Subash Jayaraman: You were the captain of the Under-19 West Indies team and the Barbados captain as well at one time. Did those opportunities to lead a side allow you to dream of captaining the West Indies team also?
Ian Bradshaw: 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 West Indies 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 story about the opportunity I might have had to lead the West Indies ODI team. We were playing a match in India. I was asked to be the vice-captain for the game if necessary. I think Brian Lara was the captain, he didn’t play the match and Chris Gayle led the team. I remember at the water break, Chris 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 West Indies], I can live with that.
SJ: You were always known as a guy who put substance over style. But, naturally, you associate West Indies players with style over substance. Would that have been a right fit for you?
IB: I do not quite agree that West Indies 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, the 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. Then in the later years, Brian Lara. We have always had players in the West Indies 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 were an accurate bowler who tied the batsmen down, which may not work in the death overs. But Lara made you bowl at 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?
IB: Within a team environment, 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 say 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 [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 on in the team when I was there.
SJ: You look at Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar – both phenomenal batsmen, but not great captains. Would West Indies cricket have been better served if someone else had been captaining the team and Brian Lara been given the responsibility of just batting?
IB: I don’t want to compare the different teams, because you should understand that Sachin played in a team where he had the support of so many other greats at the time. Brian didn’t have that. Quite often we sit on the sidelines and make a judgement 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, they may not have records that stack up against the all-time great captains, but you just look a bit deeper for reasons why they were not successful during their tenure. In our case in the West Indies, in the last 20 years or so, 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 guy is a bad captain just because the performance on the field didn’t quite match up.
SJ: One of the Tests that you played in was a thrilling draw at St John’s. The last pair of Corey Collymore and Fidel Edwards batted a little more than three overs to secure the draw. But, in the second innings you bowled 40 overs including a marathon 25-over spell. How exhausted 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, so the batsmen were not taking any chances. It was a flat wicket, and any batsman can sit back and score. It wasn’t easy. I kept running in, hitting my lengths and trying to create opportunities, but those guys batted really well. The opening batsmen [Wasim Jaffer] dug in and he got a good score for himself. I just told myself: “Ian, you can’t put in all this effort for no 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 out the game was greatly reduced. I think that was important.
If you had to go back to some of my first-class games, I grew up bowling long spells playing for Barbados. 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 get through. What I will tell you is that after the game I was very tired. After a couple of days, the stiffness really kicked in. In the heat of the moment, you are bowling 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 have played more Tests. 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 wouldn’t have fit in the top four consistently. That was one of the reasons 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 five. They were the games that I will always remember. It is always a cricketer’s dream to play Test cricket. 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: The 2007 World Cup was the home tournament for you guys, but West Indies’ World Cup campaign ended disappointingly. You lost three or four games in the Super Eights. 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 final, we felt that we had a combination that could have done pretty well in the World Cup. Unfortunately, we lost our way in the second-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 one of the guys who was in that group who is still playing now in ODIs and T20s version that has come up. You could have seen that the experience has come in through, to the World T20 that we won in 2012. You can see some of the hunger, having been burnt earlier in the World Cup. You can see what it meant to guys like Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, when they played in that World Cup. They were 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.
We saw panic in England’s 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 were uncertain about which length to bowl
SJ: Was there any additional pressure of playing in front of your home crowd, being expected to win the trophy?
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 win. 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: In the 2004 Champions Trophy final against England, you had a partnership of 71 with Courtney Browne which won the game for West Indies. A listener asks if you get tired of being asked of that partnership?
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 I 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 side, some sort of perspective in the game that they were considering that you never thought about. I remember someone asking me before if it was good to have taken the light and come back when it was brighter. 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 fours and sixes. They appreciate the intricate turns the game can take. It is always good to reflect on finer moments with persons like that.
SJ: Regarding the decision to stay – was that yours and Courtney’s decision, or did the dressing room also chip in?
IB: That was solely Courtney’s 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.
SJ: What were you thinking when Chanderpaul was 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 English guys celebrating 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 four runs an over when I came in, so we didn’t have to worry about the run rate.
What they did early was, they brought their key bowlers in [Steven] Harmison and Andrew Flintoff. Those were the bowlers who could contain us. There was Alex Wharf and Darren Gough – fine bowler but he wasn’t having one of his best days. We knew that once we got past their strike bowlers, we would have to throw it away then. 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 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 it was a multi-nation tournament. There would have been some Indian fans there, some Sri Lankan fans, some Australian. Anybody that was not an English fan was a West Indies 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 40 or 50 runs to get. But we knew that if one of us had to get out, and still had runs to get, Corey is that sort of never-say-die character who would come out there and try really, really hard. We still back that we could have gotten home if one of us had gotten out. But when you are playing cricket, and can take it home, you don’t leave it to the next man. And hey, the rest is history.
SJ: You have been playing for the Wanderers Cricket Club (in Barbados) for a while and have captained them. How has the club cricket scene in Barbados changed over the years from when you first started playing cricket?
IB: When I started playing cricket, I found that there were a lot more mature cricketers playing in the top flight. More guys had that level of game awareness. That has changed a bit in the last five to ten 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 still see a lot of unnecessary mistakes being made at that level. I think that is probably one of the most striking things coming out. Certainly there is no question of a lack of talent; there is a lot of talent seen in every weekend that you turn out. The covered wickets we have now has ensured that we have more play, which is good, because where we play and the torrential nature of rains, sometimes 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 are increasing because you have a situation where guys find it easier to gravitate down into the lower divisions, maybe for family reasons or lack of motivation for playing at the higher level. There always seems to 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 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 faces 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.