"I'm hungry for wickets, and no-one is going to stand in my way." Those are
the words of Guyanese fast bowler Reon King, who was named in the West
Indies 30-man squad to prepare for next year's World Cup.
The 27 year-old King, a potent force in the earlier part of his career, lost
his Test place through injury. He holds the best bowling average of any
current West Indies fast bowler in Test cricket; and one-day statistics;
also support the fact that his economy and strike rates are the best of the
lot, in that form of the game. In this exclusive interview,
Cricket Web chats with King about his career to date and his plans for the future...
CW: What are your impressions of being included in the
Provisional Squad for the World Cup?
RK: Well, it obviously serves as a timely reminder of my ability, but
more importantly at this time, confirms that I am still part of West Indies
cricket. I'm remaining circumspect about my selection; since an earlier
recall may have been a definite indication of the selectors intent to get me
match ready for South Africa. The Bangladesh tour is the last bit of serious
cricket before the World Cup; that would have been the excellent opportunity
for me to really impress. It might be more realistic to set my sights on the
Australian series which starts in April, but, generally there's a sense of
relief and satisfaction at being recalled.
CW: Am I right in assuming that you'll still be aggressively trying to seize this imminent opportunity?
RK: Yes, of course! The selectors have shown faith in me, and I certainly
won't disappoint them. I'm making the utmost of the preparation I'm getting
in our (Guyana's) National Trial matches; and this along with a bowling camp
I'll be attending next week in Antigua will form part of my intense push to
stake a claim for a place in the squad for the World Cup. Don't get me
wrong; I'm going all out for a place on that side to Africa. The sooner, the
better for me!
CW: There's been a fair amount of talk about the lack of aggressive intent in your bowling. Would you say this is a fair or accurate assessment of your style?
RK: That's debatable. I do figure sometimes I could be a little more
aggressive but, at the same time I try to back my natural instincts and
ability. If you check my background; as a fast bowler from Guyana, and
probably due to the types of surfaces on which we play our cricket; I'm more
inclined to work a batsman out, you know, bowling tidy line and length, and
often inducing the catch at the wicket. That's worked for me in the past...
and is basically how I gained my success. It's difficult and a bit unfair to
compare me with someone, from say, Jamaica, where conditions favour
aggression. With the possible exception of (Colin) Croft, I don't really
know of too many Guyanese pacers who have been
noted for success through
their aggression. I think it's more in my nature to be that other type of
fast bowler. Given the opportunity, though, I'll be knocking over a few
batsmen in the near future. I'm hungry for wickets, and no-one is going to
stand in my way!
CW: In the summer of 2000, during, and after the series in England, you were exposed to a highly critical media, including some West Indian journalists, how much of an effect did that have on you, if not your cricket?
RK: Obviously there are people on both sides of the fence in your life; some
for and some against you. It didn't really affect me then. When I do figure
it started to have an effect on me, was when the coach, after hearing things
from the commentators and suchlike, would come back and relate the
unflattering stuff to me. This created a great degree of discomfort, but I'm
not sure it was evident to him at the time. It's probably because I'm not
one to show too much emotion. As a result of the many observations by the
experts and critics, the coach and I decided to work on a few things.
Personally, I figured we weren't working on the right things. In the end,
sadly, we just lost the plot.
CW: I vividly recall that as a relatively inexperienced 'quick' you did bowl impressively in South Africa the last time you were there in 1999. Your
memories of that tour?
RK: Very good. Beautiful, bouncy wickets to bowl on; nice atmosphere to play
cricket also. After bowling reasonably well in Bangladesh in November '98 in
the Wills International Cup where we lost in the final to South Africa, I
went down there (South Africa) for the one-dayers, but was quite pleasantly
surprised to be included in the last Test match at Centurion; my debut. I
was wicket-less in that game, but the experience was priceless. I played in
all seven One-Day matches, and performed creditably according to most. All
in all, it was a satisfying tour.
CW: You have excellent economy and strike rates in One-Day cricket, better than all active WI bowlers, would you say that we see the best of you in that format?
RK: It's probably my straight type of bowling, with a little discipline,
which serves me well in that setting. But I certainly don't want to be
branded as a one-dimensional cricketer. I want to give myself an equal
chance of performing in both forms of the game, and be recognized for it.
Statistics show that you've been remarkably more successful against
right-handed batsmen than left-handers; sixty-seven to thirty-three percent,
is this indicative of a bias or personal preference?
Yes, I prefer bowling to right-handers, because my stock ball is the one
that nips back sharply into them. What I find is that in top-level cricket,
that's an excellent weapon to have in your arsenal, and to my advantage; the
length that I bowl compliments it.
CW: But two 'lefties', New Zealand's Stephen Fleming and South Africa's Gary Kirsten are among batsmen you've dismissed most frequently, isn't that
saying a bit about your versatility?
RK: Well, yes... it works for both types. The ball coming back to the
right-hander, is obviously the one going away from the left-hander), but I
find myself over-compensating at times, and pushing it a bit too wide of the
left-handers. So, although those fellows you mentioned, have been among my
'regular' victims, I'll have to admit that I find it much easier to bowl to
CW: Having been touted as one of the future spearheads of our attack, when the two greats Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose eventually retired, how
difficult was it to find yourself suddenly struggling to regain a place?
RK: To be honest, it was very difficult. I had been bowling quite well
originally, and was at the time probably deserving of the likely promotion,
but injuries took their toll on my confidence level, and eventually forced
me out of contention. The wait was long, but I've approached my return
honestly, with lots of hard work. It seems to have paid off. If I may add;
myself, Franklyn Rose and Nixon McLean were all eagerly looking forward to
the challenge of picking up from where the great men left off. But when they
departed, we then realized how much were still wanting for experience, and
without their guidance; or help from any other willing source, we
experimented a bit too much and tried too hard; to our detriment.
