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Bishoo's glory in the desert

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Devendra_Bishoo_West_Indies_cricketA West Indies victory over Pakistan in Dubai would have been an excellent birthday gift in advance for Devendra Bishoo. But he baked a good cake for his teammates anyway with his 10 wicket haul in the day-night Test match in the desert.

Thus, Bishoo would be most disappointed by the 56-run loss to Pakistan, far more than Holder-the-captain or Bravo-the-southpaw who almost got two hundreds in the Test. After losing their home series against the Indians, the West Indians took on Pakistan (who had enjoyed a brief stint as the number-one-team in Test cricket before being pushed down the ladder by Kohli’s India).

 

The victors-on-foreign-soil (well, the series in England had ended in a tie for Pakistan) took on the vanquished-on-home-soil. ‘Vanquished’ would be a strong word here; perhaps ‘down but not out’ would be more apt.

None would have given the Caribbeans a chance before the Test series began. Everyone would have thought that the Pakistanis would take back the numero uno slot from their neighbours at the end of the ‘Desert tour’ without having to work hard for it. However, till the last day of the Dubai Test match (the 400th for Pakistan and their first day-night affair in the longest version of the game), no one knew for sure.

It seemed for a while that the West Indians were again a force to be reckoned with, not just in T20s, but also in Test cricket. It seemed that Sammy-and-soldiers, the U-19 team and the Caribbean women, had heralded an overall overhaul of cricket in the West Indies – up from the T20s to ODIs and Tests. And the one man who made this thought even remotely possible was Bishoo.

Though Azhar Ali, with his triple ton, bagged the Man of the Match award as a member of the victorious team, I thought that perhaps Bishoo could have been awarded the same instead (as there are clearly no rules against giving the award to a player on the losing team).

The target seemed not-so-daunting and Darren Bravo certainly came to the party with his largely dour batting. Marlon Samuels was a disappointment – his 70-odd in the first innings and a partnership with Bravo perhaps had been quite useful, but more was expected from him when it mattered the most in the second innings. ‘BCD’ (Blackwood, Chase & Dowrich) could have stuck on like they did at Kingston against India, but they contributed just 54 runs to the total between them.

Back to Bishoo. The West Indians have been largely relying on their quicks over the course of their Test-cricket-history. Of course, spinning diamonds like Sobers, Gibbs and Ramadhin sparkle prominently from the diadem of Caribbean cricket (which now needs a bit of care-taking). Sunil Narine was a very welcome addition to West Indian cricket…though one would agree if I said that a legspinner is quite another thing altogether. Some offspinners can be freakish – like Narine or Muralitharan – but all leggies definitely are, as a rule. By ‘freakish’, I do not imply ‘waxing and waning’ or ‘inconsistent’, but unpredictable to the batsmen at the crease.

The question remains: will the Dubai performance be a flash in the pan for Bishoo or will he be motivated by it to entrench himself as a world-class leggie for his side – akin to Muralitharan for the Lankans, Kumble and Ashwin for the Indians and Shane Warne for the Aussies? What must spur him onward is the fact that these wickets were bagged on foreign soil at a time when the West Indians were sliding down the slope to the abyss in Test cricket.

Bishoo, if he remembers this performance well and keeps a level head, would be able to exploit the conditions in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh when the West Indies tour the sub-continent in the future. He and Narine can form a formidable duo for the Caribbeans – a la Ramadhin and Valentine in the 1950s…only if the West Indian selectors do not adopt the ‘calypso attitude’ in the selection process.

 

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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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