Keith Roberts – Exiles’ record run-scorer

During Exiles recent match against Strollers on 11 September 2011, Keith Roberts scored 51 runs to finally overtake Mark Bradshaw’s 2 year hold on the status of the Energy Exiles record ever run-scorer. Mark has 5,080 runs for the club and Keith has now moved on to 5,114. The Exiles website caught up with the now legendary Mr Roberts for his comments:

Keith, many congratulations on achieving this epic landmark. How does it feel?

A bit of a relief more than anything else! I haven’t been able to buy a run for the last few weeks since the landmark came into view, so I’m just happy that I’m not going to have to wait til next season to get it out the way!

Do you remember the shot that secured the feat?

To be honest, not really, although I was told in the pub afterwards that it was most likely a cover drive (past the guy with the artificial leg!).

Which landmark gives you more personal satisfaction – reaching 5,000 runs or becoming the clubs leading-ever run scorer? 

Probably the latter, although it’s at least in part a function of just outlasting my rivals!

Looking back over the years, which has been your favourite innings?

Probably the 100 I scored against British Library a few years ago – a bit of a feat of stamina, and a close run thing because I completed it off the last ball of the innings, and particularly pleasing because it took me 18 balls to get off the mark, but thereafter I scored at a run a ball; But I also have fond memories of an innings played a long time ago against Roehampton on a spicy pitch at an old ground of ours at Overton Rd in Sutton; This was in my pre-helmet days and I got hit in the throat early on, but went on to get 70 odd; I often get most satisfaction from innings when theres a bit in the pitch and the bowling’s challenging, if not dangerous!

And your favourite shot(s)?

I suspect Amil would say the slap in the air to, or if I’m lucky through or over, cover! And I do indeed like a cover drive. But I played a couple of late cuts for four last year against Cypos which made me very happy (small things!), because I didn’t think I had them in me!  Speaking of which, my all-time favourite shot was against Great Dalby on tour in 2003, where I came in down the order and, to very audible surprise from my team-mates, hit one of my first balls for six, straight over the bowlers head, landing the ball on top of the large leylandii hedge that doubled as a sight-screen.

Who has been your favourite opening partner? Martin Thomas must be high on the list?

Well, there are a lot to choose from – perhaps as many as 15! Martin’s on the list, and I’m happy to confirm he’s not at the bottom of it (older exiles and Mark B in particular will have no difficulty guessing who is in that position!). Of past exiles, I greatly enjoyed batting with Jon Taylor because he was so fluent he took a lot of pressure of me. Similarly, it was always very reassuring to see Mark at the other end, and of course we hold the opening partnership record for the club. Of current exiles, it’s great being at the other end when Q is in full spate – you can just sit back and admire – and batting with John Tither is always very satisfying because he’s so strong tactically. And I’ve really enjoyed watching Jasper’s cover driving at close range this season.

Is there a certain pitch that you particular enjoy batting on?

Nursery Road has usually been kind to me (I’ve even hit sixes there!), and in fact I’ve got runs on most of Merton’s grounds – perhaps a link there to not getting in the car to play cricket! Despite getting my hundred there, I don’t feel that Chiswick is a particularly happy hunting ground – and despite being the flattest wicket we play on.

Which opposition bowlers have you found the trickiest?

I’d better choose someone historical – don’t want to encourage anyone for next season! I always found Caythorpe’s opening bowler Roberts pretty hard work, and North Croydon/Merton had a pretty tough mix of young quicks and wily old seamers a few years ago. Simon French of Strollers was always for me a matter of survival rather than scoring runs, and in common with many exiles past and present I’ve had my moments with a number of opposition slow bowlers – Pinkney and Morgan spring to mind!

Some negative members of the tabloid press have questioned your strike-rate, whilst other more experienced writers have commented that you provide the glue that holds the Exiles batting together. What’s your take on this?

Well, of course, I don’t read the tabloids! But, without getting all Geoffrey Boycott on you, I do believe there’s an important role for an opening batsman who can blunt the opposition bowling and pave the way for the dashers in the middle order. Add to that the need over the years (perhaps less true now?) to counter the traditionally brittle nature of the Exiles batting line up, and I think my skill set (which is mostly based on reasonable technique and concentration) fits the role, which is just as well because I certainly don’t have the gifts to be one of those few opening batsman who can score quickly and consistently heavily at the top of the order!

Have you got any tips for young opening batsmen hoping to follow in your footsteps?

Not sure there’s a big queue of them, but here goes – don’t forget that leaving the ball early on is a legitimate option, very few of the bowlers we play against are immune from serving up something worse shortly afterwards!

Finally, what are your cricketing aspirations going forward? Perhaps one of your sons might open the Exiles batting with you one day? Do you have any targets you have yet to achieve?

I’d love to keep playing long enough to play with one or both boys. Not sure about opening with them though – they’d definitely be faster than me between the wickets (who isn’t?!), and calling might be a problem, since they already ignore 90% of my instructions.

If I do keep going that long, then maybe I might have a realistic chance of getting to fifty 50s, and I quite fancy getting to 100 wickets (but that would require some fairly benevolent captaincy, not to mention generous batting from the opposition!)

Keith, many thanks for your time and best of luck in the future.