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Honour the Hitman

Andy Roberts. photo-jamaica-gleaner.comI am certainly happy to see the honour and praise that has been lavished on Sir Vivian Richards on the occasion of his 60th birthday. He certainly is deserving of all of it.

For even with a long history and many great players, very few cricketers have been revered like Sir Viv.

When you consider that he is from a country of less than 100,000 people, and a region whose combined population is just a small fraction of the population of most major cricketing nations, it is all the more remarkable. However, I am still somewhat disappointed that we have not honoured or celebrated Andy Roberts more.

Now I hope no one views this article as a competition between Andy and Vivi, because this is the last thing I want to do. Rather, I just hope to bring attention to another of Antigua's cricket legend, especially in an era when we have parades, motorcades, and national awards for some who have done far less or have a much smaller body of work. He is one whose accomplishments far outweigh his celebrity.

When fire rained in Babylon, the first thunderbolts were bowled by Andy Roberts. In that humiliating series in 1975 - 76, when West Indies were beaten 5 - 1 by Australia, it was Roberts who bowled the Windies to their only victory. In that match in Perth, he had 7 for 54 in the second innings. He was the first entity in a formula that eventually made the West Indies cricket team of that era the most dominant sport team of all times.


In another famous Test match  in Jamaica in 1983 against India, Viv Richards took West Indies to the brink of an eventual victory with a 66 - run innings he considers his best in Test. But it was Andy Roberts who won the man of the match award for actually making it a match. Even after tea on the final day, the match was heading for a tame draw before Roberts obliterated India's middle order and tail, thus giving the Windies batsmen a chance for glory.

In that match almost spoiled by rain, Roberts had 5 for 39 in the second innings to finish with 9 for 99 in the match.

Then there was an infamous series in 1980 in New Zealand that most West Indians would rather forget. It is the only Test series that West Indies lost between 1976 and 1995.  Richards was injured and missed that series, but Andy Roberts had the best "batting" average.

Indian commentators will tell you how Roberts destroyed India on a made-for-spinners pitch in Chennai in 1975. In that match, he wrecked the Indian party, taking 12 for 121. This represents the best figures by a West Indian in a Test match against India.

But like any great sportsman, Roberts is more than just a few isolated special performances. His body of work, shortened by West Indies' at times incomprehensible selection policy and politics, is nothing short of great.

So what is Roberts" record? He became the first Antiguan to play international cricket when he made his Test debut on March 6, 1974, a day before Viv's 22nd  birthday. The Hitman, as he was called,  proceeded to open the bowling in every Test match he played, except his last, although he played with other great West Indian fast bowlers such as Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Wayne Daniel, and Malcolm Marshall.

Roberts opening the bowling was not just a token. For if opening batsmen survived his spell, they were often so battered and bruised physically and/or mentally that they would not go on for much longer.

In 47 Test matches, Roberts took 202 wickets. This gives him an average of 4.3 wickets per match, which is better than that of Curtly Ambrose and Micheal Holding (two bowlers named on West Indies' All Time Test Team). In those 47 matches, he took more than 10 wickets twice, and five or more wickets in an innings 11 times. This represents a better frequency than Holding or Garner.


Roberts was especially known for his guile and his ability to work out a batsman. Like a ripe mango, he would set you up, then devour you. He was especially known for bowling bouncers at differing speeds with the same action. The first slower one, the batsman might dispatch, the second faster one dispatched the batman (his limb, head, or wicket).

Quite a number of batsmen have suffered fractured limbs, ribs, jaws, egos, or stumps after an encounter with Roberts.

If he was destructive in Test matches, he was tight and miserly in One Day matches. And he was especially so on the biggest stage  - the Cricket World Cup. In 16 World Cup matches, he bowled 170.1 overs, taking 26 wickets for only 552 runs. His economy rate of 3.24 runs per over in World Cup cricket is the best ever; better that of other World Cup greats such as Ian Botham, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Muralitharan, or Glen MaGrath.

His bowling average of 21.23 runs per wicket is the sixth best all time in World Cup, and best among all West Indians. As the spearhead of the attack, he contributed greatly to West Indies winning the first two World Cups in 1975 and 79. His highest One Day International score of 37 not out came in a World Cup match.

