Never would anyone have thought that a spinner would be the backbone of the West Indies bowling attack. Towering fast bowlers used to be the norm. But against India, leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, their most experienced bowler, is leading the attack. The reason is the inexperienced pace attack comprising Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite. Out of the eight wickets India lost in their first innings in the Antigua Test, Bishoo took three.
Bishoo has 58 wickets in 16 Tests at a modest average of 38.05. However, as a Windies spinner, average isn’t the parameter to judge a bowler on as the bulk of bowling is done by the pacers.
Between his debut in 2011 and mid 2012, Bishoo was a consistent performer, picking 40 wickets in 11 Tests against sub-continent sides. However, in 2012, against Australia, he was replaced by off-spinner Shane Shillingford and Narsingh Deonarine in the second Test. And he stayed out of the squad for three years.
In those 11 Tests, however, Bishoo had showed his attacking abilities. He relied on seamers for support on the other end. Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul and Darren Sammy played their role well and expected Bishoo to provide the breakthrough.
For instance, in 2011 against Pakistan at Providence, Rampaul pressured the opposition while Bishoo was given the licence to kill. He picked four wickets in his debut game. Bishoo followed up with five wickets in the second Test.
When India toured the Caribbean in 2011, Bishoo scalped seven wickets in the first Test with Edwards and Rampaul firing from the other end. Though Bishoo conceded 6.81 per over in the first innings, he brought it down to 2.61 in the second innings.
In Bangladesh, Bishoo took eight wickets, including a five-for in the second innings. Edwards had scalped five in the first innings.
Bishoo played nine Tests in the Caribbean, two in Bangladesh, two in Sri Lanka and three in India. Majority of his opponents have been from the sub-continent. Bishoo faced Australia twice and played against England once. When he was replaced in 2012, Shillingford, Sunil Narine, Sulieman Benn, Verasamy Permaul were the Windies’ spinners. Most of them played against England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
During the 2014-15 season, West Indies’ main players boycotted the national team due to non-payment of salaries. Narine and Benn were seen playing around the globe in the T20 leagues.
In 2015, Bishoo was again called up to the Test squad. On return, against England in April 2015, Bishoo picked up four wickets. But this time, the fast bowling unit was inexperienced. Bishoo’s economy rate went up, from under three runs an over to over four.
The Caribbean selectors have not handled Bishoo properly. He was never persisted with against quality sides such as Australia. This despite the entire Windies side being under transformation. But they seemed to have learnt the lesson. Though Windies lost the series in Sri Lanka in 2015-16, Bishoo performed and also helped young left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican to settle in.
Against India, Bishoo will be expected to lead from the front. With the hosts’ fast bowling toothless, Bishoo alongside part-time off-spinner Kraig Brathwaite will have to find consistency on slow Caribbean tracks. It is said spinners will play the main role in this series. The biggest challenge for skipper Holder and coach Phil Simmons will be to avoid bowling Bishoo to the ground.