to play ODI games and not play Tests would have been a disappointment for me. So, I am happy to have played the bit of Test cricket that I did.
SJ– Fair enough.
I want to talk about your ODI career as well. of course, there was the famous 2004 Champions Trophy win. Before we get to that, I want to talk about a couple of different thigns. The 2007 World Cup was held in the Caribbean, it was the home tournament for you guys, but WI’s World Cup campaign ended disappointingly. You lost 3 or 4 games in the Super-8 stages. What are your memories from that World Cup?
IB– As you quite rightly said, it was disappointing, let’s not make any joke about it. We were hosting the World Cup for the first time and we felt that we could have done much better. Having played in the Champions Trophy in the previous year and having reached the finals, we felt that we had a combination that could have done pretty well in the World Cup. Unfortunately, we lost our way in the 2nd round games. We got into a bad run. In the world cup where every team is tuned in and looking to win, it is pretty hard to catch up once you lose a couple of games. we were really disappointed as a group. We felt that we had the talent and playing at home, we thought that we should have gone further than that in that competition.
But, guys who were in that group who are still playing now and playing ODIs and the T20 version that has come up. You could have seen that the experience has come in through, to the T20 World Cup that we won in 2012. You can see that some of the hunger having been burnt earlier in the World Cup. You can see guys like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, when they played in that World Cup, you can see them saying “This is our opportunity and we are going to seize it.” yes, it was disappointing, but it did serve as a motivation for future success.
SJ– Was there any additional pressure of playing in front of your home crowd, being expected to win the trophy in front of the home fans? Was there additional pressure for the players at that time?
IB– Yes, there was that expectation because it was held in the Caribbean. But, we knew that. We were not going to use that as an excuse. There was pressure, always. But, it was a special occasion for us to host the World Cup. We were expected to have won. I said before, if you looked at our record into the World Cup, it was fantastic. It was one that actually suggested that we had the tools and the group to progress further. We let down our people, we understood that. We felt it. But, sometimes in sport, these are the kind of disappointment that sportsmen have to deal with.
SJ– I guess so.
Let’s go back to that 2004 Champions Trophy final against England. You had a partnership of 71 with Courtney Browne which won the game for WI. A listener asks: Do you get asked about that partnership with Courtney Browne a lot? If so, do you get tired of it?
IB– There is no doubt that you get asked questions about how the game was, if you were nervous, if it was dark. There were a lot of things that they want to know. Do you get tired of it? Not really. I can’t say I get tired of it, because I am usually asked that question by different people, with a different perspective on what they are trying to find out.
It is one that I always try to take my time and go back and think it through. There is always someone who watched it from the sideline, some sort of perspective in the game that they were considering that you never thought about. i remember someone asking me before about if it was good to have taken off for light and come back, and we decided to stay. We had the momentum, the opposition was down. To give them a chance to recharge and regroup, would not have been the best option. Especially when you are speaking to someone who is a true cricket lover and not who is just watching for the 4s and 6s. They appreciate the intricate turns the game can take. It is always good to reflect on finer moments with persons like that.
SJ– Regarding going off for light and you just said that you decided to stay. Was that yours and Courtney’s decision or did the dressing room also chip in on the decision?
IB– That was solely Courtney and my decision. I don’t remember a lot of messages coming out of the dressing room. I guess they trusted our instincts. What I can remember is looking at our guys on the balcony cheering our runs. You can feel that energy coming from within. But, I guess, they knew that between Courtney and I, we had a pretty good understanding of the game situations and tactics. I don’t think there was any need to send in messages. All we wanted to do was concentrate and keep the pressure on the opposition and let them worry about the home support put against them. That was that.
SJ– It was a 71 run partnership for the 9th wicket, unbroken. What was your thought as Chanderpaul gets out with the score on 147. What was said between you and Courtney when you walked in, and when the partnership was developing?
IB– One thing I remember is the celebration that the English guys had when they got Shiv out. They were ecstatic. We came back and watched them on the video. They probably thought at that time that Shiv was the last hurdle they had to get past. When I walked out to bat with Courtney, it was just one of these games. We’d played a lot of cricket together, he was my captain for so many years. i just joined in and said, “Skip’, what do we do now?” He said that we have a lot of overs to bat and the asking rate was not anything challenging. It was just above 4 runs an over when I came in, we didn’t have to worry about the run rate.
What they did was, they brought their key bowlers in (Steven) Harmison and Andrew Flintoff. Once we got past them, those are the bowlers who could contain us. There was Guy Wharf and (Darren) Gough – fine bowler but he wasn’t having a fine day. We knew that once we get past their strike bowlers, we would have had to thrown it away [to not win from there]. It was just a matter of understanding. Then we got some momentum and we saw panic in their eyes. You could see the uncertainty, which you could see in their decision making. Bowlers who were seaming the ball all over the place, now they were uncertain about which length to bowl. We got a perfect chance to put the pressure back onto them and then just take it home.
By that time, funnily enough, the crowd really got into it. Yes, we were playing in England but I think it was a multination tournament. There would have been some Indian fans there, some Sri Lankan fans, some Australian. Anybody that was not an English fan was a WI fan that day. You could hear the crowd just come to life with every single over that passed. We just rode that wave straight home.
We played a lot of cricket with Corey Collymore too, we could have left him with a bit of 40 or 50 runs to get. But we knew that if one of us had to get out, and he had runs to get, Corey is that sort of never-say-die character who would come out there and try really, really hard. He could still bat and we could have gotten home if one of us had gotten out. But when you are playing cricket, and you can play and take it home, you don’t leave it to the next man. And hey, the rest is history!
I want to ask you one last question and then wrap it up. you have been playing for the Wanderers Cricket club for a while and have been an ex-captain. I just want to know how the club cricket scene in Barbados, how it has changed over the years from when you first started playing cricket to how it is now?
IB– When I started to play cricket, I found that there were a lot more mature cricketers, playing in the top flight. More guys had that level of awareness. That has changed a bit in the last 5-10 years in particular. You have now a younger average age of cricketers in our top flight. While these guys are very talented, because they have not played that level of cricket yet, you see a lot of unnecessary mistakes being made at that level. I think that is probably one of the most striking things coming out, for me. Certainly there is no question of lack of talent, there is a lot of talent seen in every weekend that you turn out. The covered wickets we have now as well has ensured that we have more play and the pitch is good, because where we play and the torrential nature of rains we get one harsh shower and that is it for the day. Now, because of the covers, we get better services to play cricket consistently. The hope now is to get a little bit more experience coming through with these guys to play a smarter brand of cricket.
SJ– Why do you think that change has happened?
IB– What would have happened over the years is that you find the average age of the other clubs [in top flight] are increasing because you find it easier to come and grab a kid down into the lower divisions for family reasons or lack of motivation for playing at higher level. I always say that there should be a push in many clubs just to find new talent. In the search of this new talent you always push in younger guys all the time and pushing out some guys out who may not go on and play Barbados cricket. But, in the past, those [experienced] guys would have been good servants to your local club. Because of that, and because you find so much of those mature face pushed down to the lower division, it has made it easier for these younger guys to get to play in the top flight. Years ago, what would have happened is that those guys would have had to sit on the sidelines, be a 12th man for a couple of games and work their way into the team. Now, the guys probably get into the team a bit too easy. Because of that, they are not valuing the play enough.
On that note, Ian, thank you so much for spending this evening with me. Thank you so much for taking the time out.
IB– Thank you. It is a pleasure.
IB– Bye, bye!
Episode transcribed by: Bharathram Pattabiraman