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I would have played a lot more Tests and got a lot more wickets if it was today : Devon Malcolm

Devon Malcolm

You were born in Kingston Jamaica, How did the Transition from Jamaica to England happen?

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica, My father had been living in England for a while and I lost my mother when I was six. So I had to stay with my grandmother in Jamaica who brought me up. When I was around 17, I joined my father in England. Around 1979-80 I came to England as a student and joined Richmond College.

Who were your fast bowling heroes growing up in the caribbean?

I grew up in the West Indies following the great West Indian team of the 1970’s. I used to listen to radio commentary and the commentators described this bowler who used to run in from the boundary and bowled really quick, I was naturally attracted to that description and I tried to mimic the action, That up and coming fast bowler was Michael Holding. I obviously wanted to emulate him and started to run a lot faster when bowling during the early days.

When did you start playing serious cricket after coming to England?

I did not play cricket for a couple of years after I came to England until one of my mates asked me if I could play cricket and I said “Yeah, I used to play cricket in Jamaica” and started playing from about the age of 19, Fortunately I started playing the highest level of league cricket. I was playing in the Yorkshire league.

In 1984 I was selected to play for the Yorkshire league X1 against the Yorkshire county side and that team had Martyn Moxon and Geoffrey Boycott. I did well for the league side and we beat the county side for the first time ever in the history of Yorkshire cricket. I clean bowled Moxon in my first over and clean bowled Boycott the very next over. We had taken the Friday off to play that game. The next Monday I was invited by Derbyshire for trials and they offered me a contract. Incidentally Michael Holding, my school boy hero was involved with Derbyshire at that time and I got to meet him and I was delighted and it was absolutely fantastic to be involved in a team with Mikey.

You made your Test debut in 1989 against Australia. However you made everyone take notice of you a Test later in Jamaica, at your birth place against the West Indies in 1990. Talk to us about the Jamaica Test and the two times you knocked over Sir Viv Richards.

My reputation in England cricket circles was clean bowling people especially after I bowled Boycott and many others in the county circuit. My Test debut was tough – I got Steve Waugh out with the third new ball of that Ashes Test and ended up figures of 1/166. However I was selected in the squad to tour West Indies during the 1990 series. It was a great feeling to play a Test in the land of my birth. West Indies were a formidable team at that time, and at home they were invincible and were lead by the great Viv Richards.

Funny enough, having grown up in Jamaica I knew the slang, the local language and even the curse words (laughs). I ran in very hard that morning of the Test and got Richards LBW in the first innings. At that moment the crowd got vociferous and they were after me. I understood every bit of what they said and it actually egged me on to perform even better. However when I shattered his stumps in the second innings, the crowd just adopted me and realized that I can bowl and treated me as a Jamaican. A few guys at the end of the day’s play said we are going to treat this as a Jamaica vs Antigua game and they loved to see a good battle. It was a hard fought Test and we hadn’t beaten West Indies in sixteen years and 30 Tests. Our confidence was sky high and for the first time in the English camp we felt we could actually win a series against the mighty West Indians.

That Test and the dismissals of Richards launched my international career. He was an awesome batsman at that time. If getting Boycott launched me in the county circuit this launched me at the international level.

Your best figures in a Test came in that series in 1990, 10/137 at Queens Park Oval, Which England should have won. Talk to us about that Test match and how it shaped up the rest of the series.

We were 1-0 up going in to that third Test at Trinidad and we should have won that game but for rain, umpiring and some bizarre tactics from the West Indians. On the final day when we were warming up there was not a cloud in the sky. However after the warm-ups there was this big cloud that came out of nowhere and put the brakes on.

Half a mile either side of the ground, there was no rain, but unfortunately that cloud would hang on and it rained and rained in the morning session. The West Indians also thought the only way to save the game was to use stall tactics and they started to slow down the game. I think they bowled like 7 or 8 overs in a particular hour of play and it was really dark and the umpires had to call the play off with us needing 30 runs. I knew we had time to get those runs but the umpires, weather and everything conspired against us that day.

Another unfortunate incident for us was Graham Gooch got injured by a delivery from Ezra Mosely. Goochie broke his hand and was out for the rest of the tour. I got six wickets in the second innings. I got Carlise Best and Jeff Dujon in succession and mopped the tail quickly. It was one of those spells and I felt I had set us up to go 2-0 in the series. If we had won that game we would have been 2-0 up with two games to play and there was no way West Indies would have come back and we would have probably won the series. I was Man of the Match but did not mean much to me since we did not end up winning that game.

After that series you were still producing the wickets but at a high strike rate and not as consistently as a spearhead should, what was the reason?

