In 2001, during a short fast bowling camp legendary West Indies fast bowler Andy Roberts spotted two young talents, who were drafted into the Bangladesh national team immediately at his advice. One of them, Talha Jubair, lost out to injury but the other one went on to make a legend of himself despite all the adversaries. Roberts, who played 47 Tests and claimed 202 wickets, spoke about his favourite student Mashrafee bin Murtaza during a conversation with a group of Bangladeshi journalists at Taunton on Sunday. Here are the excerpts:
Question: Do you think all the criticism that Mashrafee is receiving at the moment is fair?
Andy Roberts: I am a long-time fan of him. I know him as Kowshik. When fans expect something and they don’t get it the only way they can say is back criticising. I think he has a long career, I think he is probably one of your better cricketers and better cricket brain that comes out in Bangladesh.
Question: He is now 35. Do you think he has still some cricket left in him?
Andy Roberts: If you are playing to move on, I think after the World Cup its best time for Bangladesh to move on. Kowshik has done his time, you can see that he is a solider for Bangladesh and it’s good to see that he is moving on in a different direction.
Question: What are the characteristics of Mashrafee that made you impressed when you taught him the basics?
Andy Roberts: Well, he was 16 or 17 and he was eager to bowl. When I left Bangladesh I advised against trying him to do too much. He is one of those bowlers who would say no. I find something in him that I found in myself when I was younger - always trying to bowl and he never gave up this attitude.
Question: Are you surprised that he is still carrying on nearly 20 years after he announced his arrival?
Andy Roberts: I am surprised he is still labouring. Because I find him labouring after the wicket after the knee operations that he has had and people must remember and respect that he has gone a hell of a lot, his body has gone a hell of a lot.
Question: Did you speak to him since coming to UK this summer?
Andy Roberts: I spoke to him few weeks before coming over and I was supposed to meet him and with early rain I did not want to leave London.
Question: What is your advice for him in this World Cup?
Andy Roberts: All the best, that’s all I can say to him.
Question: Is there any other bowler who impressed you as much as Mashrafee?
Andy Roberts: At that time there was no fast bowler in Bangladesh. He was young, inexperienced and eager. I don’t know what you have in Bangladesh, sometimes what you see in the field is not necessarily the best player that you have because sometimes your better player is not selected.
Question: Are you still with cricket?
Andy Roberts: I am never out of cricket. I always try to help young fast bowlers. But the problem is, do young fast bowler is willing to listen to old man?
Question: Who is your favourite among the bowlers that you helped?
Andy Roberts: They are quite a few. I had one or two fast bowlers who never lasted as long as I thought they should because they weren’t as eager and they weren’t committed. If you aspire to be a fast bowler you must be committed to do hard work. If you were not committed you were not going to make it.
Question: Can you tell us about the current state of West Indies cricket?
Andy Roberts: That’s one thing that I cannot answer, but as I said commitment is key to success.
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