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The Indian West Indian spinners are back

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tony Becca, Contributor

When the fifth and final one-day international between the West Indies and Australia gets going today in St Lucia, any number can play.

With the West Indies leading the count 2-1, after falling behind 0-1 and with one ending in an exciting tie, the Windies could win the last one for a 3-1 victory, the Aussies could win to tie it up at 2-2, or it could be another nail-biting tie, with the result remaining, as it is, a satisfying and well deserved 3-1 victory for the West Indies.

Whatever the result, it is hard to call, mainly because of the West Indies' brilliance in the field, bowling and fielding, and because of the improved batting of Kieron Pollard. It should be interesting and pleasing, however, and especially as the last time the Windies defeated the Aussies in a one-day international match was over five long years ago.

For me, however, the man of the West Indies performance, the bowler who mystified Australia's batsmen with his off-breaks, leg-breaks, carom ball, and his accuracy, was Sunil Narine of Trinidad and Tobago, a West Indian Indian of tremendous potential.

I remember being in India in 1994 for the West Indies tour and while travelling all around India all I could see, from town to town, city to city, were large billboards reading, "Who are the better Indians, the West Indians or the real Indians?"

As it turned, no one was better. Thanks to a memorable delivery in a wonderful over by West Indies captain Courtney Walsh at the start of India's second innings, the West Indies won the last Test to draw the series 1-1.

In those days, India, the land of spinners, of Vinoo Mankad and Subhash Gupte, Bhagwat Chand-rasekhar and Bishen Bedi, Erapali Prasanna and Venkataraghavan of blessed memory, boasted the likes of Anil Kumble and Venkatapathy Raju, and the West Indies, the land of fast bowlers, of Learie Constantine and Manny Martindale, Roy Gilchrist, Wes Hall, and Charlie Griffith, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, and Joel Garner, and Malcolm Marshall and Curtley Ambrose, paraded the likes of Walsh, Kenneth Benjamin, Cameron Cuffy, and Anderson Cummins.

In those days, it was the wristy, silky stroke play of Mohammad Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar versus the elegance of Carl Hooper and the amazing skill of Brian Lara, it was pace against spin, and it was the West Indians versus the real Indians.

And as one whose mother was of African descent, whose father was of Indian descent, who was born in the West Indies, and whose home is in the West Indies, I have always remembered Sonny Ramadhin, the first of the West Indian Indians to represent the West Indies and, along with Alfred Valentine and Lance Gibbs, became one of the three great spin bowlers the West Indies have produced.

I remember also the many attempts to find other West Indian Indian spin bowlers resulting in the selection of men like Charran Singh, Ivan Madray, Raphick Jumadeen, Inshan Ali, Imtiaz Ali, Sew Shivnarine, Rangy Nanan, Rajindra Dhanraj, Dinanath Ramnarine, Mahendra Nagamootoo, and Dave Mohammad, all from Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, the homes, along with Jamaica, of the West Indian Indians, none of whom quite made it to greatness although some, like Inshan Ali and Ramnarine, promised much.

I also remember a Test match in which the West Indies played three spin bowlers, Albert Padmore, Imtiaz Ali, and Jumadeen, and India hit 406 for four to win the Test match.

In respect to playing three spin bowlers in one West Indies team, that never happened again.

Now, after beating the world with fast bowlers, after flirting with a number of average spin bowlers in recent times, the West Indies have come up with two good ones, one is Devendra Bishoo and one is Narine, one is a right-arm leg-spinner with a googly and one is a tricky off-spinner, both have started well, almost brilliantly, one with an action not as classical and as clean as say off-spin masters of the past like Jim Laker, Hugh Tayfield, Gibbs, Prasanna, and Venkat, and Graeme Swann of the present, and both are Indians.

How really good are Bishoo and Narine?

Bishoo is good, at least he is very promising, and Narine is very promising. The proof of the quality of a bowler, however, is how he bowls against good batsmen, how he bowls against them on good pitches, and how he bowls to them whenever they are in good form.

Claim to greatness

A bowler's claim to greatness often times is dependent on the confidence that his team and the selectors have in him.

I do not know if that will happen, I do not know if he will play the Test matches against the Aussies, and I do not know if that will happen because of the possibility that he, and one or two others, may go to India to ply his trade in the IPL instead.

I would like to see it happen, however. I would love to see the two Indians, Bishoo and Narine, bowling together, weaving their magic together, not in India for an Indian team but against the Australians for the West Indies in a Test match, and especially so on a pitch similar to that at Arnos Vale in St Vincent.

As good as Australia's batting in the Test matches promises to be, I think the West Indies would win the Test match, providing their batsmen could score around 400 or 450 runs over the two innings.