ONDRIVE With Sham Samaroo
With 13 wickets in two tests, Devendra Bishoo was named Man of the Series in the just concluded West Indies tour of Zimbabwe. West Indies took the two test series 1-0 following Bishoo’s nine wicket haul in the first test that gave them victory by 117 runs.
At the post match conference, Bishoo said he was “pretty happy with the series and looking forward to New Zealand.” It has been a rocky road for the Guyanese leg spinner who hails from New Amsterdam, Berbice. Since his impressive debut in 2011, Bishoo found himself in a revolving cycle where he was misused, discarded, recalled, discarded, and then recalled again. It has not helped the young man’s confidence that his captain, Jason Holder, had shown little respect or confidence in him, often calling on part time spinners ahead of him. This was particularly evident on the last tour of England where every bowler came in for a thrashing, but somehow Bishoo appeared to be made the scapegoat.
Holder’s lack of confidence in Bishoo fueled speculation that, perhaps, the West Indies skipper wanted him out of the team. But now that Bishoo almost single-handedly dismantled Zimbabwe with his nine-wicket haul that brought West Indies victory in the first test, Holder was all praise for the leggie. Bishoo followed up his first innings tally of 5 for 79 with 4 for 105 in the second to give him a match haul of 9 for 184, and West Indies victory by 117 runs at the Queens Sports Club in Zimbabwe. The victory meant that despite the draw in the second test, Jason Holder finally won his first test series as captain.
Man of the Series, Bishoo, also achieved another milestone on the tour capturing his 100th test wicket. The Guyanese leggie made his West Indian debut in 2011, but has only played in 28 tests to date. On debut, Bishoo took 4 for 68 in the first innings against Pakistan which West Indies won by 40 runs. In a mesmerizing six over spell, Bishoo removed Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq and Mohammed Salman. He was also the second highest run scorer in the second innings with 24 (Chanderpaul made 36). And against India, Bishoo counted such big names as VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina among his victims. Bishoo is also an excellent fielder and his flying catch to dismiss a rampaging Harbhajan Singh at Sabina Park is still being talked about today.
Such an impressive start earned Bishoo the title of ICC’s Best Emerging Player of the Year in 2011. But Bishoo soon became a casualty of West Indies’s horrendous record in the last 10 years. West Indies has one of the weakest bowling attack in world cricket. This meant that Bishoo became a run-saving rather than a wicket-taking option. The legendary Aussie leggie, Shane Warne, arguably the greatest spinner ever to play the game, spoke about this misuse of Bishoo by his captain during Australia’s tour of the West Indies. Warne said that a leg spinner is a team’s attacking option, but West Indies was destroying the young man’s confidence by using him as a run saving option. It is expected that your leggie will go for some runs, Warne said, but he will also get you wickets. You cannot use him as a containing bowler, argued Warne. A leggie should be used in short bursts, be given an attacking field, and asked to go after batsmen, Warne added. He condemned the West Indies use of Bishoo as a run saving option: setting a defensive field and asking him to bowl 20-30 over spells is a recipe for disaster, Warne said. And that is exactly what happened to Bishoo.
On the twin tour of Bangladesh and India in 2011 Bishoo averaged some 50 overs per test. In the first innings of the Kolkata test, Bishoo bowled 45 overs. India amassed 631 for 7 declared, and Bishoo had figures of 45 -2-154 -1. By the time the series ended, Bishoo was the walking wounded. Wisden said that Bishoo was “reduced to a fatigued hobble” as painkillers had to carry him through 40 overs on the third and fourth day. By the time of his return to the Caribbean, Bishoo was a shell of his former self. He lacked confidence, and seemed to have lost his passion and enthusiasm.
In the first test against Australia in Barbados, Bishoo bowled 53 overs. At Kensington Oval, the Mecca of fast bowling in Caribbean, why in heaven’s name would Bishoo be called upon to bowl 53 overs. He had to because West Indies has a paper tiger attack. So shattered was his confidence that Bishoo would not play another test for three years. Recalled after three years, against England Bishoo was misused once again as the cab horse of the bowling attack. His 51 overs stripped the skin from his spinning finger and he was again out of the team. Recalled to the team for Australia’s tour of the Caribbean, the young was again up for the challenge. He captured 6 wickets in succession including that of Steven Smith and Michael Clarke, the latter arguably the world’s finest batsman of spin bowling at the time. But the icing on the cake was his ‘ball of the 21st century’ to dismiss Brad Haddin. Haddin offered a defensive stroke to a leg break pitched outside leg stump that spun across him and knocked back the off stump. The delivery brought immediate comparisons to Warne’s famous ball of the century that dismissed Gatting in similar fashion in 1993. However, the West Indies pipsqueak bowling attack meant that Bishoo was forced, once again, into the role of cab horse. Not surprisingly, by the end of the series there was hardly any skin left on his spinning finger. That led to another extended absence from the team.
Now the young man is back and is looking ahead to the tour of New Zealand. Will he be forced again into the role of cab horse? Your guess is as good as mine. West Indies, meanwhile is still the pathetic loser that they have been for the past 20 years.