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Why isn't Bhajji playing? Asks Gibbs

The first spinner to reach 300 Test wickets, talks to HT about the state of spin bowling in India and West Indies.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2006 02:14 IST

It was probably an ironical reflection of the West Indies' plight in Test cricket that Chris Gayle had to parade his mediocre off-spin skills during the Indian cruise in the second Test with Lance Gibbs watching from a corporate box.

The first spinner to reach 300 Test wickets and also the former world record holder for maximum victims didn't show how bad it felt. The fighter, as he describes himself, was unlikely to do so anyway.

The 72-year-old from Guyana is settled in Miami where he works for a shipping company since leaving the Caribbean over 20 years ago. His best figures came against India and in a chat with HT he said he would have been happy to be born in Subhash Gupte's country.

Excerpts:

Is spin bowling a neglected art in the Caribbean?

Not entirely. Spinners are still among the highest wicket-takers in domestic circuit. But it's true that they are not as successful when they play for West Indies. It's difficult for me to say why this has happened, but the coaches here must be responsible in some way.

Also our focus shifted to pace during the Lloyd era, after that 400-plus chase by India. These fast bowlers ruled for sometime but the decline on that front is there for all to see. It's strange that the quicker bowlers are still being persisted with even though they are not making impact.

Do the West Indies have a spinner good enough for international cricket?

Instead of answering that I would say the squad has always had a spinner. Somebody or the other -- whether Adam Padmore just after me, or Roger Harper, Clyde Butta, Nehemiah Perry, Omari Banks and Dave Mohammed in recent times -- has been around.

Is it important to have role models in order to groom spinners?

Not just for spinners, it's good for the sport and for youngsters to have role models. It's important that they have someone to get attracted to the game. Parts of the Caribbean lack such icons.

For example, greats like Jo Solomon, Rohan Kanhai, Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharan all live abroad. Absence of such stalwarts is bound to affect grass root activities in these places.

Did you have a role model?

No. There was a gap between the time I came up and the days of Ramadhin and Valentine. A large part of my success has to be attributed to my fighting abilities.

I started as a leg spinner and switched to off-spin because my inner self told me I was better off that way. I made my mark in my first domestic season as off-spinner. You must be able to pick the strengths of a batsman. Once you know that, you can work on his weakness.

Are Indian spinners special?

Spin bowling has lived long in India. They just keep producing one after the other. But I must add that your wickets have been tailor-made for spin. I would have loved to be born in India. I grew up in a place where we don't doctor pitches. No wicket was prepared for me. I learnt to bowl on difficult tracks.

Which of them do you respect?

Quite a few. Gupte was great. He had one of the best googlies that cricket has seen. He was special because he was probably the first Indian spinner to have done well abroad.

Chandra (Bhagwat Chandrashekhar) got lots of wickets against us. He was faster than most leg-spinners and got unexpected bounce. Kumble is similar in the sense that he too extracts a lot of bounce.

What about off-spinners?

Prasanna was very intelligent, while Venkat (Venkatraghavan) was quicker through the air. Prasanna would also vary his flight and he played on the mind of the batsman. He always seemed to sense what they were up to. I don't think Harbhajan has done as well abroad. If he is your top spinner, then why isn't he playing?