India v West Indies, 1st Test, Kolkata, 2nd day November 7, 2013

Shillingford shows why he is WI's best Test spinner

N Hunter
Unfortunately for Sunil Narine's supporters, Shane Shillingford, based on his performance today, has put a full stop on the debate: he is West Indies' best spinner in Tests

Apparently the locals in Trinidad are very upset at the omission of Sunil Narine from the West Indies Test squad. They Trinidadians believe their man Narine should have been given preference over Shane Shillingford, who comes from the lesser-known Windward Islands, to play this Test series. Unfortunately for Narine's supporters, Shillingford, based on his performance today, has put a full stop on the debate: he is West Indies' best spinner in Tests.

In Darren Sammy's mind the Eden Gardens pitch was more favourable for spinners when he said it looked like a fourth-day surface on the eve of the Test. So to see Shillingford bowl the first over on Thursday did not come as a surprise. 

Unlike Narine, Shillingford is an attacking bowler, a classical offspinner and believes more in bowling the stock ball (offbreak) consistently, thereby creating the pressure. He has the variations but he does not abuse them. There were two important things he did this morning consistently: he maintained the line outside the off stump and pitched on a length that kept the batsmen guessing.

Despite being one of the best players of spin, most of the Indian batsmen were coming into this Test series after playing in the shorter formats extensively during the last six months. 

Curiously, a few of them opted to not take the safer option of playing on the back foot on a pitch which remained slow throughout. That approach seemed odd considering Shillingford's pace remained moderate, so there wasn't much of a danger of being trapped plumb. 

The safest option to negate good spin is to get to the pitch of the ball. But Kohli played forward half-heartedly and with hard hands into the hands of short leg; Dhawan, even counting for the low delivery, played away from his body and dragged on. Vijay initially tried to play with hard hands against fuller-length deliveries, and later in an ambitious move, stepped out, failed to read Shillingford's wrong 'un, and was stumped. And if an agile Kieran Powell had leapt forward at short leg to hold a slightly difficult chance from MS Dhoni, Shillingford would have finished with a five-for before lunch.  

Originally from Dominica, Shillingford, who is 30 years old, has played just 10 Tests so far. Yet, in regional cricket back home he is one of the most consistent and among the big names. Playing for his native Windward Islands, Shillingford is used to bowling longer spells on placid surfaces across the Caribbean. That experience has allowed him to settle down into Test cricket faster than Narine, who some feel is not fully ready for the rigours of Test cricket.

Shillingford has had to work twice as hard to get to the top unlike players from more prominent islands like Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica or Guyana. One other reason Shillingford would have been more hungry to prove himself is the fact that he does not feature in the national ODI and Twenty20 squads. 

Although he has already taken four five-fors in his short Test career, Shillingford would agree India would be the toughest test of his career. By the end of his first full day at work, he would have learned quiet a few lessons. 

The euphoria of the morning became distant for West Indies as Rohit Sharma lead India's fightback in the final two sessions. As Rohit grew in confidence he started passing the pressure back to the bowlers. So the same lengths that batsmen in the morning had played unconvincingly against Shillingford, Rohit started sweeping against or defending confidently by coming to the pitch of the deliveries. If nothing, he would just play on the back foot, forcing Shillingford to think of better ideas, which Shillingford claimed he had last evening. 

"After we got out and I bowled on the first day I assessed the wicket pretty quick in terms of how I would come and bowl next day," Shillingford said. "Yesterday and earlier today it was jumping a bit more and as the day progressed it got slower. So it is a wicket you have to do a lot of thinking on how to bowl. With the newer ball the leather is smooth and as the ball wears down it becomes easier to grip. So with the newer ball I told myself not to try too much with it."

To counter the low nature of the pitch Shillingford said he was forced to cut down on aggression. "After lunch it really slowed down a lot and that is when I thought I had to be lot more tighter as opposed to more attacking. The batsmen saw that and were more patient and were waiting for the bad ball," he said.

Unfortunately for Shillingford, Veerasammy Permaul, the left-arm spinner, remained innocuous throughout the day. Even though he was economical, the lack of variations or even pace made Permaul look like a makeshift spinner. The waywardness of Tino Best only deepened West Indies' agony as India regained control of the match which they had lost to Shillingford in the morning.

