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'WI have failed to keep spin tradition alive'

Former off-spinner Lance Gibbs feels WI failed to maintain what Indians have mastered.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 04:24 IST

Former off-spinner Lance Gibbs, who once held the world record for taking maximum Test wickets, does not think West Indies have kept up the tradition of spin bowling as well as the Indians have over the years.

Gibbs says Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh have preserved the spin legacy left by the likes of Bishen Singh Bedi and Erapalli Prasanna.

"You had Subhash Gupte, Bishen Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat and others and now Kumble and Harbhajan have some 700-odd wickets between them. I would say the cup is still not bare in India," said Gibbs who retired with 309 Test wickets in 1976 and held the record for six years before Dennis Lillee of Australia overtook it in 1981.

The last great spinner to emerge from the Caribbean, Gibbs kept the tradition of Sony Ramdhin and Alf Valentine alive. Since then the reliance on liquid pace has meant that the cricket set-up has no patience with young spinners.

Gibbs is quick to rebutt the suggestion of former West Indies quick bowler Andy Roberts that spinners never won matches in the Caribbean.

"That is debatable. I won matches for the West Indies here. Ian Johnson of Australia was a high quality off-spinner and he took a seven-for in Guyana. He had Gary Sobers thrice in two Tests! Bedi and those fellows, though they didn't win a Test, got wickets here. I think what you put in is what you get out."

Gibbs concedes that on the pitches in the Caribbean, one needs to have variations as well as pace and craft.

"You got to be able to vary your pace in the West Indies. You can't just run in and bowl day after day. It becomes predictable as far as the batsmen are concerned," he said.

"I was fortunate that I was born in Guyana and played at (dull) Bourda where you had to learn to vary your pace and do different things," Gibbs added.

"The last time I was in Bourda, Kumble came to me and asked how I had taken so many five-wicket hauls in Bourda."

Spinners do tend to exchange notes on their craft and Gibbs looks at modern spin "warriors", such as Kumble, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan favourably.

"They are all great bowlers in their own rights. A lot of things have been said about their actions. But the umpires are there, they are there to do a job and if they find their actions legitimate, so be it," he said.

However, the only area where a sense of jealously creeps in is when Gibbs looks at the batsmen the modern spinners are bowling to these days.

"I could never play against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. If they were in my time, I would have got a few more wickets."

"In my times, it was called a drifter. I used to bowl it differently. I could take my spinning finger away from the seam of the ball and get the ball to go in straight or let it drift a little."

"If the present boys change their action to bowl it and if it is legitimate, it's quite okay as far as I'm concerned."

Gibbs has great memories of India where he took wickets by bagful against batsmen who are traditionally known to be strong players of spin. In all he had 39 wickets from seven Tests in India, including three five-wicket hauls.

"The wickets were a bit conducive to spin. I remember Chandu Border as an exceptionally good player of spin. Sunil Gavaskar was starting, Farookh (Engineer) would give a charge and you always had a chance against him; Vishy (Viswanath) was a useful player and he had two centuries against us."

Gibbs remembers Prasanna fondly and shows respect for the Indian's craft.

"He was a top class bowler, no getting away from it. He would have bowled better in conditions where the wickets were not suited to him. He was successful in Australia and if you could do it Down Under, you would be successful anywhere," he said.