Quiet legspinner awaits break - Pradeep Vijayakar

(written before the First Test, West Indies in India 1994-5)

Rajinder Dhanraj may well become the first West Indies legspinner to play in a Test match, since David Holford last appeared for them in 1977, when the opening Test between West Indies an India commences at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.

There was a lot of scepticism when Dhanraj was picked for the tour. Former Test 'keeper Jeff Dujon had been reported as saying that Dhanraj would be "just cannon fodder for the Indians." Dhanraj had not got a bowl till the Guwahati game against the New Zealanders. He was picked to play in Goa but he did not get to bowl as the game was rained off after the West Indies batted.

Dhanraj has been a quiet, observant man this tour. He follows in a long line of Trinidadian slow bowlers of east Indian descent. The first was Sonny Ramadhin, the mystery bowler of the 50s. In his wake came Charan Singh, Inshan Ali, Imtiaz Ali, Raphick Jumadeen and Ranjie Nanan.

Dhanraj came into the side from the National Telecom tournament. he claimed 120 wickets in four such tournaments. That got him a place in the Trinidad team for the Red Stripe Cup, the inter- island tournament. The West Indies were keeping track of him by picking him for the games against touring sides. In these games Dhanraj did not bowl consistently well and the stress on pace blocked his chances. A knee injury was also hampering him. He underwent surgery which has enabled a fuller followthrough.

With the injury behind him, Dhanraj is now out to better the record of the legspinners who have played for West Indies before him. Of course, Ramadhin's record of 158 wickets in 43 Tests will be hard to beat. But the others are within reach. Arthur Barrett of Jamaica got 13 wickets and played in the 1971 series against India.

Wilfred Ferguson was the first West Indies legspinner to thrive claiming 23 wickets in the home series against England. He claimed 11 wickets in one Test on matting. After that those who have bowled legspin for West Indies have been Jeff Stollmeyer, a specialist opening batsman, Ivan Madray, David Holford, who claimed 51 wickets in 24 Tests, Willie Rodriguez who had seven wickets in five Tests, Arthur Barrett, who played six Test in between 1971 and 1975, and Robert Haynes who tourned Pakistan but without playing a Test.

The first legspinner to play for West Indies was O. C. Scott who played against England in a home series in the days of the play- to-a-finish Tests. The one he played in went on for nine days before it was abandoned. Scott toured Australia and finished with 22 wickets in eight Tests.

Unlike most legspinners Dhanraj does not have a big loop but he gets good nip off the pitch and no mean turn. Importantly, he bowls with a big heart and can take some stick.

There is no dearth of lepspinners in the West Indies. Dinanath Ramnarine is making waves in Trinidad's junior team while Mahendra Nagamottoo was legspinner of the junior champion Guyanese team. Mahendra is a nephew of Rohan Kanhai and Alvin Kallicharran, two all-time West Indian greats. The potential of these young legspinners in the wings adds to the challenge that Dhanraj faces while awaiting a break.

(Thanks : Times of India, 16 Nov 94)