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Exclusive Interview : ‘’Even At 35 I Could Return To International Cricket, Just Like Nehra And Plunkett’’, Says Rayad Emrit

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Rayad Emrit scalped 16 wickets from 12 games in CPL 2016 at an average of 18.68 and a decent economy rate of 7.07 (Pic by: WICB/ CPL)

Nothing seems to be going well for Manchester United at present. Three heart-breaking losses in the space of one week have left even the most overzealous fans of the Red Devils mourning. The ‘Beautiful Game’ as they call it, is profoundly sentimental having fans who do not know how to bridle their passions or deal with their disappointments when their favourite team wins or loses. Only the bravest would dare to talk to a football fanatic after the end of a match in which his favourite team has suffered a humiliating defeat to relative minnows. Rayad Ryan Emrit however turned out to be an exception. On a day when his beloved Manchester United were pushed up against the wall by underdogs Watford F.C, Emrit was courteous enough to shed his grief for the time being and spare his time for a conversation all the way from Trinidad with www.cricfit.com.

Out of the national side for nine years, Emrit has been a steady performer at the domestic level; be it in List-A cricket or T20 matches.Even though his brief fling with international cricket didn’t fetch him any success,the 35-year old medium pace bowling all-rounder has tasted much success with the Trinidad team over the years. A winner of both the Champions League T20 and Caribbean Premier League titles, Emrit has scored 2183 runs (at an average of 19.14) and has scalped 171 wickets from 83 First Class games. He further has a tally of 69 List A and 90 T20 wickets to his name. His 16 wickets from a dozen matches helped his side Guyana Amazon Warriors progress to the final of the recently concluded CPL, where they were dealt a crushing defeat by Chris Gayle’s Jamaica Tallawahs. Emrit whose forte lies in playing limited-overs cricket, has represented various teams in the shortest format of the game; the most notable of them being Barbados Tridents, Barisal Bulls (in the Bangladesh Premier League) and Guyana Amazon Warriors.

In a candid chat with CricFit correspondent Ritam Basu, the Guyana Amazon Warriors captain bared his thoughts about the current state of domestic cricket in West Indies, his experience of playing T20 cricket around the globe, why there has been a dip in enthusiasm among the young cricketers of late, his absence from the national squad for almost a decade and his plans of making a comeback into international cricket.

Q: Rayad, when did you take your first step towards cricket? At what age did you start playing the game?

Emrit: It all started in secondary school when I was 8 or 9 years old. I started playing the game with a plastic bat like all other kids do. Later on as I matured, I realized that cricket is the purpose of my life.

Q: Did you look to emulate the style of any particular cricketer while growing up?

Emrit: Yes, definitely. Glenn McGrath has always been my favourite cricketer since I was young. I can’t exactly tell you the number of times I tried to imitate his bowling action in our backyard (Guffaws).

Q: Have you had any opportunity to meet him?

Emrit: Not as yet. However, I am hopeful about meeting him someday!

Q: The Caribbean Premier League got concluded just last month. What are your plans for September?

Emrit: Yes, the CPL finished on August 7. I will obviously be training and preparing for the forthcoming First Class season. We have a practice game this weekend.

Q: Will you be watching the Pakistan v/s West Indies series live on Television?

Emrit: Yes, I will. I try to keep track of all the cricket-related news around the globe.

Q: I have asked you this question because very recently, you expressed your discontent over your exclusion from the Pakistan series after the squads were announced. Despite being a consistent performer in limited-overs cricket over the past 24 months or so, you have been snubbed time and again for an international call-up. What do you think could be a possible reason behind it?

Emrit: I don’t know the reason behind my exclusion (gives a smile, hiding his disappointment). Like you said, I have been in good form of late. I have taken over 30 wickets in the last three seasons of the regional Super-50 competition. Even in the CPL, I finished 4th in the list of the leading wicket takers. I have also tried to contribute with the bat, whenever given an opportunity. Obviously, it is a hard pill to swallow to get ignored repeatedly. My performance though will speak on my behalf.