Before coming to India, Shillingford attended the spin clinic conducted by Saqlain Mushtaq, the former Pakistan offspinner, in Barbados.  Although Saqlain taught him the nuances of controlling the doosra, with which he beat two batsmen today, the most important thing Shillingford took away from that camp was to get stronger mentally.

"Working with Saqi made me mentally tougher in terms of self belief and things like that, which he really emphasised on," Shillingford said. If he understood the message, patience will be the key element for Shillingford to build on his success.

Shane Shillingford on Sachin Tendulkar's wicket: 'My job is to appeal'

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Jackson on November 8, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    have to wonder why roach and rampaul aren't the 2 seamers...consistency breeds confidence and its hard to get consistent being left out of a squad that hasn't seen 5 day cricket in months

  • GARY on November 8, 2013, 4:26 GMT

    He bowled well yesterday but was probably bowled too long in the end. Hate his action, it's all kinds of wrong, especially when he bowls the doorsa but even his offies have a big straightening of the arm. To me he looks just the same as when he had to get his action sorted a few years ago. Can't believe Rampaul isn't playing, I presumed he was unfit. The 2 seamers picked are all over the place and can't bowl a disciplined line if their lives depended on it. Sammy's had all kind of sweepers for their poor deliveries, if that's the case they're simply not test class. That was the main reason why India batted themselves out of trouble, because there was no pressure being built from the other end from Shillingford.

  • Unmesh on November 8, 2013, 2:49 GMT

    My million dollar question: I agree with selecting Shillingford ahead of Naraine, but why not select Naraine ahead of Permaul?

  • sam on November 8, 2013, 2:30 GMT

    No Nikita Miller is so wrong!! Miller for me is the best spinner in WI. Him and Shillingford would have formed a lethal combination. Narine still needs to work on his patience (a bit like Ashwin). Miller is so much better than Permaul that it is no joke but bad selection politics which is hampering WI cricket. For starters Miller averages 15 in first class cricket. No spinner since 1930s has averaged so low in first class (of the top 8 test playing countries). And he outbowled Permaul in every game vs India A one month back.

  • Dummy4 on November 8, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    West Indies selection continues to baffle. Why pick debutant Cottrell and Best! Roach must be one of the two pace bowlers because he has the best record for fast bowlers over the past 6 tests!!! And he is the experienced one! Secondly, how could coach Gibson justify leaving out Narine from the tour to INDIA??? Narine knows Indian pitches better than any Windies bowler.The two best spin bowlers we have are Narine AND Shillingford. period!! You have to play your best players. Selection a mystery again.

  • Kenwin on November 7, 2013, 23:41 GMT

    Shillingford is our best Test spin bowler so far, Narine our ODI and T20 spinner. What I'm wondering is why Rampaul wasn't chosen over "raw pace and little else" Best...

  • Dennis on November 7, 2013, 23:36 GMT

    Why would you want to bowl Chris Gayle over Sammy. Chris Gayle is part time spin at best. Yeah he gets a few wickets here and there but Sammy is a more accomplished bowler. He should have maybe let Samuels turn his arm over for a bit. As for Narine...he's at his best when the batmen attack him which is why he's not a good choice for Tests where they only have to see him off

  • o on November 7, 2013, 22:02 GMT

    Replace Permaul and Sammy with Roach and Narine and you have a deadly attack .

  • Paulo on November 7, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    On WI seamers, they miss Roach. Holder looked a good prospect so I wonder what his f/c record is like. Cottrell and Best are poor bowlers. Darren Sammy is unfortunately not a test cricketer. I admire him as the saviour of WI cricket, as a test much better captain than the clueless Dwayne Bravo, and a vital part of the ODI side becuase of their tactic to play only 3 (supremely talented) front line bowlers and the fact that they only play 2 batsmen in Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels along with the mercenaries.

  • Paulo on November 7, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    @Nampally what? "Narine will get Test team in a ny nation". Have you heard of Saeed Ajmal or Graeme Swann? Narine doesn't belong on the same planet as them. Also he isn't as good as Abdur Rehman, Nathan Lyon, Imran Tahir or Rangana Herath. Furthermore Narine is unproven on non spinning pitches; he was abysmal last year in England.

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