West Indies offspin legend Lance Gibbs, citing the dearth of quality fast bowlers in the Caribbean, has suggested regional selectors pair Devendra Bishoo and Sunil Narine in Test cricket.
Gibbs reasoned that since the current fast bowlers have not been of the standard of past West Indian greats, Bishoo and Narine should be playing Tests together and rekindle the great West Indies’ spin bowling partnership of the 1950s and 1960s that included himself, Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin at various stages.
Bishoo and Narine were ICC Emerging Players of the Year in 2011 and 2012 respectively – but yet have only played one game together for the West Indies, which was a Twenty20 International in Sri Lanka, in 2015.
“They (Bishoo and Narine) have been the team’s most destructive bowlers when in form in recent years and the selectors have to answer the question why they don’t play more together across the formats.
“Having been part of a great spin bowling partnership with Valentine and Ramadhin early in my career, it would be great to see that replicated with Bishoo and Narine today,” Gibbs said.
The Guyanese great praised Bishoo on his performance in the just-concluded Test series defeat against Pakistan and encouraged him and other upcoming spinners to seek out former player’s knowledge on the art of spin bowling.
Bishoo’s series haul of 18 wickets at an average of 27 was the most wickets for a West Indies spinner in a series since Gibbs took 21 in India in 1974.
Other notable records Bishoo broke during his first Test spell of 8 for 49 were the best figures by a West Indian bowler overseas, the best figures by a West Indies bowler this century and alongside Gibbs (1962 vs India), Valentine (1950 vs England) and Jack Noreiga (1971 vs India), and he also became one of the only West Indies spinners to have taken eight wickets or more in a Test innings.
That haul was also the second time in the last year that Bishoo had produced top-class figures in a losing cause, following his 6 for 80 versus Australia in Dominica.
“Bishoo has always been a talent, so I’m proud to see him producing such a series performance which justifies his ability to join me as one of the few West Indies spinners to take eight wickets in a Test innings”, said the 80 year-old Gibbs speaking from his residence in Miami.
“Traditionally, spinners start peaking as they approach 30 and I remember speaking to him last year when he was having some problems with his bowling fingers, when I gave him the remedy to the problem I got from Richie Benaud.
“Since then he seems to be fine because he has bowled close to 40 overs in a few Test matches,” Gibbs added.
Bishoo has so far played 21 Tests and taken 77 wickets at an average of 37 with one ten-wicket match haul, three five-wicket hauls and five four-wicket hauls. Narine, who has shown a preference for the shortest forms of the game, has played only six Tests in which he has taken 21 wickets at 40.52 with two five-wicket hauls. He has been forced to remodel his action after being thrice called for throwing.
For much of the last decade during the West Indies decline, spin bowlers generally have been the leading wicket-takers in West Indies domestic cricket – but only Bishoo, Narine and Shane Shillingford (before he was called for chucking) have had an impact at international level.
“The wickets in domestic cricket are too under-prepared and spinners are made to look better than they are,” stated Gibbs who was once Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker with 309 scalps in 79 games, when he retired in 1976.
Gibbs said he was available to share his knowledge with up and coming spinners and suggested that the expertise of other West Indian legends of the game should also be sourced.
“I have been through the mill and believe I have sufficient knowledge to share with any young spinner in the Caribbean – along with the other great batsman like Sir Gary Sobers, Sir Viv Richards, Rohan Kanhai, Everton Weekes, who are alive today.
“When I played and toured India, I would talk to fellow established off-spinners such as Ghulam Ahmed (India), Ian Johnson (Australia) and Ray Illingworth and David Allen (England).
“Sir Frank Worrell would tell me to leave Ian Johnson alone,” Gibbs recounted humorously.
“I did this because I wanted to perfect my craft when I went on to the field and it aided me. When Australia toured the Caribbean in 2012, Nathan Lyon asked me for advice and one time Omari Banks came to my home in Miami for guidance.
“So if the media and overseas players can contact me, I encourage the current players to seek out our knowledge because we are always willing to pass on what we know. In Bishoo’s case, since he is from Guyana just like me, I’d probably help him more,” he concluded.