West Indies has given the best fast bowlers to the world of cricket. The great Caribbean fast bowlers especially pre-2000 had a very unique quality about them. Unlike the other fast bowlers of their era, they never indulged into unnecessary and unethical sledging or any such activity to appear aggressive or to rattle the batsman.
That does not mean that these bowlers were timid, they were very aggressive but through just their bowling. They made the ball talk with their impeccable line, length and disconcerting bounce. They just meant cricket. Given the size of them, all well over 6 feet, strongly built and intimidating had earned them the title ‘Giants’ and to go with that their friendly attitude made them the ‘Gentle Giants’.
Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose were the part of that league. The last but not the least in that league was none other than ‘Ian Bishop’. Ian Bishop was probably the last West Indian fast bowler to earn the cap of Gentle Giant.
Ian mostly was the third bowler with Walsh and Ambrose and was the perfect foil to strangle the batsmen with pressure. Any batsmen would look to just play out the spells of Walsh and Ambrose to feel a bit easier but that is where Bishop was so good.
His accurate line and length and the uncertain bounce (because of the ball coming from a height of about 10 feet) made him deadly dangerous. He stood 6 feet 5 inches and to add to that the outstretched arm length of about 3 feet, while bowling and imagine the sight that the batsmen had to handle.
Ian Bishop was closest to the perfect fast bowler, if ever there has been any. He was tall and strongly built and had a very good speed to go with an excellent out swinging action. He had the height for getting good bounce from just short of the length deliveries. A combination as rare as unicorns.
Ian started playing for West Indies in 1988 and was considered to be better than Walsh and Ambrose. Bishop completed his 100 test wickets in just 21 matches but his career suffered due to back and other injuries, multiple times.
Ian lost quite a few years to these injuries and finally retired in 1998. These mishaps limited Bishop from being a one of the greatest bowlers to just a very good bowler. He was the last of that kind; the gentle giants from West Indies.
Ian Bishop is an active commentator and is as good as his bowling in the commentary box too. Just a glimpse of him can run a full West Indian fast bowling culture, right in front of your eyes.
Here’s wishing Ian Bishop a very happy birthday.