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Antiguan Andy Roberts (former West Indies fast bowler) created a great impact to the game with his blistering pace from the moment he began playing for the West Indies in 1974. The son of a fisherman and one of a family of 14, his impact was more remarkable for the fact that he did not begin playing the game until leaving school at the age of 16.
That same year, he made his debut for his village at 17, for his parish St. John’s and a year later for Antigua, along with the now famous Sir Vivian Richards. After playing for Leeward Islands he won a place in the Combined Islands’ team at the age of 20 for a match against Barbados in Shell Shield.
Success however, did not come overnight. Despite taking four wickets, including that of the great all-rounder, Sir Garfield Sobers, on his first-class debut, he was dropped for the game against Trinidad and Tobago. He was recalled against Guyana, when he took the wickets of Roy Fredericks and Rohan Kanhai. He held his place for the game against Jamaica.
In the trials at the beginning of the 1972 season, he took the most wickets but was not selected by the Combined Islands for the first two Shell Shield matches. The volunteer Cricket Committee in Antigua sent Roberts and Richards to England for coaching at Grove’s indoor cricket school.
Roberts returned home on the invitation of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control, but suffered disappointment when he was left out of the team for the series against England. However, when injury forced Keith Boyce to withdraw, Roberts was called upon to make his debut in the Third Test. Although figures tell their own story with 119 wickets at an average of 13.62 in first-class cricket, 21 at 10.76 in the John Player League and a total of 14 from Benson and Hedges and Gillette Cup games.
Deadpan and deadly, Roberts kept his emotions in check. But under the veneer was an intelligent cricketer with a fertile brain, plotting and planning the downfall of batsmen as if it were a military campaign. The modern West Indian game based on the heavy artillery of fast bowlers that served so well for a quarter century, began with him. His bouncer was regarded as one of the most dangerous. It took Roberts less than two and a half years to reach 100 wickets, the quickest at that point.