Colin E. H. Croft
West Indies starts its 2014 home international series with a Test against New Zealand in Jamaica on June 08 next, and the team’s greatest problem, and need, is for new fast bowers.
When former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop gave that excellent interview to ESPNcricinfo a week ago, he outlined generally what it really took to be a good, even great, fast bowler. It is not easy at all!
Many, including me, have said that had Bishop not had serious lower back injuries, he probably would have been the greatest and best West Indies, and world, fast bowler ever.
There must be a quick caveat here. “Real fast bowling” is anything over 90 miles per hour; 145 kilometers per hour. That allows about 0.2 of a second for deliveries to get to batsmen from the bowler’s hand!
Anything below that is simply “medium dobblers”, even though some who never got to those high speeds have been successful.
But this is about real prime time fast bowling!
Incidentally, my all-time five world fast bowlers, selections that are subject to change, discussions, and conjecture, are Dennis Lillee, Joel Garner, Wasim Akram, (Sir) Curtly Ambrose and Malcolm Marshall.
That I had to omit such luminaries as (Sir) Wes Hall, Jeff Thompson, Fred Truman, Mike Holding, Alan Donald, Mike Proctor, Waqar Younis, Glen McGrath, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar and Andy Roberts, is bitter.
Also, if I had to pick a West Indies all-time cricket XI, five faster bowlers would be included – (Sir) Gary Sobers, who could bat and catch brilliantly, bowl real fast too, then bowl orthodox and un-orthodox left-arm spin, (Sir) Wes, (Sir) Curtly, Marshall and Garner; for their dynamism and production.
The rest of that all-West Indies team, at their prime form, would be Lance Gibbs, George Headley, (Sir) Everton Weekes, (Sir) Vivian Richards, Brian Lara and (Sir) Clyde Walcott, as wicket-keeper/batsman.
Hey, I know that you are cursing me, as is normal, when you read this. No sweat. Selecting an all-West Indies team is hard work, but it also stimulates craniums and always gets tongues wagging!
Yes, I know that there are no real ‘opening’ batsmen here, but I will not de-select anyone to make space for specialists. As Rohan Kanhai once said, “If you can bat, then you can bat anywhere!” Indeed!!
Kanhai, Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Bishop, Chris Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul, Courtney Walsh, Holding, Roberts, Jeff Dujon, even maybe yours truly, might make a 2nd XI!
But this is about fast bowling, right, but what a delicious diversion into the real pearls of our cricketers!
So, when Clive Lloyd came to West Indies captaincy, and decided to go for an all-pace attack, after that beating West Indies got from Australia in 1975/6, and then India making 406 in a 4th inning to win a Test, with three spinners in West Indies team back then, he had great fast bowling riches at his finger-tips:
Holding, (Sir) Andy, Garner, Croft, Wayne Daniel, Marshall and Norbert Phillip were available, seven guys who could all make batsmen hop, skip, jump and duck when they were “smoking” with after-burners on!
Those were replaced by Patrick Patterson, Walsh, (Sir) Curtly, Bishop and the two Benjamin’s – Kenny and Winston.
Immediately succeeding them were Nixon Mc Lean, Merv Dillon, Franklyn Rose, Cameron Cuffy and Reon King, but these were, quite disappointingly, severely inconsistent and, generally, not successful overall.
So, fast forward to West Indies last Test, also against New Zealand, December 2013, where West Indies faster bowlers were Tino Best and Darren Sammy.
“Macco” Marshall must be turning in his grave!
In that same Test squad to NZ were Sheldon Cottrell, Jamaica’s left-armed fast-medium bowler, and Trinidad & Tobago’s right-hand fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.
In 3rd Test of three, with West Indies losing that series 2-0, three front-line spinners in Veerasammy Permaul, Sunil Narine and Narsingh Deonarine were used. None were impressive.
Best was fast but so erratic that his usefulness was never fully realized, while Sammy was a regular “medium dobbler.” It is safe to say that Best will not play Tests again for West Indies.
For Test No. 1 v NZ in Jamaica, Jerome Taylor will probably return to the team, after a severely long lay-off, but after doing a very good job for Jamaica this year in regional competitions.
To date, Taylor, who will be thirty in June, has played 29 sporadic Tests, for 82 wickets, at 35.64 average.
Gabriel too has done a reasonable job for T&T in the 2014 regional competitions. After a good start against England at Lords in May 2012, he was also injured and has only played six Tests for thirteen wickets at 38.84 average; nothing to be excited about.
But, worryingly, that is where the fast bowling actually stops.
Ravi Rampaul’s name keeps cropping up, but his production, 49 wickets from 18 Tests, is simply poor.
Jason Holder, Barbados’ young fast bowler, has not yet played a Test, so this could be his debut year.
In this façade, West Indies fast bowling is in a deep mire. New fast bowlers are needed, right now! Enjoy!
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