2015
08.01

Dwayne Smith’s 30-ball 49 against Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel in the final was not enough to take Barbados Tridents to their second successive Caribbean Premier League title last week, but the allrounder has had his share of victories with the many sides he has played for over the years.

Smith, 32, was part of the West Indies team that won the 2012 World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka, before representing Mumbai Indians, who won both the Indian Premier League, and the Champions League T20 title the next year. In 2014, Smith played a vital role in Barbados’s CPL triumph, and followed that up with a fantastic campaign with Chennai Super Kings, who clinched their second CLT20 title later that year.

Though Smith started his international career with a splendid Test century against South Africa, he has mostly been seen as a limited-over specialist due to his explosive brand of batting. But he doesn’t mind that reputation as long as he is among the runs.

The big Barbadian from Saint Michael Parish chats with Wisden India about sharing a dressing room with Sachin Tendulkar, opening alongside Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum, his Test future, and more. Excerpts:

Does the IPL experience help when it comes to playing in other T20 tournaments like the CPL, which is a fairly new addition to the cricket calendar?

It does count for a lot. As in, guys like me, (Kieron) Pollard, Robin Pietersen, Ravi Rampaul, and many others who have played in the IPL before would know how to talk to people, especially the youngsters, in crunch situations. I will not say having played in the IPL gives us a very big advantage, because T20 cricket, I believe, has a lot to do with luck, and who is carrying the most of it on that specific day.

Do you think if Indian players are allowed to play in the CPL, it will do wonders for the popularity of the tournament?

Oh, we all know that is probably never going to happen. I am not saying that you necessarily need to send the senior Indian guys to play in the CPL, but there are guys like Shreyas Iyer from Delhi (Daredevils), (Sanju) Samson, etc – the guys who are not in the regular senior team for India. These guys should get a chance because you know that some day they are going to come up. And for these youngsters, it would be great to come and experience the different atmosphere, the different type of cricket that we play, the pitches, everything.

If they come here and play, I am sure it will be a great experience for them. Who knows, some day they might be called upon to play a tour in the West Indies. None of them know how the pitches here are like. So coming from India, where the pitches are generally flat, to here, where the pace of the wicket is a lot different – I think it will give them a major boost. But then again, we all know how the system works.

You play for Chennai in the IPL alongside many of the Indian national team players. Does that make it easier for you to read the mind of say, MS Dhoni, when you are playing against India?

(laughs) Maybe, but Dhoni is a smart man too, so you never know.

Yes, you do have an idea about what is going on in their head, and also, they will have an idea of how we play, so it is vice-versa. As a batsman, it has exposed me to the mindset of a lot of the bowlers. So when you go back to the international setup, you know, ‘ok, this person does this, and this person does that’. Be it the IPL, CPL or any of these tournaments, they are a great platform to understand each other’s game plan, and I hope these (tournaments) continue for many more years.

Before joining Chennai, you were part of the Mumbai team that won the IPL and CLT20 in 2013. Tell us a bit about that experience.

If you ask me about my time in Mumbai Indians, one of the things I really cherished was a dream I had for a very long time – meeting the great man for India and everyone else around the cricket world, Sachin Tendulkar. And to walk out and open the batting with him was incredible. I will always be thankful for some of the conversations that we had, like him giving me tips on how to play spin. Robin Singh is another person who has been very good to me, and I will never forget him for that. He is actually one person who really worked hard on my batting, I owe him a lot.

Is there a difference in opening the batting with Chris Gayle, your West Indies batting partner, and Brendon McCullum, your Chennai ally?

(laughs) It is a bit different, yes. Chris is more settled at the start, but when he gets his eye in, he is a lot different. But McCullum, I love opening with him because he is crazy. A lot of people think that we have a competition out there in the middle, but in reality, we really love to watch each other batting and have fun. To be honest, I have opened with some great players, especially in T20 cricket. But Chris, I have been playing with him for a long time now, so I know how he will operate each time. Everyone would say that, ‘Oh, that guy doesn’t run.’ I know that better than anyone else, so obviously, I don’t even try to get any quick singles. I know what Chris can do when he gets set, but he can take some time to settle. So once I get a good start early on, I know that a lot of teams are worried because they are thinking ‘Oh, Chris hasn’t done anything yet’, and then he starts, and he smokes it up!

With McCullum, it’s different – we both go for the kill. Best thing is at CSK, we have the backing of captains and coaches. So we have the license to score freely. Once you have that sort of backing, you get a lot of confidence.

So you see, I can not separately judge the two because they are not the same type of players. But one thing I can tell you, I love opening with both of them.

You were part of the side that won the 2012 World T20. What are your thoughts on West Indies’ chances in the 2016 edition to be played in India?

I think we have a very good chance. I am sure we can go there and bring back another title. We have a great opportunity since the tournament is in India, where most of our players have played a lot of T20 cricket. We know the pitches around there, and I am sure we can perform well in all those places.

You were fairly successful with the ball in the 2014 edition of the IPL. Why haven’t we seen you bowl as often of late?

I guess that is entirely up to the captain, really. Whatever he decides, he decides. I do not mind bowling. I am always ready and willing to bowl. I still practice in the nets. That (his successful bowling stint) happened some years ago. I can’t do anything about it, really. See, my job is mainly to bat, and that’s what I really have to do. But once I am given the ball, I will always try to do well there too.

Finally, will we ever see Dwayne Smith playing Test cricket for the West Indies again?

(laughs) Maybe, If I am allowed to come back in the side just like that.

No, I don’t think that will ever happen again, and I am not looking for it either. I am just focussing on my fitness and Twenty20 cricket right now. And I am not too fussed about Test cricket. It’s a long way off and I am getting older too. There are lots of youngsters who are coming up like Shane Dowrich, and Shai Hope from Barbados. Hope they have a great a career. Shane has started really well, and I wish for him to have a great career.

-ibnlive.com

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