Seven years back in the day, long before England had won their only ODI World Cup title, a period of time where the world hadn’t yet seen a Scott Edwards, Pathum Nissanka, Shubman Gill, Suryakumar Yadav or Adam Zampa become the names they have become today, back when T10’s weren’t a thing but neither was The Hundred, world cricket saw two of its most capricious sides at each other but on neutral territory.
Pakistan, still very much a destination many teams avoid travelling, were hosting the West Indies in the UAE, a cricketing venue considered their home away from home.
And in the opening Test at Dubai, which is also the headquarters of the powerful ICC, it didn’t take long for the hosts to let the West Indies know if their intentions.
Azhar Ali stroked a triple hundred of the very highest class; the kind of knock that would’ve impressed surely even Brian Lara, a man habitual of hitting triple hundreds himself.
And just when Pakistan with 579 runs to their name had declared boldly their agenda in the Test match, they were taken in by a shock in what was to follow in their second inning. The West Indies by then had put up a fighting 357 assisted by Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels’s fighting half centuries.
But the game changing effort and perhaps one that to this day deserves greater recognition than given, was about to take centre stage.
For Pakistan, who already had a 222-run lead, what would’ve ideal was to press on further and play assailant to the West Indies bowling.
But a certain Devendra Bishoo had other ideas. If the ten wickets that fell in the third innings and inside a space of two sessions, eight went to Devendra Bishoo’s wicket column.
On a batting friendly surface, the wily Guyanese produced a magical spell of 8 for 49.
It took the leg spinner no fewer than 14 overs, actually 13.5 to be precise, to completely change the game on its head and give his West Indies a chance to get on top of an opponent who had been played with as if one’s head were removed from the torso.
There aren’t many games where a Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder merely play witnesses to the ensuing action.
It was a scorecard that read the first six removed by one man alone; a wily leggie from the Caribbean who made Pakistan batsmen appear incapable as though a jet lagged tourist that can’t decide whether he wants to wake up finally or sleep more.
Long before Babar Azam became a modern day batting hero and his cover drives drew comparison with Virat Kohli’s, the batsman was struggling to guard his wickets; with the scoreboard reading 77 for 2, Babar found one completely unplayable.
And the momentum shifted towards the West Indies to a greater degree when Bishoo cleaned up this biggest wicket Pakistan had.
Misbah, the technically correct batsman with as much grit as patience, too would find his stumps disturbed.
The West Indies, who had last smiled brightly that very year in April upon lifting the T20 World Cup, were sporting big smiles yet again. Things hadn’t been so sprightly or optimistic before in the game but the Bishoo magic made for a comforting sight.
Alas, the Test match couldn’t be saved despite a Darren Bravo special, the left hander becoming the first West Indian batsman to hit a pink ball Test hundred; a feat later emulated by greats like Virat Kohli.
However, the West Indies couldn’t hold as a 56-run-loss resulted in the end. But Bishoo with ten wickets in the end emerged in a league of his own. It’s a shame that this Dubai Test was just one of the 36 he’d play in a career that should definitely have lasted longer. But even in playing a number of Tests that the intrepid cricket fan would consider minuscule, the Guyanese known for his fighting spirits scalped 117 dismissals.
With 4 fifers and 1 ten-for’s, Devendra Bishoo emerged as a spinner who took his wickets in bulk not in sparse numbers or scattered along different games.
What’s more? Not once did the leg-break specialist sport a bowling economy in Test cricket that reached 3.5; it would remain until the end 3.24.
For someone who delivered no fewer than 8,067 deliveries in cricket’s most respected format and got the big wickets like that of VVS Laxman, Babar Azam, Misbah ul Haq, Steven Smith, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson, Devendra Bishoo remains an enigma as much as a mystery.
An enigma because it didn’t take him long to ruffle the feathers of greats and a mystery because despite such natural talent and the dedication to work hard, how’s it that this promising career couldn’t take the deserved giant leaps?
For someone who was just 25 when he helped his Guyana win the T20 West Indies tournament stopping not there but helping them further qualify for the Champions League T20, Bishoo went from being a match winner in the domestic circuit to a great find for West Indies at the international level.
It’s a shame that his useful talent wasn’t quite utilised the way his national team would’ve wanted. It isn’t that the wickets column dried up in 2018, where he last played a five-dayer for West Indies cricket; Devendra Bishoo picked 15 scalps from eight Tests that year, including a four-for.
One of his greatest spells of bowling came in 2015, where he picked a strikingly good 6-80 against Australia at home in the Caribbean.
The Dominica Test saw Devendra Bishoo holding the fort with the red ball against a mighty Australian line-up when silly West Indies batting totally hurt the hosts’ cause.
It wasn’t the first time that an embarrassing batting display- the West Indies made 148 in their first inning- let the team and fans down. More embarrassing sights have since then become a recurring phenomenon in their cricket.
But the once mighty cricketing culture has been rather fortunate in having talents like Devendra Bishoo around for whatever brief period the right arm spinner played for the national side.
Why Devendra Bishoo, a potent force in a notable attack of the yesteryears that had Ravi Rampaul and Fidel Edwards, wasn’t persisted with is something we fans can’t point a finger to.
It’s for the cricket board to decide.
But what’s also true is that the noted leg spinner who wore 85 international caps for the West Indies can’t be pointed fingers at for he always competed with fairness and quintessential inborn fight.
It’s something that was visible in his maiden international for the Caribbean team, circa May 12, 2011 when he Test debuted. It’s something that didn’t change until March 2019, when he last wore the West Indies jersey; always with pride and a sense of purpose, the latter being something that many of today’s youngsters need to still discover- don’t you think?