Many critics would agree that the Kerry Packer World Series Cricket was the toughest cricket ever played. If that is indeed the case, when the going got tough, Roberts got going. For his World Series bowling records are indeed very impressive. Some argue that World Series Cricket stats should be part of players' official Test records. I am also of that view.

In 13 World Series 'Tests,' he took 50 wickets at an average of 24.14, economy rate of 2.6, and a strike rate of 56.68. His number of wickets is second only to that of the legendary Dennis Lillee, and his economy rate was practically at the top with that of Joel Garner at 2.59.


As impressive as his stats may be, they can only tell a part of the Andy Roberts story. He displayed the spirit of a warrior and, as part of the great West Indies team of the 1970s and 80s, brought great pride and pleasure to West Indians and black people all over the world. He has been inducted in the United States Hall of Fame.

But what stands out profoundly in my mind is that, like Sir Viv, he refused to play in then-Apartheid South Africa. He did not betray his race, disgrace his country, or dishonour his legacy for a lucrative payday.

He was a great team player, and Michael Holding attributed much of what he learned about international fast bowling to Roberts. His serious demeanour might have been interpreted as a lack of charisma, but if he was on your side, you asked for no better companion.

He was "fast and deadly" to his opponents, but as boy watching cricket at the old ARG, I anticipated Roberts moving in with a bright red cherry as much as Viv walking out to bat.

Come on Antigua, let us truly honour the Hitman.

Dr Jerry Simon


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30 Comments In This Article   

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The Best I ever saw

#30 Big Andy Fan » 2013-08-09 11:01

Dr. Simon this is a great reminder about a great man and a bowler. I saw Andy bowl in India as a 14 year old boy in a match against Central Zone in 1974. The spell he bowled in the second innings is still fresh in my mind. I recently saw him on youtube in England along with other WI great fast bowlers. I was shocked to see Andy the way he looked. It is my child hood desire to meet Andy. Hope in near future I can travel to his home town and meet him. David Gower asked Sir Ian Botham if he had to pick one bowler for any wicket who would it be and Botham responded DK Lilly or Andy Roberts you can't go wrong with either of them. That says it all about Andy...
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Big Andy Fan

truck driver

#29 tomdickharry » 2013-02-04 22:25

Andy's only sin is that he is a country boy from Urlings and also that he is cool and easy with no pretenses. That is the way we think and partition value. We are real imposters living in a world of false belief and half truths.
Andy Roberts ought to be revered in his country and held in the very highest of honour for his achievements on the cricket field. He was fearsomely competitive on it and a gentleman off it. Plus his cricket brain trumps most others and his knowledge base on fast bowling and cricket is outstanding. He deserves more post cricket acknowledgement than he gets.
But I say to you his origin socially as a rural boy is the biggest factor.
I see it with Jim Allen of Montserrat, a contemporary of Viv and who Tim Hector rated as being the best batsman on the Combine Islands team even with Viv playing.
Jim was a country boy from the same village as Reuben Harris a former education minister under Papa Bird AlP in the 60s and 70s.
A profit has no honour in his own country. If Viv was rural he would have had a hard time too.
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tomdickharry

RE: Honour the Hitman

#28 The Fire Within » 2013-01-11 11:58

Why is it that the contribution that's made by some are often overlooked while others are highlighted like the streets of Vegas? I think we ought to big up any and everybody who has made meaningful contribution to our Nation. Maybe when the adults do that it will serve as a lession to our youths to learn to show aprreciation and learn to highlight the good in others instead of often resdorting to the negative.
Big ups to all our youngsters too who are out there putting in there two cents to make it all happen.
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The Fire Within

andy

#27 sita » 2012-11-08 10:19

Yes they should honour him .Andy is getting married in 2013 march .yes to me sita
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sita

