Roberts puts pride back into tourists

Click to follow
The Independent Online
I played last week for a John Paul Getty XI against the West Indies at Wormsley. It could have been seen as a nice break for the tourists, but no travelling team likes to play extra matches and this squad doesn't seem in the mood to play friendlies either. I, along with most other bowlers, was carted around the ground, mainly by Carl Hooper. I'm glad I didn't have to bat.

I put this restored professional attitude down largely to the impact of Andy Roberts, an old colleague of mine for a short while at Leicestershire. As the West Indies manager, Andy has pulled the team together and restored some of the pride in its performance that was always the side's hallmark when he was playing for his country. For the Getty game, the players behaved impeccably all day, signing autographs and chatting to the crowd, but there was a purpose about their cricket. Everybody took what was something of a scratch game seriously. They seem to have their self-respect back.

Brian Lara, for example, was rested, but he still did all the stretching exercises before play and stayed - or was made to stay - at the ground all day as part of the squad. I know many an England tourist who would have been moaning at having to hang around in similar circumstances if not required.

The sending home of Winston Benjamin after Lord's for disciplinary reasons may prove to be the turning point of the tour for the West Indies. There is no doubt Benjamin is a good bowler, but his departure sent a message from Roberts to the rest of the team. He wasn't going to tolerate prima donnas. Team spirit was more important than any one individual. It was a reminder from someone who has first-hand experience of the way things were in the successful days of Clive Lloyd's captaincy, and was an indication that those standards which may have slipped over the last few years now apply again to West Indian teams.

There is also no doubt that Andy believes he can improve the West lndies overall. He said to me that he thought Vasbert Drake's bowling would be more effective if he quickened his approach to the wicket and sustained his run-up better. After three days with Roberts, the all-rounder was bustling in and took eight wickets in the tourists' game against Kent at Canterbury.

Obviously, with his experience, Andy is going to be a big help with the fast bowlers. With Curtly Ambrose, though, he is more likely to leave it to the player to sort out his difficulties. Curtly, who frets just like anybody over his performance, seemed in a decent mood at Wormsley despite his disappointing form so far in the Test matches, but he is a proud cricketer and will want to preserve his career figures.

Roberts is right to leave him to his own devices. From playing with Curtly at Northamptonshire, I know self-motivation is not a problem for him. The main thing for all the bowlers is at least the team is now winning again. Such success makes turning over the arm that bit easier.

I am not sure Roberts will have that much to say to players like Richie Richardson, who despite a good score at Edgbaston, still looks to be struggling a bit.The West Indies captain's footwork certainly seemed all over the place last week from where I was standing at slip. Where Roberts will definitely help Richardson is with his captaincy. He'll suggest tactical switches during intervals in play.

Some say that Andy Roberts is a bit remote, but he loves to talk cricket, more so than many of today's professionals. He invested the money he made from cricket wisely in developing a deep sea fishing business. With those off-field interests in order, he is now, as West Indies manager, applying his mind full time to what he knows best, winning Test matches.

Those brought in to the England squad for the Old Trafford Test face determined tourists. John Emburey's recall at 43 is remarkable. The West Indies have plenty of left-handers so an off-spinner is important, but Watkinson is in the squad for that. If both play the XI loses its balance. Tufnell's inclusion could have brought the attack some left-arm spin. The leg spin of Ian Salisbury, fresh from 11 wickets for Sussex, might also have been better. I know Ray lllingworth values experience, but the selection of Emburey smacks of desperation. We will see.