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A SUITABLE BOY

Bishoo headed for greatness

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In the short time that he has spent in international cricket, Devendra Bishoo has offered glimpses of rare excellence

That little fellow, " former West Indies spin ace Lance Gibbs calls him. But Gibbs wants to see more of Devendra Bishoo, in more challenging circumstances, before he talks of him. Still, this is his story. . .

Three years ago, when Shane Warne was busy preparing for the inaugural year of the Indian Premier League, Anil Kumble was busy making up his mind to retire and Muttiah Muralitharan was inching towards his 800th wicket, two young spinners on the other side of the globe - in the Caribbean islands - were getting ready to take their baby steps in the game.

Albion, a small village on the banks of the river Berbice on the island of British Guyana, had just woken up to the discovery of two very talented youngsters who were making heads spin here with each passing day. The younger of the two was Veerasammy Permaul, an orthodox left-arm spinner, and the elder one was Devendra Bishoo, the leg-spinner who today plays for the West Indies.

East Indians by descent, Indians by way of food and lifestyle, West Indians where passion for cricket is concerned, Permaul and Bishoo were creating havoc in Guyana - the 'island of rough pitches' as they call it, when they talk about the great Rohan Kanhai here. The two young 'fellows' made almost every local tournament their own before the High Performance Centre of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) found it almost impossible to ignore them. Bishoo had picked 29 wickets in the 2007-08 domestic season of first class cricket and Permaul, 19. They were soon handed a ticket to Barbados, the home for the board's High Performance Centre which was still taking shape. Permaul was very young but had made his first class debut a year before Bishoo, three and half years older to him. That was because the latter had "other responsibilities" to look into, being the only child to his ageing parents, before he could finally start devoting all his time to cricket alone. But once Bishoo started, it took him little time to make the national selectors sit up and take note of him. It was a match between Guyana and Combined Campuses and Colleges at the Providence Stadium in Guyana where a five-wicket haul in the first innings and a combined match haul of seven wickets pole-vaulted him into the future. Shirley Clarke, the 31-year-old skipper of CCC back then, says, "he showed a quality that he could run through batting line-ups. Once he found his rhythm, there would be a spring in his steps. " It took Bishoo hardly 15 domestic matches before the selectors could identify him as a suitable contender for the World Cup squad. West Indies were lacking a quality spinner, and in the absence of Suleiman Benn - out either because of injuries or disciplinary issues - Bishoo was showing the right instincts. Before the thin-framed leg-spinner could realise it, he was on the flight to the subcontinent - the land of Kumbles and Muralis - that other side of the globe where spin was king. The World Cup brought him on to the biggest stage from where a Test berth wouldn't be far. However, it was during those days of trying to shine in domestic cricket with each passing game, months before the World Cup would be his calling, that Bishoo suffered a personal tragedy. He lost his father, the one man he says who had unflinching faith that young Bishoo would some day play for the West Indies. "He always wanted me to play for West Indies. He was as confident as I was that I would play, " says Bishoo. And how confident was he personally? "I was 100 percent sure I'd play for West Indies some day, " he says. After grieving for his father and having to leave his mother alone to pursue his cricket activities, Bishoo set foot in the international circuit. At the World Cup, after the three wickets he took in his debut game against England in Chennai, the young boy dedicated the performance to his father. "It's a great day for me because I've managed to do what he wished. My mother is the only person left in this world and I have nobody else. I want to make her proud of what I achieve, " he said. Her heart should be swelling with pride ever since. From the time he's set foot in international cricket - three Tests, 11 One-dayers and two Twenty20 internationals so far - he's been regularly among the wickets, troubling the best in the business with what they here call "intelligent bowling. " Joseph 'Reds' Perreira, a senior cricket commentator who recently came up with his biography Living My Dreams, says "when I first saw Bishoo, I was very impressed with his discipline, work ethics and confidence. "I had read that Bishoo dreams of being a great player. That is how I dreamt when I was young. I want him to know that dreams, no matter how big, can be lived, " he says.

Talking further about Bishoo, Perreira says "he impresses me as a very disciplined young man who is keen to play at the highest level. " "Two years ago, the Reds Perreira Foundation arranged a clinic for spin bowlers on the day of the clinic, Bishoo bowled to the West Indies team in the nets and once that was over, he rushed down to the clinic. That was his committment, " says Perreira. Bishoo has a very attacking style of leg-spin, something that has fetched him a lot of success in Twenty20. He does not shy away from all the ingredients that make leg-spin look beautiful. He loves to flight the ball, toss it right up to the batsman to lure him into playing a shot, the change of pace is excellent and of course the turn he can derive. His slight frame resists him in no manner.

And while he is at it doing all of this, there's always a constant smile on his face that adds to the charm. Not far, Permaul is currently working with former West Indies allrounder Carl Hooper, the head coach of the High Performance Academy and may soon make his way as Bishoo's teammate in the national team. And when he does, the two of them are sure to become a pair that has enjoyed bowling together. "We have enjoyed playing together, " says a shy Bishoo, and you've got to be standing right next to him to hear what he says. Bishoo doesn't talk much and Nasser Hussain will tell you how he once almost broke into laughter trying to make Bishoo talk, but to no success. "Okay, you just go and play, " Nasser told him when the young man just wouldn't say a word. But leave him alone in the company he loves to be in and Bishoo is a prankster of the highest order. The touring Indian media has been watching him closely for the last twenty days - the stadium, hotels, airports - and he seems to have fun all the time. "Bishoo? Oh yeah maan, he's good. He's cool, " says teammate Fidel Edwards. The team has taken a liking to him too. Going by the manner in which he's bowling these days, here's a quality leg-spinner after a long time to look forward to. And given that West Indies cricket clearly needs a hero, Devendra Bishoo has suddenly emerged as an unlikely candidate.

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