Honor him now; not later

#26 S. James » 2012-10-19 10:02

The honor that Andy Roberts deserves from his people, his country of Antigua & Barbuda and the past and current governments of Antigua & Barbuda is long over due. Let us not make it a habit as with many countries in the world that honor an individual after they have no breadth, no hearing, no sight. I know there is a street in our capital that's named in his honor but I think he deserves more than that. He was not only the first native of Antigua & Barbuda to represent the West Indies International cricket team but the first from the Leewards and Windward Islands. We could even rename the Valley Rd., that not only leads to his home parish of St. Marys, but to his home village of Urlins. It doesnt have to be another street named after him, but something larger within the Antigua & Barbuda community. Vivian Richards name bears the stadium, V.C. Bird name bears our International Airport and rightly deserving but it's time for Andy Roberts to get his due.
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S. James

@ Watching You

#25 Dr. J.Simon » 2012-05-21 23:29

I first saw Andy Roberts in person at about 8 years old at the ARG. (Before that I listened his exploits by radio from my father).I then had the pleasure of knowing him better when he would interact at length with my father (a fisherman) at our home and shop.
Since then I have spoken to him on several other occasions on both fishing, cricket and health.
When I studied in Barbados in the early 90s I was glad to do presentations about him as "My Hero".
While Mr. White and maybe others have called to honour Andy ( I take your word for it).
This has been a personal passion of mine since Andy was unceremoniously dismissed from the West Indies Team.
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Dr. J.Simon

RE: Honour the Hitman

#24 WATCHING YOU » 2012-05-21 12:26

DR JERRY SIMON ...GOOD COMMENT FOR YEARS ( TONY WHITE )HAS BEEN SAYING THAT SAME THING ON THE RADIO STATION ZDK OVER AND OVER SO LET US GIVE (MR TONY WHITE) THE CREDIT FOR THAT PIECE OF ARTICLE YOU POST.
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WATCHING YOU

RE: Honour the Hitman

#23 Concern Antiguan » 2012-05-14 13:26

Good article. Your activities off the field also play an important part.
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Concern Antiguan

andy roberts

#22 tyson » 2012-05-11 14:12

happy to see your article because your sentiments are also mine.i remember seeing fru-ty and creole bowling for st.mary at pares against st.peters and though he was a world class bowler then.he was quiet,serious and a total professional.
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tyson

LAC

#21 LAC » 2012-03-17 17:22

Well done Dr. Simon wonderfully written I agree with all your sentiments. I have not been to Antigua recently but I hope the issue will now be discussed on the radio phone in. It is often said that West Indies selectors will only pick players from the smaller Islands as a last resort, unless they player show brilliance very early on. If we use the same analogy (simple as it may be) could it be Andy does not get the same accolades as Viv because he is a country boy from Urlings. Would he have been more lauded if he was a town boy? This kind of small mindedness is still prevalent in Antigua.
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LAC

RE: Honour the Hitman

#20 Anuismyhome » 2012-03-14 13:29

It breaks my heart that we have not honoured Andy as we should have. It upsets me even more when i think of how quick we knighted Stanford and we treated one of our living legends with such disrespect.I don't know why we fight each other down the way we do and quick to accept others.
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Anuismyhome

three cheers

#19 rupert j. » 2012-03-12 16:46

Doc. Simon three cheers to you sir,hip hip horay, hip hip horay, hip hip horay.
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rupert j.

Honor The Hit Man

#18 Proud ANU Queen » 2012-03-12 13:22

Thanks Dr. Simon, for speaking truth to power. I was in ANU last week, and the Royal Visit got so much coverage that it was not funny. Roads were paved like new in the areas where they would traverse, while our other National Hero, Andy got little or no attention.

I often wondered why Andy has not gotten as much attention and accolade as Viv, no disrespect to Viv. Maybe those in authority are reading this article and the accompanying blogs and are re**sing their decision to remain silent on Andy.
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Proud ANU Queen

SUSAN

#17 GREAT! GREAT ARTICLE » 2012-03-12 07:56

Dr. Simon, as always perfect timing, I surf the net just to read your articles, well put together, that facts are so real. Keep feeding us, keep up the good work. GOD BELSS. Again thanks for educating us.
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GREAT! GREAT ARTICLE

RE: Honour the Hitman

#16 Cool Ruler » 2012-03-11 15:00

One thing I never got to see was Roberts going full trottle against the master blaster in their heyday. I wonder did they ever clashed while playing for Hampshire and Sumerset.
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Cool Ruler

The Youth! The Man! The Nation Builder!

