Beckford - I Want To Be Like Shane WarneAuthor: Michelle McDonald
Thu, Sep 29th, 2005
The ever smiling leg spinner from the parish of 'St Bess' in rural Jamaica, has an even broader grin these days. Alton Beckford got the surprise of his life when he was named in Jamaica's 14 man squad for next week's regional one day tournament in Barbados.
Perhaps it was as a result of his calmness under pressure, as exhibited when he bowled Jamaica to victory in the 2004 U-19 semi-final against Trinidad; or his excellent control and variation as noted by Jamaica's national coach and former leg spinner Robert Haynes, as well as U-19 coach Junior Bennett.
The 18 year old St Elizabeth Technical High School past student could have big things in his future. His first hurdle is to get into the final squad to represent the West Indies in the Youth World Tournament to be held in February 2006.
During Jamaica's preparation training ahead of the one day tournament, Beckford spoke about what he needs to do to get into that squad; how he learnt the art of leg spin and about his cricket career in general. After the selectors met, he expressed his delight at being included and shared his goals for the tournament.
You're just coming out of the U-19 regional tournament. Look back on your performance. How do you think you did?
I think I performed extremely well because I set myself a target to achieve 25 wickets in the competition and I did that and went beyond that so I think I performed well.
How many wickets you got?
I got 30 from 6 matches.
I understand that they called all the teams together then they called out the 20. How did you feel when your name was called?
I was feeling extremely happy because based on my performance, I know that I had to get in but when I had to go forward in front of everybody, I was extremely proud.
What was the difference in your performance this year that you think made you get selected?
I bowled well last year, but this year I was more consistent as far as the wickets are concerned, because I got five wickets in the first five games I played; only in the last game I didn't get five.
What made you decide to pick up leg spin?
Ever since, I liked to bowl leg spin because I liked to watch Shane Warne when I was younger, I just wanted to bowl like him.
When was the first time you started to play cricket?
At Glen Stewart Primary school, when I was in Grade 3. I started out as a pace bowler.
You did cricket as a part of Physical Education, or you saw other people playing?
No, we didn't have PE at our primary school, but we used to have a cricket competition called Carib Cement that my school used to play in so I used to go and try out for that.
As a fast bowler?
Why did you switch?
As I told you earlier, I started to watch Shane Warne and I just liked how he bowled and I just wanted to be like him.
How did you actually learn the technique of leg spin?
By basically watching him and practising until I went to high school. My coach Junior Bennett showed me a lot and I learnt a lot from him.
Do you understand, I don't want to say the theory behind, but how you can use leg spin to get out batsmen?
Explain it to me.
You have to know which batsman to bowl which delivery to.
What kind of deliveries do you have?
Leg spin, top spin, skid and googly. Yes, you have to know which batsman to bowl which delivery to, at the right time.
How do you know that?
Because based on how a batsman is batting, I can know that I just need one leg break to out this man, or one googly to out this man.
Can you remember an example where you actually worked out a batsman very early on in his innings, and probably a very dangerous batsman as well?
Yes. The three day game in St Vincent, a Bajan batsman - Parris - was just leaving alone everything, and I say I just need one googly to out this man. I worked on that and got him out lbw.
Ok. You went to STETHS. Did you specifically want to go there?
No I wanted to go to Munro but I passed for there.
Talk about your career in cricket at STETHS.
I had a fairly good career at STETHS because most of my years that I played Headley Cup, I got the most wickets for my school and we won Headley cup two or three times, lost three, but I think I had a fairly good stay at STETHS.
Talk about balancing school work and playing cricket.
Well that was quite hard at times as I have to go class in the days, train after school, sometimes in the night, you're quite tired, you find it hard to study. It was quite hard at times.
You've been selected now in the West Indies U-19 squad of 20. They are going to narrow down the squad to 14 or 15. What do you think you have to do to be one of those?
I just have to stay fit and continue with my bowling form and that will be enough for me.
Do you have any weaknesses that you need to overcome?
Yes, I think I need to work on my batting a lot more.
So nothing with your bowling then. You're saying your bowling is perfect?
No I'm not saying my bowling is perfect. Sometimes I tend to push the ball down the leg side, so if I could just concentrate longer, and keep my arm up.
Do they have any other leg spinners in the 20-man squad?
Do you think that improves your chances?
Yes, a lot.
Let's look ahead now and say that you did get selected for the Youth World Cup in Sri Lanka next year. What would you be hoping for?
First, I would be hoping for the West Indies U-19 team to bring home the title, and individually I would just want to go out there and perform to the best of my ability and just try to do what I did to get me there.
One of your team mates from last year's U-19 team has played a few matches for the West Indies. Have you spoken with him about the experience of playing at the highest level?
Yes. To play at the highest level and stay there, you have to perform more consistently, be a lot fitter. You have to work on your game plan more and work out batsmen because the batsmen look at the kind of deliveries the bowler bowls and stuff like that, so I think at the highest level, it's quite a bit to work with.
Well you have had an opportunity to bowl at people who have played and are playing for the West Indies. How useful would you say it has been for you to be a part of this Jamaica squad?
It has helped me a lot so far. I have to learn to be more consistent to these batsmen because you have few margins for error when you're bowling to such batsmen of high quality so I think that helped me to concentrate a little more and get the ball in the right area.
What was your reaction on hearing you are a part of Jamaica's squad for the one day tournament?
I was extremely surprised and happy at the same time because I've been working for this you'd have to say my whole life and I finally reached one of my major milestones.
Why would you have been surprised because you had a very good U-19 tournament and you're part of the West Indies U-19 20-man squad?
They carried a lot of good players so there was a lot of good competition and it was really tough to get in the 14.
What do you think made you get in the 14?
I think I had a pretty good U-19 tournament and I came in the trials and got a couple wickets.
What was the reaction from your team mates?
They were all happy for me, they all congratulated me and I felt the part.
What are you hoping for when you go to Barbados for the one day tournament?
I am just looking forward to just going to Barbados and do what I did to get there and hopefully it pay off for me, along with the hard training.
And obviously this will be quite useful leading up the camp in Trinidad that you're going to in December.
Yes, I will be trying to use the experience that I gain from there to go into the camp.
What are your plans for after the tournament?
I have a West Indies programme to work on my fitness so basically I will be working with that.
What does that programme include?
Mostly strength work and conditioning.
Are you going to the gym?
When I am in Kingston, I go to Spartan. When I am in St Elizabeth, sometimes I use the school gym.
Has somebody shown you how to use the machines and weights?
Yes, the West Indies trainer Bryce, along with David Bernard.
How important do you think is following the fitness programme to your success on the field?
I think it's very important because fitness has a lot to do with your performances. When you are fit, you will be able to concentrate over longer periods, so that will increase your performance.
What is your attitude towards training, because a lot of people who do well don't like to train?
I think I have a very positive attitude to training. I just always like to train because there is where you are allowed to make your mistakes and you can work on them as well.
How do you practice leg spin?
First, I do a lot of spot bowling and sometimes, I try to bowl to Zeniffe because as you know, me and him attended the same school, so I did a lot of bowling to him in the nets.
Let's look to the future. In five years time, what do you hope to be doing?
I'll be hoping to represent the West Indies senior team and the Jamaica senior team as well.
That's a very high standard. That's a very high goal. How possible do you think it is to attain that?
Once I continue to perform consistently and stay fit, I think I will have a fairly good chance to get in.
Do you realize only eleven people make up the West Indies team?
Yes, I do realize that.
Whose place are you going to take?
I won't say that because I can't say who might play in the next five years.