If you look at that Caribbean tour, I had Angus Fraser bowling with me in tandem. My job was to go and get the wickets and Angus’s job was to put the pressure on the other end. He was going at 1.5-2.5 runs per over and I was going at 3-4 an over and had a good strike rate and we worked well together as a pair. Also I had the confidence at that time in an away tour in a squad of 16 I was going to be the spearhead since my record away from home was good be it a club game or a county game.

We were very good partners, unfortunately Fraser got injured after that tour and I was trying to get wickets without him which worked for a while. However after some time when the guy at the other end was also going at 3.5-4 runs an over that automatically caused me to be defensive so that I could stop the runs leaking from both ends. The opportunity to attack was less.

With the way England cricket worked those days, for the most part I had to bowl to orthodox fields. There never was a third man and edges would fly to the fence. These days I would have been bowling to unorthodox fields and would not have leaked as many runs. Typically I was always bowling to three slips with no 3rd man. I personally preferred two slips, a gully and a fly slip with some protection. With orthodox fields any ball that gets over the slip cordon is a boundary.

In those days we had to embrace too much traditionalism in the setup. The management lacked thinking outside the box unlike the captains of today. The thinking was just not there, it was just geared more and more towards the orthodox setup.

Continuing on that question it was evident that England team and setup of the late 80’s and mid 90’s were orthodox. During that time there were very few genuine quicks. How were the English captains and coaches handling a genuine fast bowler?

To be honest, it was quiet frustrating as a genuine quickie playing during those times for England. You needed to have that confidence coming from the management, if I’m there for five Tests, The management should believe and be confident that I’m going to win 3-3.5 Tests for you. The problem was they were happy when the bowlers were doing well, but when you had a bad session, the approach changed to one that you may not play the next Test. That did not sit well with me at all. If you look at the long list of bowlers England had during that time, you will understand what I’m talking about. They changed bowlers at the drop of a hat. There was no nurturing and backing.

The praises where there when you did well, but the backing was not there when you did not do well, I also put a lot of pressure on myself. If I go for 4 or 5 an over, I used to think I have to get a wicket the next over and I ended up going for 6 or 8 that over and it continues on when you put pressure on yourself, instead of doing the basics correctly.

Angus Fraser was very good in that aspect. He had the line, length, accuracy and consistency. Unfortunately, I tried to attack and then over attack and when I failed I was the first one to get dropped. The lack of central contracts during that time also contributed to the musical chair of fast bowlers. If I was playing in this era, I can say that I would have played a lot more Tests for England and would have been a lot more successful. I’m glad it has changed now, because these days with the kind of management and the back room staff they have, they tend to be more patient and give you a long rope and there is lot more backing even when you are not doing well.

Then came 1994, that famous South Africa Test, where you mauled the South Africans taking 9/57. Is it true that you said “You guys are history” Talk to us through that Test match, your confrontation with the South Africans and the famous spell?

Yes I said those exact words (laughs). I was bowling real quick at that time and in the first innings, Jonty Rhodes got hit by a ball from me and had to go to the hospital and ended up staying overnight there and did not come back to bat during the South African first innings the next morning. When I came on to bat in the first innings, the South Africans started sledging “Come on!! Let him have a bouncer” were the exact words told by some of the fielders around me.

Fanie Devillers was the bowler and he bowled a bouncer and hit me in the head. I thought it was a double bluff. Back in the 80’s /90’s there was this unwritten rule that the first ball you don’t bowl a bouncer at your fellow fast bowler, I was thinking, Fanie was going to run up and bowl a yorker at me, instead he bowled a bouncer and it hit me plush in the helmet right between the eyes and the South Africans were laughing at me.

I stared back at the fielders around me and said “Guys, if you want to know what fast bowling is, wait till you come in to bat., All you guys are history and you guys are going to pay for this”.

From the very first ball, I went out to bowl I got laid in to the South African boys. The 9/57 at that time was a phenomenal spell. Most of this one man demolition job before that was done by spinners apart from Sir Richard Hadlee who took 9 wickets. I was bowling with sheer aggression and pace and blew them away. It was sheer hostility, good pace and proper fast bowling, Pitch it up, Get them on the back foot, Caught behind that kind of stuff except for Hansie Cronje who was beaten and bowled by just pace. It was 21 years ago and it was one of those fast bowler’s moments and I’m glad people still remember that. It was one of the bright spots in English Cricket history during the mid 90’s.

You were not picked after the 1997 Ashes series, but continued playing first-class cricket for another six years till 2003. Were you hoping for a comeback or you were just enjoying first class cricket?

