Out of the 102 overs in the India innings, 61 have been bowled by spinners Shane Shillingford and Veerasammy Permaul, a huge departure from Caribbean teams that mainly relied on pacers even on sub-continent conditions.
Once a pace bowling hub, West Indies have been producing more spinners. The others to make a mark are Sunil Narine, Devendra Bishoo and Sulieman Benn.
One of the main reasons is the changing nature of Caribbean pitches. “Apart from may be one venue, wickets in the West Indies are not conducive for pace bowling anymore,” said former skipper and current team manager, Richie Richardson.
While Shillingford took up spin because his father and brother bowled spin, most of the new crop of spinners, including Permaul, were influenced by the changing nature of pitches in the region.
“Permaul was raised in Berbice, Guyana where pitches are like in the subcontinent,” a team official told HT. “Bringing him to India was a conscious decision.”
Slower pitches have had a direct impact on the first-class structure as well. Shillingford pointed out that spinners are now among the top wicket-takers in the Caribbean.
“Right now, each island has at least two spinners. They have taken over from the fast bowlers. While islands like Trinidad & Tobago have always produced spinners, it is ironic that traditional pacer-friendly centres like Barbados too are producing spinners now,” said the official.
This surge prompted the West Indies Board officials to take them more seriously. While earlier camps were organised specifically for fast bowlers and batsmen, there are now regular camps held for spinners. The one supervised by Saqlain Mushtaq in September was in fact one of the longest camps. It ran up to three weeks and had even women spinners attending.
Spinners are now central to the West Indies bowling attack in any format now. While Shillingford, according to a team official, has been earmarked by selectors as a Test specialist, Narine is the man for ODIs and Twenty20s since he has more variations. They may not have got much attention before, but things sure are changing for West Indies spinners.