Down memory lane with Pedro Collins: 'Till today, when people see me they say this man destroyed Sachin'

Jigar Mehta

"I remember them like yesterday, I will never forget those three balls."

People probably don't remember that Pedro Collins took more than 100 Test wickets for West Indies, but the first thing they recall about the West Indies left-arm pacer is him getting Sachin Tendulkar out three times (two ducks) in the 2001-02 series. And Collins also vividly remembers those three deliveries that instantly shot him into the limelight.

Nostalgia is in the air because the fans might once again get to see Tendulkar vs Collins battle as cricket legends once again grace the field in the Road Safety World Series that will take place in Mumbai and Pune from 7 to 22 March. Collins is in India to take part in the tournament and will play for the West Indies Legends team. Firstpost sat down with Collins to walk down the memory lane and relive his battles with Tendulkar, West Indies' famous series win in 2001-02 at home, how their current pace attack is shaping up and much more.

You were involved in West Indies' famous series win over India in 2002. What are your memories of that series?

That was the first time I played against India, so it was very nerve-wracking for me. I was going to come up against the best batsman in the world - Sachin Tendulkar. There were a lot of people in the stands, all the gates were sold out. I remember bowling to him in Barbados, that's the first game I played in the series. It was also my home ground so there were a lot of expectations.

A lot of people also actually came to see Sachin bat. The West Indian fans love their cricket and they love to see a lot of shots played, so a lot of people came over for that Test series. I remember when he stepped out (to bat), I was a bit nervous, I was admiring him because he was such a good player and it was the first time I was going to bowl to him, so there was admiration for him.

I ran in to bowl to him and got the ball in the right area and got him knicked off off the very first ball. Everybody stood up and cheered. That was the beginning for me, the highlight of my career. Because getting Sachin out was a very big thing for all the fans and people around the Caribbean. It was a tough series and I am happy that we won it.

It remains the most memorable series you've played in?

Yes, it's always good to win a home series, and India was a very good team at that time, so beating them in the Caribbean was really one of the highlights of my career. And if I could relive it again, I would do it because everyone in the crowd was happy. They were happy for the team and how we played. It was just an awesome series, we had a good series against the Aussies too at home in 1999 but we ended up drawing it as they came back to draw 2-2 but winning the India series was very special for me.

West Indies were not quite the force of the past that time and had lost two consecutive series, against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, what clicked for the Windies in that series?

Coming back and playing at home. The crowd motivation is a big factor, there was a lot of motivation from the fans. Win, lose or draw, that crowd will always be behind you and that was very heartwarming for us. To see the look on spectators' faces when we lose was always tough. And you had to dig deep down inside to carve a victory not only for yourself but for the people as well. So the guys really rallied hard and wanted to do it for the fans. That really brought us closer and made us look at cricket differently. You realise 'okay you are not just playing for yourself but for the thousands around the Caribbean' and we wanted to dedicate that series to the fans actually.

The fact that you scalped 100 wickets in Tests might have flown under the radar but the first thing people remember about Pedro Collins is getting Sachin 3 times out in the 2001-02 series...

The very first ball, he stepped in, and I got him out. And then we went over to Antigua, again the crowd came out to see Sachin (smiles) and again I got him out the same way. Bowled it in a good area and nicked him off the same way. It was just unbelievable. And then we went over to Jamaica, I was off because I had bowled a good long spell and took a rest.

He played shots against the other bowlers and then the captain brought me back on. He was settled nicely (on 86) but the ball was reversing, so I went around the wicket and within three overs I got him bowled and the crowd went ballistic. That was a tremendous feeling for me.

Nobody thinks and talks about the other wickets, they only talk about those wickets - getting Sachin out. Till date, when people see me they say, this man destroyed Sachin. He is the one who got Sachin out. Everywhere I go, people still remember those wickets. Sachin and I have a good relationship. There was no animosity or anything. He is friendly and a very nice man and a gentleman to the sport as well. I always have great respect for him. So just looking forward to seeing him now.

Take us through those few minutes from walking to the run-up to delivering the ball when you bowled the first ball to Sachin...What was going through your mind?

What was going through my mind? Okay, you are bowling to the best batsman in the world, you've got to get it right. You've got to get the ball in the right areas. The ball was outswinging for me and it was difficult for me to bring the ball back into the batsman at that time, so I used my angle and just put a little bit more effort into it, because I knew if he gets away, he's going to score big.