#15 John French II » 2012-03-11 13:56

Notes from A Native Son Of The Rock. Dr. Simon, I sincerely and wholeheartedly second the Motion.

"Let Us Now Praise Famous Men". Who will chronicle the journey of the youth from urlings to the cricketing world stage?

The Man's Exploits "Within the Boundary" are Forever Etched in Our Memories, Historical Record Books and International Archives. The Legendary "Hitman" Lives On.

"Beyond the Boundary", this gentle, intelligent, dedicated, visionary and transformative Nation Builder has led as an Administrator, Entrepreneur, Villager, Citizen and Caribbean Man.

Too Late! Too Late! is the Cry.

Heaven Help The Nation Of Antigua & Barbuda.
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John French II

Remembering the Past

#14 Clarence E Pilgrim » 2012-03-11 13:22

Dr. Simon your article is both enlightening and refreshing, as it seeks to put a proper perspective on one of our nation's often forgotten national treasure. It is indeed memorable and a privilege to have seen the red fiery man-made bullet erupt from the mighty hand of Andy Roberts to intimidate and decimate opponents, to make “rallying around the West Indies” a popular refrain throughout the Caribbean and the Cricket world! This was a unique social reality which encapsulated pride and joy. As we honour our outstanding citizens, let us not forget anyone deserving! Let us not forget Andy Roberts “the hit man!”
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Clarence E Pilgrim

RE: Honour the Hitman

#13 Colin James » 2012-03-11 11:51

I would like to associate myself with the comment of Dr Simon. Andy has been the trailblazer and even Sir Viv has said that it was Andy's selection to the West Indies team in 1974 gave him the motivation to try even harder to break into the Windies side later that year. Andy is deserving of his accolades and he should be given his flowers now and not later. Nuff respect to Andy. Thanks, Jerry.
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Colin James

RE: Honour the Hitman

#12 R. Bowen » 2012-03-11 11:38

Well written Dr. Simon. Andy Roberts for all of his accomplishments on and off the cricket field seem to be discussed only in polite conversation rather spiritedly debated as one of the greatest fast bowler of all times. That Holding would go on record as stating that Andy Roberts taught him the art of fast bowling and Greg Chappell, "If Roberts wanted to hit you as a batsman all you could do was take the hit" speaks to the quality of the man. I for one, without any ethnocentric bias maintain that Andy Roberts, one of the greatest pace bowler....period...s hould at a minimum be Sir Anderson Montgomery Everton Roberts. It is citizens like him who contribute most to Antiguan and Barbudan Pride.
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R. Bowen

RE: Honour the Hitman

#11 Cool Ruler » 2012-03-11 11:21

CRICINFO:
Quote:
Deadpan and deadly. Wicket or boundary, not a flicker of emotion would be evident save a gunslinger's narrowing of the eyes. Andy 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 of a century, began with him. Here was a bowler whose pace came from timing, with power from a huge pair of shoulders. His bouncer was regarded as one of the most dangerous. He varied its pace, often setting batsmen up with a slower one and then poleaxing them when they were late on the quickie
http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/52817.html
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Cool Ruler

RE: Honour the Hitman

#10 Cool Ruler » 2012-03-11 11:15

Simon boy, I could shake your hand. Who can remember the pride we felt as a nation when he use to open the bowling for the formidable West Indies team. Right after winning the world cup against Australia in 1975 they went down under and got decimated 5-1 with Thompson and Lilly running riot over them but Roberts bowled as fast or faster than them. Well we all know that Lloyd vowed never again will he travel with joke bowlers like Vanburn Holder or Keith boyce and the four prong pace quartet came into being led by Andy Roberts. VIV deserve every accolade he has gotten but Roberts deserve much much more than he has gotten.
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Cool Ruler