(For the sake of statistics, Emrit scalped 16 wickets from 12 games in CPL 2016 at an average of 18.68 and a decent economy rate of 7.07).

Q: You last played an international game nine years ago. What has kept you motivated in the meantime?

Emrit: Cricket. As long as you tell yourself that you are playing this great game called cricket, you will be unperturbed regardless of circumstances; come what may. My family has lent me immense support too.

Q: Let us talk about CPL 2016. You were appointed as the captain of the Guyana Amazon Warriors after Martin Guptill left midway through the season to fulfil his international duties for New Zealand. You piloted the team to the final where you finished second to Jamaica Tallawahs. What had been your personal game plan; both as a player and a captain?

Emrit: My job was essentially to maintain cohesion in the team. I wanted to bowl in the right channels on a consistent basis and was able to execute my plans well. Going into the final, our primary plan was to get Gayle out early as early as possible because we knew he would win his side the game single-handedly if he managed to sustain himself at the crease for over 7 overs. Unfortunately we lost the toss and had to bat first. Our batsmen failed to rise to the occasion and put up a poor show. Sohail Tanvir (42) got the runs for us but 93 was not a good enough total for the final. That said, Jason Mohammed and Chris Lynn drove our batting line-up right throughout the tournament. So it won’t be just to blame them on the basis of just one game.

Q: As a captain, it must have been difficult to lift up the spirits of the boys in the dressing room after having missed the trophy by a whisker.

Emrit. It was very difficult. Naturally the boys were all upset following the defeat in the final. We expected ourselves to clinch the trophy but unluckily our game plan did not turn out well that day. Our bowling unit put up a formidable display for a major part of the tournament. Apart from Smith, Lynn and Mohammed, had a few more batsmen chipped in with significant contributions over the course of the tournament, we could have finished on the winning side.

Q: Is the CPL benefitting West Indies cricket?

Emrit: Quite certainly. It has brought so many new faces to the fore who could serve West Indies cricket in the near future.

Q: A few of your former cricketers think differently. Last year in October, Sir Garfield Sobers opined that it is the CPL which is responsible for the downfall of Caribbean cricket. What is your take on the issue?

Emrit: See. One cannot deny the fact that our performance in Test cricket has been underwhelming in the last two or three years. It is not surprising to see dissatisfaction in the faces of our compatriots if we consider our position in the Test rankings. But I would advocate for the CPL solely because of the fact that it has the potential to supply much talent to the national side. We need to hold our patience.

Q: What is the state of the First Class infrastructure in West Indies like at the moment?

Emrit: To be honest, it is not as good as it was say 15 years ago. A large part of the youth in the Caribbean islands have moved away from playing cricket and have instead taken to basketball which is offering them better income opportunities. This has had its toll on the First Class pool. Most of the batsmen who go on to represent West Indies in the international arena average around 37 in First Class cricket. That said; I think the Under-19 World Cup win in March earlier this year is likely to restore our fortunes. There are some really good young players coming through.

Q: Who are the ones from that victorious Under-19 squad according to you, will graduate to the next level?

Emrit: Alzarri Joseph has already won his Test cap. I also expect young Shimron Hetmyer and Chemar Holder to break into the national squad pretty soon.

Q: The West Indies Test team hasn’t seen a settled bowling attack in recent times as there has been a lot of experimentation with the pace bowlers. What should be the most ideal combination of pacers for the Test team?

Emrit: Ummm.. (Thinks for a while and continues) Shannon Gabriel, Miguel Cummins and Alzarri Joseph. Gabriel has gained some decent experience of playing cricket at the highest level. He definitely has talent but needs to back it up with the right kind of temperament. He will evolve into the spearhead of the bowling department. That’s what I think.

Q: The Club v/s Country debate has been a raging issue in West Indies. You were also sent under the guillotine when the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket board took away your captaincy and retainer contract in March 2016 due to your participation in the Bangladesh Premier League. You reckon the WICB should be a bit more liberal about such aspects?

