I grew up with my family watching cricket, and so I knew the basics of the game without actually knowing who any of the players were. I believe the first player I ever really "knew" was Lara, when he first broke the record, because everyone was talking about him. But I wouldn't consider myself as being a cricket fan back then. It was probably a few years later when I began following the game more, and I just loved Curtly Ambrose. So while I liked Lara for having a world record and all, it was really Ambrose who I admired when I began to become a cricket fan. That explains my semi-obsession with the guy.Who was your first cricket "hero"?
It's a part of life here. Even if you don't follow the game, you've probably played it as a child. Most non-professional cricket is of the tennis ball variety, and you generally don't have to go too far to find a casual game being played on any given weekend. I've seen a few tape ball cricket being played, but it's not as popular as it is in places like the subcontinent. Schoolkids play cricket during their lunch breaks. The actual age-level school teams are usually leather ball cricket though, and from those school teams they pick the most talented to join an overall West Indies youth camp from where they get the U-15, U-17, U-19 teams from. Companies arrange their own inter-department or inter-branch tournaments (usually tennis ball). Sometimes you might get a town- or city-wide league (again, usually tennis ball). I think at one time we even had a full country-wide tennis ball league and they broadcast the matches on TV. The next step up would be the club levels. Semi-professional guys, mostly. The most famous would have to be the Queen's Park Cricket Club, but there are quite a few others. They form what will be our nationwide tournament, and the national First Class team is chosen from those clubs. The next level is of course, the Trinidad national team, called the "Red Force".What can you tell me about local cricket in Trinidad and Tobago?
Do you play yourself?
Not past backyard level. Left arm orthodox who bowls off the wrong foot and right-handed batsman who loves the leg side. But I've got great memories. My strength is in the umpiring side of things. Will still turn my arm over if there's a game around though. We're naturally a very friendly people, so once it's not an actual match happening, it's easy to just stand at a fielding position in any game anywhere in the country, and eventually you'll find yourself in the game before long. Made a few friends that way, actually.
How does Trinidad compare with Tobago?
It's all one country, but the differences between the two islands can be startling sometimes. Trinidad is the more industrial of the two, getting most of its revenue from the petrochemical industry, while Tobago is more tourism-based. There are absolutely amazing places in Trinidad that foreigners can and do visit, but we don't cater to the tourists as much as the sister island. Part of that actually has to do with the geographic history of the islands. Trinidad was once attached to Venezuela in South America (actually we have a fault line running right across the northern part of the country), so Trinidad shares a lot of the same resources as that country, namely oil. Tobago was volcanic in nature, so it has a different sort of makeup, geographically speaking. There are plants, animals, and natural formations that are just more suited to one of the two islands or the other. I think both islands are equally stunning, but Tobago is perhaps just a little more pristine because they cater to the tourists more. Stuff is more expensive there as a result though, not a fan of that. And Tobagonians HATE it whenever people just say "Trinidad" when referring to both islands.
Aee you for or against West Indian nations playing separately in international cricket? What if it was only in T20 cricket?
Test cricket, I don't see it happening. Our individual club level structure just isn't up to the standard of international cricket, and to have to suddenly have a QPCC vs. Victoria or Merry Boys vs. Powergen game being officially First Class just seems...dead wrong. Same with some of the smaller countries and their club structure. In T20 cricket though, I can see that being something viable, but we're going to have to make it so that each nation has to actually qualify for the T20 WC and not just automatically end up in the tournament.
On that topic, could someone like Brian Lara have carried T&T's batting line-up against Test bowlers?
He did it in West Indies colours often enough, didn't he? Yes, I think he could have. Lara always liked to dominate bowlers, but he could also protect a weaker batting partner by absorbing the pressure of farming the strike if needed.
What is your all-time T&T XI?
Jeez, this is a question I've never had to answer before. We've had some good players over the years though. I'll just pick a First Class team for now:
Daren Ganga (c) - Even if his average was in the teens, I'd take him for captaincy. In his time as a player, I don't think there was a better regional captain than him.
Gus Logie - As far as I know, he's the first man to have an international Man of the Match award despite not scoring a run or bowling a ball. He was that good of a fielder.
Jeffrey Stollmeyer - Great batsman, even better administrator.
Brian Lara - Because you have to.
Larry Gomes - Brilliant player, seemed to bat better the more aggressively you bowled to him.
Gerry Gomez - No matter how you define an all-rounder, I think he would fit the criteria.
Deryck Murray (wk) - He was okay as a batsman but I'm picking him for his wicketkeeping.
Ian Bishop - God, I wish the guy never got injured. Amazing bowler. And as he tends to say, he's good enough to have had a couple of FC hundreds.
Mervyn Dillon - The guy led our attack in the post Ambrose and Walsh days. And he wasn't bad either. Guy is physically imposing though, I saw him IRL once and I was legit scared. But really cheerful personality.
Rangy Nanan - Spinners would have had to be either him, Dinanath Ramnarie (maiden over specialist) or Dave Mohammed (celebration specialist). Had to go with Rangy. Sonny "Chucker" Ramadhin was never in contention.
Ravi Rampaul - He came to the fore in one of the U-17 World Cups, I believe. And he was fast, even at that age. Injuries didn't help his speed, but he became a "movement bowler" and, just like Kemar Roach, even more effective when his pace slowed and let the ball do the talking rather than the speed.
