A man of integrity

Before a career-threatening back injury slowed him down, Ian Bishop was lightning quick. He dented bodies and egos of batsmen who faced him. These days, Bishop is relishing his role as a television commentator and analyst, notes S. Dinakar.

As the light diminishes, the sea changes its hue. And the sound of the waves is like a rhythmic beat.

Ian Bishop enjoys the calm setting of one of those enchanting seafront restaurants in Antigua's Dickenson Bay. In his prime, Bishop was seen in a very different, high-octane environment. He was a predator of a different kind.

Before a career-threatening back injury slowed him down, Bishop was lightning quick. He dented bodies and egos of batsmen who faced him.

Bishop is relishing his role as a television commentator and analyst these days. He gets the opportunity to travel and stay in touch with the game.

Those around him call him a ‘good man'. He is a man of integrity. The man from Trinidad is pained by the decline of cricket in the West Indies. There have been serious questions too over the attitude and priorities of some senior players.

Bishop says, “I would not blame the entire team. There are a few players who are not committed. But there are also players who give one-hundred per cent to the West Indies.”

He has an interesting take on why West Indies, invariably, does not get pitches that suit its brand of cricket at home. “The curators just do not know how to make a fast, bouncy track. They lack the expertise and the equipment,” Bishop says.

Meanwhile the Chris Gayle soap opera continues. Little things come in the way of a much larger issue of representing the Caribbean. Is playing for the West Indies losing its relevance among the top players who need to be talked to and cajoled into wearing the maroon cap? Should not the cricketers be fired up by the challenge of representing a proud region with great history in the international arena?

How times have changed from the days of Frank Worrell and Gary Sobers.

The travel from Antigua to Jamaica becomes an arduous journey. I have to catch an evening flight to Trinidad, spend the night at Port of Spain and then board the nearly four-hour flight to Kingston early morning.

Island hopping in the Caribbean can be extremely demanding since each one is a separate country and the queues can be long at the thinly-manned immigration counters at the airport. There is a pleasant surprise, though, when the immigration officer looks at my passport and quickly spots the word, ‘Chennai'.

“Chennai...yes Chennai Super Kings. It is a good team maan,” he says.

The Indian Premier League is keenly followed in these parts, so are the exploits of Jamaica's cricketing son Gayle.

There is considerable disappointment that the explosive opener is not part of the West Indies squad for the final ODI or the first Test. The poor crowd response reflects the mood of the fans.

There is also an over-riding feeling of disillusionment in the West Indian team.

“They lose all the time man. Losing becomes a habit and they no longer feel the pain. I am not going to the stadium to watch the match,” says Charlie even as he keeps a keen eye on the guests in the coffee shop.

Indeed, cricket faces a threat in Jamaica. This is the land of track and field superstars and Usain Bolt is King.

In fact, I saw more people following the telecast of the national athletic meet on the big television at the hotel lobby than any other sport including cricket. The game needs to get its act together in Bob Marley's magical land of sunshine, beach and music that still lifts the spirits.