Ian Bishop: West Indies would've loved to have the mystery of Narine at the T20 World Cup

In a chat with Sportstar, Bishop talks about Narine's significance, reason behind West Indies low ranking in T20Is, the Chris Gayle dilemma and more.

Bishop also felt that the West Indies needed to play to its strength of hitting boundaries as frequently as they can at the tournament.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop feels the defending champion "would have dearly loved" to have the X-factor of Sunil Narine in the ongoing T20 World Cup in the UAE. 

Narine, who has not played international cricket since August 2019, was in stellar form in the CPL and the recently concluded UAE-leg of the IPL. But he missed the cut for West Indies' T20 World Cup squad after failing to meet the national board's minimum fitness criteria. 

In a chat with Sportstar, Bishop talks about Narine's significance, reason behind West Indies low ranking in T20Is, the Chris Gayle dilemma and more.

The West Indies T20 team seems to tick all the boxes unlike the Test team, what would you attribute this to?

West Indies have a good team with lots of power hitting. But I am not certain that the West Indies team tick all the boxes. They would dearly have loved to have the mystery of (Sunil) Narine. Each time they have won they have had an X-factor bowler in either (Samuel) Badree or Narine or both. They miss that type of bowler now. Hayden Walsh Jr is the each-way movement spinner, but he is still learning his trade. There are one or two other areas of concern in the batting department. Akeal Hosein is a solid finger spinner who should give good control and pick up wickets when conditions are amenable.

A few days back, both Virat Kohli and Kieron Pollard spoke about how team managements are now falling back on the finger spinners, divorcing from the wrist spin trend. Why's that? 

I was not privy to that conversation so I can't speak to it specifically. I still think a good wrist spinner or mystery spinner, like Varun Chakravarthy or Tabraiz Shamsi for example, is worth his weight in gold. Anyone that can turn the ball in both directions at a decent pace with decent control has a good chance of success in T20 cricket. The challenge is finding those types of bowlers who are good enough.

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Chris Gayle's a legend of T20 cricket. But on current form, is he a sure starter in the Playing XI?

The question really should be more about what constitutes the best eleven players to take the field for that first game (against England). There is no doubting Chris Gayle’s legacy as perhaps the greatest T20 batter ever up to this point in history. Gayle’s knowledge and experience should be an asset to this West Indies team. However, the team needs Gayle to be the best version of himself. If he is working hard at training and looks in good touch at those training sessions, then he will surely start. The caveat is that he needs to ramp up his numbers once he plays, because, simply speaking, he hasn't had significantly or consistently good scores for some time. 

Given the big boundary sizes at some venues in the UAE, do you see West Indies looking to improve their strike rotation instead of just focussing on what many perceive to be their primary strength: hitting boundaries?

The West Indies will have to try to play to their strength of boundary hitting as often as they can. Their power game is what has separated them from other teams. It is not an easy task to suddenly change that method in such a short time. However, guys like (Roston) Chase and (Shimron) Hetmyer may have to try and be the versatile batters in the group. Hetmyer can be a power player, but he is also good against certain types of spin.

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It is surprising that West Indies are ranked No. 9 in T20Is. They're defending world champions. What caused the dip in ranking?

The problem for the West Indies has been that in between world tournaments, many of their players have not been available for the team due to franchise commitments and one or two other issues. It means that the strongest team has not always been on the park that often between World Cups. Hence the low ranking.

Bishop also felt that the West Indies needed the best version of Chris Gayle at the T20 World Cup.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

How should West Indies ensure that the highs they experience aren't few and far between and lead to better and consistent performances?

That’s a hard question to answer. Or, more accurately, it is a difficult issue to solve. There are two ways to approach this issue. Get the team to play together more often. That means guys missing out on franchise tournaments to perform national duty on bilateral series. That won't happen because West Indies cricket, like the equally smaller nation of New Zealand, cannot afford to pay those guys as much as say a Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings or Kolkata Knight Riders.

The second way is to develop greater depth in the pool of players. That takes time and once those players are developed, other big paying franchises will snap them up. And for the players, that is totally understandable.

On a side note, as a bowler yourself, is there a rule you'd like to change in T20 cricket? 

If I had one wish in T20 cricket to change a rule or two or three, it would be to allow two short balls in an over. It would mean that batsmen still had to be wary of getting forward if the fast bowler uses a short ball early in the over. 

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