Emrit: Yeah. It’s a very sensitive issue. I, Kevon Cooper and Evin Lewis lost our retainer contracts because we opted to play in the BPL. According to the norms set by the WICB, we will end up losing our retainer/central contracts if we don’t play Test cricket or play in other contemporary T20 leagues. That makes life very difficult for us out here. At the end of the day, we are all striving to earn decent livelihoods for ourselves and our families.

Q: Phil Simmons was recently sacked as the West Indies coach. Darren Sammy too was dumped from the team immediately after the World T20. And here you are looking at two figures that were instrumental in West Indies’ merry run in the World T20 in India. You reckon the West Indies Cricket Board lacks stability?

Emrit: Phil’s sacking came as a big surprise for us. Despite the series loss against India, we were not expecting it. He did a good job with the side. Please don’t drag me into any further controversy by asking any more questions related to the matter.

Q: OK then. Let us shift our focus to your own career. How was it winning the 2007 Los Angeles Open 20/20 tournament as the Trinidad and Tobago skipper?

Emrit: (It is) an experience to cherish. It was my first major assignment as a captain and we fared out reasonably well. I remember taking a very young Trinidad side to the tournament. We came up against Punjab Lions in the final which had some really big names in their ranks like Sehwag and Romesh Kaluwitharana. Pollard was 20 (years old) at that time but he played a vital role in helping us win the title. It was clearly an indication for the things to come.

Rayad Emrit taken catch at the edge of the boundary rope vs  India in 3rd ODI, 2007. (Pic by: AFP)
Rayad Emrit taken catch at the edge of the boundary rope vs India in 3rd ODI, 2007. (Pic by: AFP)

Q: You earned your maiden international call-up for an away series against India ahead of the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, where you couldn’t deliver an effective performance and were dropped from the side after just 2 ODIs. Do you sometimes regret that you were not tried out on home soil post that series?

Emrit: I sometimes do feel bad about it. It is true that I didn’t perform to my potential in India- just 2 wickets in as many games and no substantial knock either. Had I been given a chance in the Caribbean, I might have made up for my past failures. But it is baseless to ponder over ifs and buts. Whatever has happened has happened. I can only work toward a better future.

Q: You have wonplenty of accolades with the Trinidad team, including the CL T20 triumph in 2009. Did you expect yourselves to stay in the race right till the end? After all, the cricket circuit back then was not well acquainted with names such as Kieron Pollard and Ravi Rampaul.

Emrit: It would sound overconfident if I tell you that we backed ourselves to reach the final before the tournament commenced but   we had a good side with a proper blend of youth and experience which we felt could come in handy in such a compact tournament. And it actually did! Not only did the senior pros like (Dwyane) Bravo, Daren Ganga and Denesh Ramdin shoulder enough responsibilities, but also the fresh crop of players like Pollard, Rampaul and Adrian Barath chipped in with admirable efficacy at crucial junctures. Then, the New South Wales side which we faced in the final was a sturdy unit. To defeat them and clinch the trophy was a great effort on our part.

Q: The West Indies team has always brimmed with exuberant characters. You have played with and against a number of such individuals like Bravo, Pollard and Gayle. Would you like to share some funny anecdotes pertaining to these players with our readers?

Emrit: Yes, why not? Bravo loves to sing. He thinks of himself as a great singer. Out of the players I have played with, Sunil Narine is the messiest character. When he’s off the field, he distracts anyone who is quiet. He is like a pest in the dressing room (lets out a hearty laughter). Gayle is a rather tranquil sort of person when he is not playing, no matter how audaciously he carries himself on the field. He loves to party and party hard.

Q: Is RayadEmrit himself fond of parties?

Emrit: Oh yes, without any tinge of a doubt!

Q: You have participated in quite a few T20 leagues worldwide. Do you think the BCCI should grant Indian players the permission to foray into the CPL?

