The missing spinner

Tony Becca

January 22, 1998

CRICKET: The West Indies 13 man squad from which the team for the first Test against England has been selected and announced and the only reaction is ``here we go again''.

The squad includes six batsmen - all of whom obviously will be in the team, one wicketkeeper - who will also be in the team and six fast bowlers - four of whom will be in the team.

Once again, the selectors have turned their backs on spin bowlers and, like so many others, manager Clive Lloyd must be disappointed.

During the loss to Australia in Australia while Shane Warne and Michael Bevan were mesmerising the West Indies batsmen, Lloyd talked about the need for a balanced team, and during the 3-0 whitewash in Pakistan while Mushtaq Ahmed and company were coming in behind their celebrated pacers and wrapping up the Windies batsmen, Lloyd, the man considered by many as one of the greatest captains of all time, talked about the need for a spin bowler.

Looking at the squad therefore, the question is this: why six fast bowlers and no spin bowler?

According to Lara, spin bowlers will be looked at for the future - maybe against South Africa, but a spin bowler will not be selected simply because he is a spin bowler. According to the captain, he will have to be good enough.

Those last words make sense. Obviously the spin bowler, as should the fast bowler, must be good enough.

The other question however, is this: how will a spin bowler become good enough if he is not exposed and allowed to develop?

Recently, minutes after taking his 300th Test wicket, Warne, probably the greatest spin bowler of all time who was so ordinary when he toured the West Indies as a youth player and just as ordinary when he first represented Australia, thanked the Australian selectors for sticking with him in the early days - for affording him the opportunity to develop his craft.

Not so the West Indies. Right-arm spin bowlers Rajendra Dhanraj and Rawl Lewis have been thrown in and thrown out, right-arm legspinner Dinanath Ramnarine and a left-armer like Neil McGarrell are still to be given an opportunity - all this despite their success in the regional competition, all this while spin bowlers are coming back into their own around the world and winning matches, all this while the once dreaded and successful West Indies pace attack no longer drives fear into batsmen.

After all the talk about building for the future, about changing the captain because of the need to look ahead - to plan for Australia and South Africa, after all the talk about the kinds of pitches around the world, it would have been nice to see one spin bowler in the squad in place of one of the six fast bowlers - even if when next Thursday comes around he is not in the team.

Based on Lara's statement, it will be all pace against England all the time and who is to tell, based on the history of England's batsmen against West Indies fast bowlers, based on the fact that many of the pitches in the Caribbean have been relaid, and based on the evidence of those at Sabina Park and Jarrett Park, it may be good enough to win this series.

Tomorrow however, is always important, and remembering that only four will play, to call six fast bowlers - in this day and age when even their quality is suspect - and not one spin bowler is both an insult to spin bowlers in the region and a lack of planning.

The selectors may know what they are doing. They know the West Indies cannot afford to lose to England, they probably really believe that although the present set is not as good as days gone by, fast bowling is what will beat England - and they probably decided to call up six fast bowlers because they fear that some of the old ones may not last

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 19:14