I was lucky enough to get that ball in the right channel and nick him off. Early on, the plan was to let him play at the ball. A lot of guys, when they come to the crease, they start off leaving the ball so my plan was to get the ball closer to him, even if he hits it, it's good, the only way you can get him to nick off is by hitting the ball. So that was the plan to bowl closer to his body and it worked.

What was the feeling after getting him out for the first time?

I remember the skipper just ran towards me, everyone came and hugged me. It was just amazing because I was playing in front of my home crowd and everyone in the stands were on their feet. And they just had a lot of respect for you from then on.

Did you sleep that night?

(Laughs). I had a good night's rest. We still had to get the other batsmen out. But I got a lot of phone calls and people congratulated me. We hadn't even won the Test but people were calling and congratulating for getting the Little Master out, so it was a good feeling.

Do you remember all the three dismissals perfectly?

Ya, ya, I never forget them. There were two outswingers. So at Barbados, I bowled from over the wicket and got him to nick off. In Antigua also I had the ball leaving him so it took his edge. And in Jamaica, he was leaving the ball alone when I was bowling from over the wicket so I went around the wicket again and got one to pitch on middle and got the ball to hold it's line nicely with a hint of movement away and caught him on the crease and bowled him. So two nick-offs and one bowled. I remember them like yesterday, I will never forget those three balls.

After getting him out in Barbados, was there any plan set for the rest of the series against him?

There weren't any big plans, we had our team plans. I was the only left-arm seamer in the team and I actually moved the ball a lot and I was the only swing bowler the team had. Once I get the ball in the right area...early on in his innings he is vulnerable. So the plan was to get the ball in the right area as early as possible and make him play at it. If we can we will get it but if we miss out, he is going to go big we all knew that, so it was my plan. So personally, I put a bit of more effort into my bowling and it worked out.

During the series or after it, did you have a chat with him?

We never really had big chats but I remember once we were at a function during the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. He and Lara were having a chat and Lara called me over to have a picture taken, because in the Caribbean, when I played against Trinidad, I would get Lara out most of the times. So they both called me over and said we want a picture and I could stay in the middle. I was the only person to get him out so often (laughs), so I needed the picture. It was good to hear that. But that's a part of the game. They are two greats of the game and I am happy to get their wickets a couple of times.

You had a decent series, picking up 9 wickets from 3 matches. What clicked for you in the series?

I was a rookie. My aim was always to get wickets. I was a new ball bowler and playing against India who are very patient batters, you had to get the ball in the right areas most of the time. And every game you play, you learn. Playing against India gave me a lot of confidence and when I got Sachin out, that confidence doubled: I got Sachin out so I could get any batsman out. That helped me. I got more focussed, determined and had more self-belief. You string all those things together and it just happened. There weren't any series I played and did not get wickets, it was just a few injuries that set me back but I enjoyed the competitiveness of all the Indian players. It was a lot of hard work but you reap the success once you put in that hard work.

One interesting thing you remember happened in that 2001-02 series?

I had photographs of all the wickets put together, our photographer gave me and somebody took them away. That person is a very lucky person and I am still searching for him (laughs).

In the return series few months later, India beat West Indies comprehensively in India, you took just one wicket from 3 innings, Sachin ended as highest run-getter. How challenging was it to bowl to Sachin?

I always knew that he will have a plan against me on how to not to get out to me. I think he changed his stance a bit and he was watching the ball longer. I tried to hide the ball and stuff like that but he was very patient. And in India, the wickets are very flat and it's very hot and the crowd was behind him so that helped him. And then Dravid was probably the main guy because he was just like a wall and would wear down our fast bowlers and then Sachin would come out.

They had a very strong batting line-up. Sehwag would kickstart the innings and score very quickly. So mentally it was challenging and physically even more with the conditions and then adjusting to the food wasn't easy and I wasn't a big lover of Indian food at that time and it was important to eat properly. So a lot of factors weighed in. It was a tough series but it helped me as a fast bowler. It helped me to bowl in good areas and it helped me a lot when it came to bowling line and length for a very long time and long spells of course.

You knew Sachin had made the adjustments, you didn't make any?

Well, I tried everything. But it was different, the guys (Indians) know the wickets over here and they know once they get in and be patient, the runs are going to come. And yes we tried everything that we could have but it didn't work out. We didn't have the kind of support we had in the Caribbean also.