Emrit: We would love to see Indians playing in this league. Even a child who follows cricket will tell you that India boasts of gifted players in abundance. Our league will only become richer with their (India’s) involvement.

Q: In spite of being a medium pacer, you haven’t suffered too many injuries in the past whereas pace bowlers are the most vulnerable species to injuries. What is your fitness mantra?

Emrit: I train five days a week and try to keep up with the youngsters in the team who say they are fit. Sometimes, I last longer on the field than they do and it is a big source of inspiration for me.

Q: Any two fitness tips that you would like to impart to the people who are reading this interview? 

Emrit: Put in a lot of hard work and never take anything for granted.There is no shortcut to success. Those who aspire to become pacers should mainly emphasise on running and toiling hard in the nets by bowling long spells.

Q: OK Rayad, brace yourself to wield the willow hard because up comes our famous rapid fire round.

Emrit: Haha! Yeah, let’s get started.

Q: Your nickname.

Emrit: Emo.

Q: Your favourite cuisine.

Emrit: Rice, dal and chicken curry.

Q: Your favourite holiday destination.

Emrit: Hawaii.

Q: Your favourite ground.

Emrit: Queen’s Park Oval.

Q: Your favourite movie.

Emrit: My favourite movie is ‘Taken’. I have also watched ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge’ and ‘My Name is Khan’. My family members are die-hard fans of Shah Rukh Khan.

Q: Favourite actor.

Emrit: Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan.

Q: What all movies of Mr.Bachchan have you watched?

Emrit: Plenty of them. Among all his movies, ‘Sholay’ is my favourite.

Q: Actress?

Emrit: I love watching Jennifer Lopez. My favourite Indian actress is Madhuri Dixit.

Q: What do you generally prefer more? Bowling or batting?

Emrit: Both (grins).It depends on the situation I am confronted with.

Q: Which is your favourite format? Four-day cricket, One day games or T20s?

Emrit: T20s.

Q: Your best friends in the cricket circuit.

Emrit: There are many. I love spending time with Dwyane Bravo, Sunil Narine and Kieron Pollard.

Q: The song that you play most frequently on your i Pod.

Emrit: ‘Human’ sung by Machel Montano.

Q: Your hobbies.

Emrit: Playing football and basketball.

Q: Your favourite football club.

Emrit: Manchester United. The recent results have been disappointing.

Q: Any superstition?

Emrit: If I am captaining a side, I am always the last person to step on the field. I always place my right leg first while entering the field.

Q: Your favourite cricketing moment to date.

Emrit: Captaining Barbados Tridents in the 2014 edition of the Champions League T20.

Q: Best compliment you have ever received as a cricketer.

Emrit: It came from Kumar Sangakkaraduring our (Barisal Bulls’) match against Dhaka Dynamites in the Bangladesh Premier League late last year. I scored a fifty (54* off 28 balls) coming in at no. 9 in the game and took my team across the finish line. Before that, I had also picked up a couple of wickets and was adjudged the ‘Man of the Match’ in the end. After the game got over, the opposition captain Sangakkara, approached me with a smile on his face, tapped me gently on the shoulder and commented, ‘’Well played mate. It was a superb all-round display. Keep it up’’. That for me is the biggest compliment I have received to date.

Q: You are 35 now. Some names like AshishNehra, Liam Plunkett and Gareth Batty who are in the twilight of their respective careers have all made their international comebacks in 2016. Do you take hope from such stories? Do you still dream of seeing yourself back in the West Indies colours?

Emrit: Yes, absolutely. 2016 has indeed been the year of comebacks. Hence, there are a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the same. If Nehra and Plunkett could overcome the stumbling blocks to be back in the reckoning, so can I. I want to stay in top shape, take more and more wickets in domestic cricket and present a strong case for myself. One must never lose hope.

Q: The last question. Would you like to take up some kind of a coaching job after you retire?

Emrit: Yes, for sure. I would love to get into coaching..

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