Notable misses: Vic Stollmeyer, Shannon Gabriel, Phil Simmons
I think for List A cricket, just pretty much pick our team from this year's List A tournament. For T20s, pick the squad that went to the first-ever Champions' League, but find a way to add Sunil Narine into it.
f you could poach one capped, one uncapped player from other countries for the West Indies XI, who would you take?
I wouldn't. I actually think that despite our continued poor showings, we're playing the guys that need to be played right now. It breaks off another piece of my heart every time I see poor performances, but the team has so much raw talent right now.
But since you're playing Devil's Advocate here, I'd love to see a guy like Trent Boult in our bowling attack. Him and Roach...wow. As for uncapped, hmm...I really don't follow the First Class stuff around the world THAT much, so I'm going to have to go with an IPL player and say Nitish Rana, who I still can't believe has not played internationally for India as yet.
Are there any players who've played for the West Indies who you don't thonk would have made any other Test team?
Where to even begin with this one...short answer is yes. You have to remember that over the years, we've had a lot of political stuff happen. From WICB vs. WIPA, to sponsorship rows, to (back in the day) racial issues. We've also had the ends of many eras, whether it was the awesome foursome, to Walsh and Ambrose, to Lara and Chanderpaul. Players get shoehorned into the team and because of pressure and all that, they never go anywhere. It's probably also a lack of faith in the players too. As you have said recently, John Campbell has, for you, become the sort of player who you just want to stick with for no other reason than you just want the guy to do good. You realise that his last ODI score was 179 and he's not played a single ODI since? Yes, against Ireland, I think...but you'd think that he'd have at least played an ODI since then. So it's just possible that we haven't seen the best of these players at the international level yet. They just haven't gotten the chance to show it.
Who would win in a fight, twelve Blackwood sized Rahkeems or one Rahkeem sized Blackwood?
Blackwood is definitely quick and agile, but most people don't realise that Rahkeem is also agile. He's not in the slips just because he's large, he's quick even regardless of his size. I've seen the guy wicketkeep standing up to the stumps in a match and only let a handful of byes go through. He has hand speed. I'm taking Jimbo in either scenario.
What is your ideal World Cup format?
For all that's said about the 50-over game, it's proven to be pretty exciting from time to time. Now there have been a lot of introductions over the years, from the SuperSubs to changing the PowerPlays to changing the ball after 35 overs, to a new ball at either end, to free hits, to whatever else the ICC decides in the future. There has also been the advent of T20, T10, Hong Kong Sixes, and various other formats. Here's the be-all, end-all...cricket is, by nature, not a quick game. Now the absolute slowest game I can think of right now is golf, and that doesn't have as many rabid fans as cricket has but their fans go nuts seeing a man hit a ball 200 yards. American football has way more rabid fans as cricket does, and yet our T20 games take longer than the average football match. T10 cricket has its advantages in that you can maybe squeeze a game into two hours, but is that actual pure cricket? No, it's not. It doesn't test players. A guy can be out in every over and still the team gets a good score because number eleven can biff the odd one for six. I rather like the 40-over games that the English have been playing for years now for a World Cup. But for something like the Olympics, you'd want a T10. T20 is going to be way too long for the associate-nation viewers to take notice of the sport.
What on earth happened to Adrian Barath?
Don't know. He probably just grew up and didn't see his future in cricket. Remember he was extremely young when he represented the West Indies.
Are you for or against The Hundred format?
It's different, that's for sure. But I've seen a lot of different things tried over the years. I will have to get used to the bowling rules more than anything, but I don't see it as detrimental. All my sims in ICC 2020 have gone horribly wrong though, so maybe I'm missing something. I'm interested in it, I'll reserve judgement until it's statistically significant.
If you could create a new format of cricket, what would you change?
So many things. The boundary law for one. No superman catches over the rope. You're over the rope, I don't care whether you're grounded prior or not, it's a boundary four or six if you touch the ball over the rope. The no-ball law for two. You need to touch down before the line, not touch down after or slide before and then deliver. But I'd also make things more bowler-friendly. Three fielders behind square on the leg side, not counting the wicketkeeper. Balls that pitch both outside leg and off stump are to be considered for LBW, whether you play a shot or not. If Gatting could get bowled to one that pitched outside leg, why can't LBW be the same? Any LBW review that hits the stumps is out. David Shepherd said it best in the early days of DRS: you only need one fraction of the ball to dislodge the stumps so it has to be out. I'm also a proponent of ICC-approved "substances" to alter the ball. This is controversial, but pretty much every team does it in some way or the other, so just make the damn thing legal and be finished with the discussion. BAN ANY BETTING COMPANY FROM SPONSORING A MATCH. I don't care if it's Bet365 or BETway or CricBet or whatever the hell you call your company, you deserve to be shot for officially sponsoring a game.
I should stop before I get myself into trouble, if I haven't already done so.
Do you have an opinion on Darren Stevens?
I didn't know the guy before. I thought this would have been something negative. But it isn't. After a bit of reading, I do have an opinion and I say excellent on him. He's an unsung hero. One of those guys who plies his trade in the County Championship while never being outstanding. He's outstanding enough, and that's more than enough for me to respect the guy. Unless there's something Wikipedia and Google are missing, that is.
And finally, I am sorry for any typos in those questions
No worries, I only counted two. It took me about three hours to answer everything to my satisfaction. Hope the answers are enough to stimulate further discussion. Sorry if I myself typo-ed from a side.
(EDIT: One or two words changed to make more sense.
DOUBLE EDIT: So Stevens had allegations. So what? Found not guilty...then again, OJ Simpson was found not guilty too...whatever, guy is a great cricketer.)