Andy roberts –  Windies Speedster 

Courtesy : Wisden 

Moniker “Silent Assassin” Anderson Montgromery Everton Roberts, aka “Andy Roberts” celebrating his 70th birthday today (29th Jan. 2021 ) was a fearsome bowler of yesteryear from  the West Indies and  the main fulcrum of the famous West Indian pace quartet along with Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Colin Croft.  Andy Roberts terrorized the batsmen world over with his sheer pace for  almost a decade, taking 202 Test and 87 One-Day International (ODI) wickets in the process.  He was the first Antiguan to play for the West Indies.

 Sir Andy Roberts was born to a fisherman’s family in a village in Antigua.  He was one among the 14th children of his parents.  He played cricket only at the age of 16 and he got his first break to play Leeward islands side at the age of 18.

It is startling to note that he was coached just for 6 weeks in his art.  But the English county stint at Hampshire along with Vic Richards helped him to hone his pace bowling skill of bowling with his elbow nearer to ear and the follow through.  He played for  both Hampshire and Leicestershire.  But for Hampshire retaining him in spite of his serious injury , he would have finished nowhere.

Deadpan And deadly, the two generously used words to describe Roberts. His innocuous look was deceptive.  His bouncers were dangerous and in fact it was his lethal weapon and the opposition batsmen saw him as a demon.  And often the ball would lift — steep and disconcertingly, putting the batsmen in immense physical peril. And u ask Imran Khan who  would tell you how ferocious Roberts’ bowling was. Opposition batsmen dread to face him.  His hunching shoulders and the run up slowly picking up menacingly and hurling the red cherry are a treat to watch.  His repertoire of lethal bouncers were his great possession and got him quite a number of wickets.  His deceptive tricks would unfold in a clandestine array of bouncers as the first one would come as a slow bouncer to hoodwink the batsmen to expect a similar in the second but to their utter dismay it would be a speedy bouncer to catch them unaware and fall into the trap.  He was very adeptive in this demolition job. 

The natural movement would be from off to leg, but sometimes the away swing would flummox the best.

His reaction would remain the same. Whether the catch was held at slip, or the woodwork went for a cartwheeling saunter, or the ball crashed into the face rearranging the features forever, Roberts would peer at the result of his handiwork, mull over it behind his deadpan face and walk back to his bowling mark. 

His career best spell came in the Chepauk Test in 1974-75 series against India when he had 12/121 in the match, though in a losing cause as the diminutive Gundappa Viswanath held the fort and spoiled the chances of West Indies winning. ( Roberts at his best in 1976 video )

His career defining spell came in England in the 1976 series at Old Trafford.  When the Englishmen had no clue to the guiles of “Whispering death” Michael Holding in the first innings and in the second essay it was the “Silent Assassin” of Andy Roberts’s brutal force .  The Englishmen faced a barrage of bouncers hitting them all in their ribcage and body blows they meekly surrendered to this pace duo’s fiery spells.  They were reduced to ashes as they could manage only 71 in the first innings and in the second 126 and Windies romped home with consummate ease.  

In a Test against Australia at Queen’s Park Oval in 1977-78, Roberts almost killed Peter Toohey with his deadly bowling. As a lethal bouncer came his way, Toohey went for a hook, but missed it completely and it struck him on the forehead. The batsman fell on the ground and went unconscious. But Roberts was deadpan and went for his bowling mark.

In Adelaide in 1980, the Chappell brothers would vouch for his deadly spell of bouncers which sent them to pavilion in successive bowls with Greg going for a duck.

In ODIs, his batting came to the rescue of the windies team.  In 1975 group stage match against Pakistan, the windies were in a spot of both when they were set to 267 runs and they were 203/9 when Roberts walked in to join the irrepressible Derryk Murray and Robert is no rabbit with the bat as he had 3 fifties in tests.  And he and Murray saw through their side winning the outing.

Roberts was at his best during1975, when he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year. In October 2005, he was inducted into the United States Cricket Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2009 and in 2014, Roberts was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Nation (KCN) by the Antigua and Barbuda government.

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