RE: Honour the Hitman

#9 WI Fast Bowlers » 2012-03-11 10:37

Andy is one of the greatest fast bowlers of all times but in WI the pecking order is Marshall, Ambi, Holding, Andy. Where is the respect for Ambi also in Antigua? He is the undisputed #2 of all time in a list that includes the 4 above plus Garner, Hall, Walsh and Croft. The fact that Antigua has produced the most devastating batsman of all times plus 2 of the greatest fast bowlers of all times shows what we are capable of with focus and hard work.
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WI Fast Bowlers

RE: Honour the Hitman

#8 Avid Sports Fan » 2012-03-11 10:14

Dr. Simon I agree with you whole heartedly, I have often wondered myself why Andy Roberts isn't as celebrted as he ought to be. I hope the powers that be are taking note. Brings to mind the the calypso sung by Swallow about him "Bowl them Fruity, Bowl down the Englishman"......... ........ great sportsman indeed.
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Avid Sports Fan

Excellent

#7 Southern Beauty » 2012-03-11 09:41

Excellent reminder.
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Southern Beauty

dfsfsdfdgdsf

#6 dfjshfsdfdfsd » 2012-03-11 08:59

Well done, used to go into his supermarket and seeing him packing shelves and thinking I wish he had played 20 years later and he would have been set for life. Class act, can't compare to the guys we have now that get payed millions to go and swipe in a short game.
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dfjshfsdfdfsd

Awesome--Better news than good news!

#5 Dr. Isaac Newton » 2012-03-11 08:51

Dr. Simon: Thanks for reviving the wonders of a magnificent warrior. Class embodied! Excellence encased! Regional Pride enthroned! “The Hit man” was truly a forerunner of greatness felt in character, style and humility as much as in records, stats and performance. As part of the outstanding stream of WI players, Andy Roberts was our first hurricane against the world's best. He is truly to be elevated to the heights that he deserves. I am not too sure that any other duo-batsman and bowler can out-match the Andy- Sir Viv combination across the history of Cricket.
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Dr. Isaac Newton

beautiful work doc.

#4 Microwave Chef » 2012-03-11 07:43

Dr Simon you have outdone your self on this one , what a great piece of work again, Jerry you have some hidden talents that are now coming out my friend . keep going , keep growing. :lol:

As for My friend Andy . those who know cricket know you and what a great cricketer you have been and still are. but more so a man of class style power and consistency, with you my friend what you see is what not you get. what you see is a mere glimpse of the man Andy "The hitman" Roberts. a true Antiguan Hero

Mircowave Chef
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Microwave Chef

RE: Honour the Hitman

#3 Morris » 2012-03-11 07:39

Dr. Simon, I am in complete agreement with you; I too think recognitions are long overdue.
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Morris

Well Said

#2 Higher Heights » 2012-03-11 06:52

Doc,

This piece is quite timely. I've often wonder why Andy isn't as celebrated as he ought to be. I'm happy that you highlighted some of his key statistics so that others can be aware of the impact he had on the game. Truth be told, for his being the first Antiguan to "break the glass ceiling," he should be honoured. It was he who paved the way for many others to come. I join your chorus and say, "honour the Hitman!"
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Higher Heights

great

#1 carvaa » 2012-03-11 05:04

Kudo's Mr Simond excellent piece of writing, this should be like a small hand book or magazine entitled The Hit Man Andy Roberts, or better still if one should google Andy Roberts this could be great reading and knowledge to one's mind. I too remember those days and those cut throat buncers i think Andy was the only bowler that could produce a bouncer with the ball elevating right from your toes. Yes these two icons kept me up many a nights knowing i had to be at school in the morning, you listen for the arrival of Sir Viv to the crease and at the turn around here comes Andy with the new ball to open the bowling, how could one sleep? we are talking cricket at it's best with two guys from a little dot on the world map making head line every where they go. Every Antiguans and Barbudans walk tall back in those days.
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carvaa

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Dr. Jerry Simon

Dr.Jerry Simon,a general physician, is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and Villa Clara (Cuba) Medical School. He has previously worked in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. Presently he is Medical Director of the NSA Medical Surgical Rehab Centre and is a certified member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

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