Ian Bishop was known to instill fear among batsmen during his heyday. Though his career was cut short due to a serious back problem, the express bowler's nine-year stint alongside legendary Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose was halted twice before he called it quits in 1998.
Bishop took time out to speak on issues related to fast bowling and West Indies cricket in a free-wheeling chat with MiD DAY recently.
West Indies players celebrate the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar at the
Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on November 26. Pic/AFP
How do you compare this West Indies side vis-a-vis the teams in 1970s and 1980s?
It's obviously difficult to match the golden era of West Indies cricket. But most importantly, now what we are seeing in the last few months is a young team that has been given a mandate to groom themselves in the next two or three years. Now, we have to see if they can perform a lot more to potential in the next couple of years. Already we are seeing better batting and also a slight improvement in the bowling department. So forget about the 70s, 80s and early 90s. After that there has been a long period of transition. I expect few good players coming on the circuit from this bunch.
Why has the transition period being so long?
Just because of not having proper administration in place. There was no systematic development of the game for long. The players with talent have always been there. Definitely, we will be finding talent and sharing space with them will take us to another level. You need to administer the game properly which we have not done for years. It will be enlightening to see how the new dispensation that has been in place for the last couple of years fare in this aspect. They will have to try and get the players perform to the optimum.
What is behind the Chris Gayle-WICB stand-off?
It's not a subject that I can throw enough light on because a lot of things have happened behind close doors and I am not privy to that information. A lot of people are looking at the newspapers and commenting which I don't endorse. I really don't know what discussions took place in the closed-door meetings between WICB and Gayle. All I hope is that cricketing abilities get preference over everything. What I can say is that Chris Gayle is fantastic player and he is still capable of playing in any format for any team across the world.
Has the quality of pace bowling deteriorated?
I can tell you more about 90s rather than 70s and 80s as that's when I played most of my cricket. Obviously, there were few more fast bowling options available and quality too. Also, you have to keep in mind that there wasn't that much cricket as is played nowadays. There are far more difficult challenges faced by the bowlers of this era as the amount of cricket that is played nowadays is too much. I don't want to compare the two generations as there are lot more challenges for the fast bowlers to perform in this era.
Quality pacers of this generation...
Let's not talk about the bigger names as they have quality otherwise they wouldn't have succeeded. I hope fast bowlers like Patrick Cummins or Kemar Roach or these young Indian pacers (Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron) are managed properly so that they can be ready to return something to the game. But they should be given time to tune themselves up.
From a fast bowler's viewpoint, who is the most difficult batsman to bowl at
Sachin Tendulkar has been the most difficult to bowl at.
He is such a player who will always be pumped up to face the best from the opposition. Not that I have played too much cricket against Sachin. Since the time he began, he had that great ability to put those good balls to the fence, his brain works faster than anybody and also his shuffle to position himself immediately puts the bowler on the back foot. While bowling against Sachin, you as a bowler know that if you are marginally slipping off, you will be punished accordingly. So as a bowler, you will always have to be at your best to deal with someone like Sachin.
Your top five pace bowlers in the history of the game?
It's a difficult job to pick only five of them as I have admired so many bowlers. And many of them played cricket when I wasn't there and few of them were in my era.
Can you name a few off-hand?
I haven't seen all of them, but heard about their greatness. Of the bowlers I have seen, I can immediately name one -- Malcolm Marshall. He stands out and was the best in business. Wasim Akram was a fantastic bowler with the abilities to swing, cut and do everything required to be a deadly fast bowler. From the older generation, I can pick Richard Hadlee. He was a phenomenal bowler for his wicket-taking abilities and discipline, though I saw him only during the end of his career. These are the three who will be in the list of my favourite Test match bowlers.
What's your impression about the Indian pace attack in recent years?
Zaheer Khan is good example for the Indian seamers. If he can bowl at a speed of around 140kmph, even quality batsmen would find it difficult to deal with him as he has got a lot of variation too. Otherwise, pacers who bowl at 130kmph at the nets will not give batsmen sleepless nights unless he has great variations.
What about the youngsters?
These youngsters will have to improve fast to be on par with Zaheer. In the process, they will learn by talking to Zaheer and other bowlers who are doing well. What they need is to be a good student of the game.
What would be your advice to these Indian pacers?
Simple: Continue bowling quick, provided you get adequate rest. Don't substitute your pace with anything.