There was also a moment in that series which people vividly remember, Anil Kumble bowling with a broken jaw in the Antigua Test...

I was hoping that he goes home (laughs). Because every time he came on to bowl, he was getting wickets. He was a key spinner in that series and after he got his jaw broken, I was praying that he goes home and then I saw him come out with his head wrapped up and I was like oh Jesus! He also got Lara out and at one stage it was going well for the Indians. But I was hoping that he should actually go home and get some rest (laughs).

2002 was the last time West Indies beat India in a Test series, what's the reason they haven't been able to beat India for so long?

I think the Indian team got better. They have some great players. There is a lot of science that's come into cricket which we don't have like the Indians do. They have a lot of structural academies and programmes in place and they keep producing the players.

The younger players are more positive. They are dominating the U-19s and they get into the senior team. When they get an opportunity, they hold on to it and make a name for themselves. And they keep producing a lot of good fast bowlers as well. So they have a good programme in place. I think we need to take a leaf out of their book and try to develop our players like these guys as soon as possible. They don't play too much cricket.

Did you know that you were the first bowler to scalp a wicket with the first ball of a Test match three times? On all three occasions bowling to Bangladeshi batsman Hannan Sarkar...

No, at first I didn't know (laughs) but then a guy brought it to my attention. It was a very low key record but a record is a record. I used to swing back in the new ball. I used to warm up properly, bowl a lot of balls. My plan was to get the ball to finish onto the stumps. Fortunately, the guy missed the ball a couple of times and got LBW and then he got bowled in the Caribbean and the fourth time I bowled, he decided not to take the first ball (laughs). So he had a plan, which is good!

You loved bowling against Bangladesh isn't it? 26 wickets from four Tests...

Well, yes. Bangladesh at that time weren't the strongest of teams. But Test cricket is Test cricket for me. If they score a hundred against me, we will get crucified. So my job was to get them out as quickly as possible and win the matches as early as possible.

Playing in the Asian subcontinent wasn't easy but I enjoyed playing against Bangladesh. Their cricket has improved a lot and you can't take them lightly anymore. I am very happy for them because they have come a long way. They can beat any team on any given day, so kudos to those guys.

Do you think the present West Indies pace attack is one of the best after a long time with the likes of Kemar Roach, Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul in the mix?

To me, yes. We have to use our resources as much as possible. Our fast bowlers get better with age and understand their game more. Kemar is bowling very well, Gabriel is unfortunately injured, then there is young Joseph so there is a good mixture of seniors and youngsters coming in. Hopefully, they can keep doing that because you don't want to have a lot of inexperienced players at one time. So once you bring in the guys who have more experience and knowledge about the game, the youngsters can feed off and learn from them.

They are on a good path. Rebuilding is going to take a while but these guys understand their cricket and hopefully, they will get back on top again. I do have a lot of faith in them and there are a lot of good young players in the Caribbean that are coming through and hopefully we will get to see a couple of youngsters join that set-up shortly.

Are you going to remind Sachin about that 2002 series when you meet him again?

(Laughs) No, I am not like that. I am just going to try to get him out when I bowl to him. I haven't played a lot of one-day cricket against him but I know that he still has it in him. And we are of the age where we are not as fast as before. So it's probably going to be an even playing field still. I am looking forward to the challenge but mostly I am looking forward to have fun on the field and entertain the crowd. It should be a good little tournament.

What project are you on now-a-days?

I am the head coach of the university's UWI (University of West Indies) program in Barbados. We are working closely with a lot of youngsters, developing players who want to play cricket and also have a good education. So I go around and scout players, offer them scholarships.

Sometimes do you sit back and watch the highlights of your wickets of Sachin in your free time?

(Smiles) I did it a couple of times. Just to show my kids. I have two girls now and they haven't seen me play. I would show them a few clips saying: Daddy just doing what he loved to do. And they were just excited to see me on TV.

How difficult was it to convince yourself to get back on the field after a long time, at the age of 43?

(Laughs) It wasn't that difficult. Yes, the body is a bit sore. You wake up with different pains some times. I do a little bit of bowling because I run the cricket program at the university and there are a lot of young guys who challenge you still, so I bowl a few balls with them. And there is a tournament called over-40s, we are actually the defending champions and I actually played a big part in that win. So a bit competitive and still play a bit. The mind is there, the body aches a bit so once you have a few massages it should be okay (laughs).

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