I was playing first-class cricket to help youngsters come through and I was also doing pretty well as a bowler. Interestingly I took 8-63 and got 68 wickets in 2001 and followed that up in 2002 with another 60 odd wickets. Suddenly the media was making calls to bring me back in to the English side.

I told the media that I was way past my time in international cricket and asked them to support the youngsters. However there was still talk of me getting back in to the England team as late as 2003 when I was almost 40. I was just playing county cricket to help out and I was pretty relaxed at that time and enjoyed bowling since I was having a lot more control and was bowling to my terms. I did not have any ambition to get in to the England team at that point of time

You own a sporting equipment company DEM now? What do you exactly do with DEM? Please elaborate on that.

We manufacture cricket field equipment. Towards the end of my playing days I realized that the groundsmen should spend more time preparing good surfaces and good pitches and not fiddle with all these outdated field equipments. We manufacture Sight Screens, Batting cages, Batting nets and what not.

With the advent of T20 cricket the traditional sight screen needs to be replaced. Our product has the black and white sight screens and we can use them as needed. We offer a wide and innovative range of cricket sight screens, such as revolving and reversible white/black sight screens, folding sight screens which are in demand from County clubs, amateur clubs and schools. Another one of our innovative product is the Combi cages. The Combi is fully portable and can be used anywhere on the ground, including the square. Combi folds down for easy transportation and storage. The addition of a back gate will allow practice for the wicket keeper. The back gate is a great addition to our cage and has proved very popular with all levels of club.

We are looking to go global and are working with a company in India. We are trying to get our wings expanded to even the United States and partner with them to supply equipment. Today these equipment are used in Old Trafford, Derbyshire, Essex and Leicestershire. We are also working on products that can help with constrained spaces like backyards and front yards of a house.

Any plans to come back and work with English cricket?

I’m really happy with what I’m doing. I’m a first-class coach and do a little bit of coaching in schools and do master class and stuff like that. I have been living for almost 10-15 years out of a suitcase during my playing days, so I have made a conscious decision to stay away from that life and coaching at the highest level would require that. If you are going to be in an England setup you will be traveling around and I think I’m done with that lifestyle. I just do one on one coaching and probably may get in to some consulting role with a county if it works out.

Tony Cozier in one of his interviews when asked “Is there a period of play that stands out as your most memorable stint?” said “A Barbados Test match where Devon Malcolm was bowling at a million miles. Richards came out and tried to go after him, and there was one over where he was lightning quick and Richards hooked him for six and then a top-edge just flew over Jack Russell and then he hit him for a four and the crowd was going bananas.” Do you recall that passage of play?

I vividly remember that and I still think that is the most exciting over I ever bowled in Test cricket. Viv took 18 off that over, he hit me for two sixes and a four and a top edged two. I could have got him out four times in that over. He was not going to back down, I was not going to back down either and the crowd just went in to a frenzy. Any other ground other than Kensington Oval he would have been out caught in the deep. I clearly recall a couple of sixes sailing over Alec Stewart’s head. I pitched one up and he hit it so hard through the point and covers area, it shaved some grass off the ground and I thought the ball was on fire (laughs). He hit it so hard. It was a great competion between the two of us whenever we played.

A couple of years ago, I met Viv and we were having lunch together and talking about the exact over and he said “ Dev , you know what, that was the closest I came to wearing an helmet. That over was quick and you were bowling really quick man. I had to come up with the big chest of mine and take you on”. Fast bowling is supposed to intimidate batsman, but Viv was an intimidating batsman, and you run up and bowl that bouncer he is going to take you on. He had no fear and with his swagger you as a bowler will feel intimidated when bowling to him.

Any regrets or disappointments from your playing days?

There will always be disappointments. I always wish I was playing now. You have a better management structure, the coaches are lot more patient and there is a sense of security.
I ‘m sure I would have played a lot more Tests and got a lot more wickets if it was today. But I would probably not change a thing; my 9-fer is still etched in people’s memory.

One of the highlights of my career was meeting Nelson Mandela. He recognized me and the words he said to me, that cannot be replaced. He requested me to conduct coaching clinics in some areas in South Africa. At his request I went to South Africa and did some coaching clinics, those are things I cherish. I have played with some of the greatest cricketers and bowled to some of the best batsmen the world has ever seen. I was blessed to play against Sir Richard Hadlee, Sir Viv Richards, Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.

I travelled the world and met some great people, there is no other profession that opens the doors like it does for an international cricketer. Even now I’m talking to you, so I have done something right (laughs). People still want to see me, talk to me about the stories. Even today, when I go to the Caribbean I won’t have to pay for a drink, they recognize me and want to talk to someone who fought fire with fire and want to hear those stories. It has been a great career and I have definitely enjoyed it.

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