CW: Our bowling of late has been under the microscope, and with there being a possibility that you could be in the side to South Africa late next month, is there any thing different that you would do from that which you did in
RK: Well, interestingly enough, with the camp in Antigua next week, under
Kenny Benjamin's supervision, I think that the knowledge that I've acquired
while becoming a qualified coach, will help me to identify the flaws, and be
able to more confidently ask whoever my tutor is, for specific assistance.
So I guess, I'll have all bases covered, by the time the selectors are ready
CW: How much has your exposure to coaching, helped your game?
RK: Tremendously. My assessment of batsmen is significantly better, and my
concentration has improved. It has easily helped to sharpen my focus on the
game. There's nothing like grasping the fundamentals.
CW: You've had significant problems with your fielding over the years, and some very disparaging remarks have been made about this aspect of your
cricket, how do you assess it at this time?
RK: I think it's improving, but not at the rate I would like it to. I'm
disappointed with the slow progress. This most likely stems from the fact
that apart from the GCC and National coaches, I haven't really had experts
to constantly monitor, and offer opinions, as well as informed suggestions;
so that the necessary adjustments can be made to my technique. But I'm very
optimistic, because my errors have decreased since those dark days, and I'm
now, much more in tune with developing drills, etc.
CW: Is this obvious deficiency in your cricket due to confidence or judgment?
RK: It's definitely confidence. I don't think that there's anyone who would
tell you that they're totally confident after dropping an easy catch, or an
embarrassing mis-field. It plays on the mind; and I know that that used to
contribute a lot toward me making errors on the field ,in general. My
confidence level has improved, so I'm looking forward to much happier times
in my out-cricket. My batting has also improved as a result of my
CW: Who would you say is an inspiration for you, in terms of cricket?
RK: My family. I remember my mother died when I went to play with the youth
team in Pakistan. It's a pity she never got to see me play Test cricket.
People are surprised when I tell them that my father never wanted me to play
cricket; but as negative as he was at the time, he respected my choice. I
reached the highest level and that helped erase the doubt in his mind. Now,
my dad's my biggest fan, and he and other members of my family never miss an
opportunity to offer their support. I love them dearly for that. Not wanting
to shortchange them, is what inspires me to keep trying to stay and perform
CW: Would you consider yourself injury-free?
RK: At the moment, yes! And, that's why I'm anxious to get back into full
stride on the international scene. In this condition, without a doubt, I'll
surely be able to give a decent account of myself.
CW: I recall when you suffered from a hernia, and required surgery, there was the suggestion from some quarters that you could have played through
with the use of pain-killers, was this being unfair to you?
RK: Well, that's a long story. To be honest, I don't think that many persons
got the gist of it. What really transpired, was that surgery was
recommended; the team management were informed by a specialist that I could
probably continue with the use of the pain killers, but the damage would
still be there. There were lots of mixed feelings and expressions on the
matter; most of which I quietly, and respectfully disagreed with, because I
was uncomfortable with the thought of playing under those circumstances. I
took the advice of some of my more senior colleagues that it wasn't worth
taking the risk, considering my career; and I decided to opt for surgery.
I'm not sure if that was seen as 'chickening out' by some , but I made that
decision based on my health at the time; and feel certain that I made the
CW: There was the other injury, the stress fracture of your instep, which was much more serious, would you be willing to fill in a few blanks for us on that issue, if you will?
RK: Yeah, sure. When I checked my instep in England, a stress-line was
discovered. That was extremely disturbing to me at the time. I'm not quite
sure where it developed, but it was there and had to be addressed as quickly
as possible. The most I'm willing to commit myself to, in terms of what
happened with my treatment; was that subsequent to my arrival, back in the
Caribbean, I was constantly in excruciating pain; travelled a rather rocky
road to recovery; and surprisingly, as a top-level sportsman, had to almost
make myself an absolute nuisance to get the required attention. It was an
unfortunate experience, one I don't want to re-live.
CW: You had a reasonable 'A' Team tour of England and Canada, and I'm sure that you would have seen this as your ticket to get back into the senior
side, that obviously didn't happen. From your perspective, what was that
tour really like?
RK: At that time I was really short of cricket, and having not played in
the two home series against India and New Zealand, it seemed an excellent
opportunity for me to get back in full attack mode. There was also the
possible incentive that a good showing with the 'A' side would have
increased my chances of making the tours to India and Bangladesh. Things
didn't work out the way I wanted them to, there were a few positives, but
not positive enough for me. Generally the tour was marred by most of the
younger players, and that really put a cloud on the entire tour. The press
over there spoke about the talent of the youngsters, but insisted that their
attitudes left much to be desired, and that really hurt those of us who were
innocent of any wrongdoing.
CW: The manager's impressions were well-publicized, and were not flattering to say the least. Were you worried about the impact of that embarrassing
RK: Well, initially, a few of the guys were uneasy about their status. I
certainly wasn't one of them. As a senior player, I knew I would've done
myself a tremendous injustice career-wise, so that wasn't an option. But
from all indications, the matter was dealt with appropriately, and we just
have to ensure that nothing similar takes place in future. I love West
Indies cricket, and hate when bad impressions are given of it.
CW: Reon, I'd like to thank you for so eloquently sharing your thoughts, and wish you all the best in your future endeavours.
RK: Thanks again.