January 29th, 1951 – Anderson Montgomery Everton Roberts was born to Joseph Roberts and Isabelle Sheridan both deceased of Urlings Village.
He was raised in the Urlings community where his father plied his trade as both a fisherman and farmer while his mother worked as a cook and a farmer. As a child growing up, he spent most of his early life running in the hills, spending a lot of time on the beach and ‘playing ball’ as they would often refer to Cricket.
His early education began at the Urlings Primary School, then the Johnson Point Primary School, to the Golden Grove Secondary School. After one term at the Golden Grove Secondary School, Roberts and all the other students were transferred to the Princess Margaret Secondary School where he completed his secondary education. Upon completing school in the early 1970’s, he spent a brief time doing surveying work with Wren O’neil, before giving in to his passions, cricket and fishing.
Roberts’ introduction to cricket began on the Urlings playing field where he engaged in playing softball cricket, also called windball. He recalls the influence of his older brother who played a lot of cricket for Urlings as well as men such as Dennis O’garro, Stefan O’garro, Omega Williams, and Egbert Joseph all of whom he felt, if they had the opportunities that were afforded to him, could have played for the West Indies team. He spent most of his younger years watching these gentlemen play cricket. He reflected that the time spent watching the game may have been helpful to him later in life as he notes that if one wants to be good at anything they must first be willing to work hard and that working hard could simply be sitting and watching.
At the age of 16, he began playing hardball cricket; though he never made the school team despite putting forward what he deemed a better play during practice time than most of those who were selected.
Roberts’ cricketing career was rooted in Parish League Cricket through the Urlings then the St Mary’s Parish teams. He made his mark as a right-hand batsman but, more significantly as a right-hand fast bowler. Word quickly spread of the impact of the bowling attack ‘round south’ that the selectors from St John’s came to watch himself and another bowler at the time, Monroy Creole. While Creole migrated, Roberts recounts that he took the offer to complete trials in St. John’s for the national team and it was at that moment that his career took off without a hitch.
In many accounts of his cricketing career, Andy is revered as ‘the father of modern-day West Indian fast bowling’. Despite his stellar career, making it onto the West Indies team was not an automatic process as several steps needed to be completed: national selection, then Leeward Islands and then Combined Islands. As he puts it, it was especially challenging coming from a small island. To show how laborious it was, he notes that during his first outing playing for Antigua in 1968, he was 17 years old and it was just as he was approaching his 24th birthday that he began playing for the West Indies team.
Before being selected for the West Indies team, he had the opportunity along with fellow cricketing legend, Sir Isaac Vivian Richards, to engage in a 6-week training course in London, England (1972). At the Al Gover Indoor School, his first and only professional coaching experience and from where he was scouted for his first professional cricketing stint with the Hampshire team.
During his stint at Hampshire in 1974, Roberts quickly became a game changer and known for his pace, his impact was immediate and lasting. Media reports ranked him in the top tier, with Wisden’s Hampshire correspondent penning “no one of his pace had been seen in England since Lillee in 1972. Roberts is a genuine fast bowler, can stand up to the work, remain free from injury and give the attack a cutting edge which always seems freshly honed.” He would take 119 wickets at 13.62 runs per wicket that season.
In addition to Hampshire County Cricket Club, Roberts also played professionally for the Leicestershire County and New South Wales cricket clubs.
Cricket record reflects that Roberts impressed West Indies Captain Rohan Khani while bowling for his club Hampshire in 1973 against West Indies during a warm-up match for the English tour. This performance likely contributed to his selection to West Indies the following year.
On March 6th 1974, Roberts made his Test debut against England (Barbados), the first Antiguan to play Test cricket for the West Indies. He shared the new ball with Vanburn Holder and got his 1st wicket, Chris Old, after his teammates had dropped several catches squandering early opportunities for the team. He amassed a total of 202 wickets in 47 tests over 90 innings, with two 10-wicket and eleven 5-wicket hauls. His best bowling in an innings is 7/54 against Australia, in December 1975 (Perth, Australia) and in a match 12/121 versus India, in January 1975 (Chennai, India). He remains in the top ten test bowlers for fastest to 100 wickets (ranked 7th) a feat he achieved in July 1976. Sir Andy scored 769 runs over his test career, with a high score of 68 (181 balls) versus India, in December 1983 (Calcutta, India). He played his last test in December 1983 against India.
On June 7th1975, Sir Andy played his first One Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka, 1st wicket David Heyn. He captured 87 wickets in 56 ODI’s. His best bowling in an innings 5/22 against England, January 1989 (Adelaide, Australia), Benson & Hedges World Cup Series. He scored 231 runs, with a highest of 37 not out against India in 1983 (Manchester, England). His last ODI was in December 1983 against India.
Though he has played many memorable games, his most cherished is West Indies beating Australia in Australia (1980); a feat that no West Indies team previously accomplished despite tours since the 1950’s.
Sir Andy was considered the leader of the formidable and fearsome West Indies pace attack (Roberts, Holding, Garner, Croft) that dominated World cricket during the late 1970s and early 1980s including two Cricket World Cup championships in 1975 and 1979. Most media reports from his time on the field would label him as an assassin on the field. “He used to walk back to his mark, the eyes cold and calculating, the face expressionless and half hidden behind the beard, the shoulders hunched and alert, the mien brooding and ruthless. Then he would turn and rush in, building up his speed along the way, exploding as he reached the crease. His arm would come over, at right angle to his torso, but would reach a height as his shoulders dipped. He would glide along his right toecap and hit the crease with his full weight. And then the leather would streak out of his hand in a blur of red, zooming towards the batsman at a rate rarely matched by any man.’ Source: Cricketmash.com The Expressionless AssassinA runabha Sengupta
Roberts officially retired from international cricket in 1983 following his last test and ODI against India. He continued playing for the Leicestershire County Cricket Club until 1984, on national duty for Antigua and Barbuda until 1982, and played for the West Indies Masters team in the 1990s.
In recognition of his contribution to the development of cricket locally and in the region, Roberts has been bestowed with several awards. These include being inducted into the US Cricket Hall of Fame (2005) and ICC Hall of Fame (2009), receiving the Order of the Caribbean Community (2014), the highest award that can be given to any Caribbean citizen. In February 2014 he was bestowed with the second highest honour in Antigua and Barbuda, the Order of the Nation (a Knighthood). On October 10th 2021, Sir Andy was bestowed with an honorary doctorate, Doctor of Laws, by the University of the West Indies Five Islands Campus in recognition of his contribution to sports in the region.
Physical landmarks in recognition of his contribution can be found across Antigua: one, a street in St. John’s towards the southern perimeter of the city, east of the Public Market (formerly Drake Street), and Andy Roberts Drive in his home village, Urlings.
Upon retiring, he became a coach and administrator for West Indies cricket. He has overseen the preparation of pitches at home and across the region. He has worked with fast bowlers in Bangladesh and India. In 2017 in collaboration with fellow knighted cricketers, Sir Isaac Vivian Richards, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Sir Richie Richardson, the Four Knights Academy was created.
Sir Andy still enjoys fishing a profession he kept during cricket’s off-season and post his time on the field. He has served the fishing industry in an administrative capacity at the Antigua and Barbuda Fisherman Co-operative Society for several years and has invested in other entrepreneurial opportunities.
His heart and soul remain invested in the development of cricket in Antigua and Barbuda and the West Indies, and he is never shy in giving his opinion on the continued development of the sport in the region.