|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan chats with Lance Gibbs, one of the greatest spinners the game has seen, as West Indies do battle with India in St Lucia
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan in St Lucia
June 12, 2006
As Chris Gayle hurried through a staggering 21 overs on the second day of the second Test, he was being watched by none other than the ultimate connoisseur. Sitting high up in the corporate box of the Beausejour Stadium was another offspinner, arguably one of the greatest that's ever been. One just needs to glance at Lance Gibbs's massive palms, riddled with blister-like sores, to realise that he must have been a bloody good spinner.
Gayle, in his typically languid style, almost walked in with a five step run-up and fired the ball in. Gibbs, on the other hand, was supposed to have been all energy - they called him the "electrified tarantula" - with his legs hopping, arms swinging, and fingers ripping. The bruise in the middle portion of the index finger tells a story. "My big hands helped," he says showing his giant palms, "but my fingers used to get bruised. Once you get the bruise, with the skin eaten away you really can't get any spin. These are things that you overcome. When you couldn't spin it with the bottom of your fingers, you used the tips."
Gibbs knew he would be a spinner - "that's the only way I could have got into the side" - but strange circumstances pushed him into offbreaks. "I started as a legspinner and was called for the West Indies trials in that capacity. The problem was I couldn't bowl the googly. So I bowled like an offbreak and was successful. Also I was far more accurate while bowling offbreaks, so that prompted the shift. I grew up playing cricket at the Bourda Oval [at Georgetown] and in the Caribbean we don't doctor wickets, so no wicket was ever prepared for me. That's how I learnt to bowl on difficult tracks."
The statistics tell you the story: Gibbs was only the second bowler to cross the 300-wicket barrier (he went on to hold the world record for a short period of time) and ended with an exceptional economy rate that was less than two an over. Against India in March 1962, he managed an eye-popping 53.3-37-38-8, the best figures by a West Indian bowler at the time. Against Australia, in the historic 1960-61 series, he had two outstanding feats - three wickets in four balls at Sydney followed by a hat-trick in the following Test at Adelaide.
Was he, as Fred Trumann had predicted, "bloody tired" after breaking the record? "I wouldn't say that. I loved the game so much that if anybody calls me in the middle of the night, I would still get out there and play. I broke the record in a series that we lost 5-1 [against Australia in 1975-76] so it was a good highlight for us."
Gibbs has fond memories of playing against India as well - in 15 Tests he managed 63 wickets against them - and especially remembered the famed spin quartet. His favourite, though, was the "unusual" Chandrashekar. "Chandra used to get a lot of wickets against us. The bounce he managed, and the way he bowled were amazing. I mean, he could bowl a bumper. He was unusual for our batsmen and got his success from being unusual. He is like Kumble, and both are unusual due to the fact that they get a lot of bounce. Kumble has been successful in Australia because their wickets have more bounce in it."
Just as Gibbs finished his imitations of Kumble and Chandra, with his arms moving violently, his attention was wavering swiftly. Brian Lara was walking out to bat and Gibbs wasn't going to miss it for anything.
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of CricinfoFeeds: Siddhartha Vaidyanathan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Erapalli Prasanna on a thoroughbred professional whose basics were extraordinarily strong
Rob Steen: Historically a strong Yorkshire has acted as a supply line for the Test team, and the current crop hints at longevity
The thrills are rather low-octane, and the tournament overly India-centric. On several counts, it is not yet a global T20 showpiece event
Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament
Beige Brigade: Odd bowling actions, the Onehunga Cricket Association, commentary doyens, and Mystery Morrison's Test wickets
As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history
Also, high scores and low averages, most ducks in international cricket, and the 12-year-old Test player
In their pomp, West Indies had a 53-13 win-loss record; in their last 99, it is 16-53. That, in a nutshell, shows how steep the decline has been
Former New Zealand seamer Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up bowling, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament
Following the bowling ban on Saeed Ajmal, ESPNcricinfo picks five bowlers Pakistan may replace him with for the time being
Teams need to start strategising now for next year's event by picking the right men for various roles. England need to get on it sooner than most
The planned reorganisation of their domestic structure should help the region recapture some of the glory it enjoyed in the past
To formally instruct Yorkshire that the club captain should have no part in the trophy presentation, leaving him fearful even to chat to the media about the season that meant so much to him, felt like an overreaction
Hundred in a session? Easy peasy for Doug Walters