Against the turn

Tony Becca
Great batsmen facing fine spinners: now that's what I call a contest



Clockwise from below left: Warne, Qadir, Kanhai, Sobers © PA Photos, Getty Images

My first Test series was back in 1953, when India visited the West Indies. In the fifth and final Test of the series, in Kingston, I saw in action the likes of Pankaj Roy, Vijay Manjrekar and Polly Umrigar on one side, and Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott on the other. In that match I also saw legspinner Subhash Gupte and left-arm spinner Vinoo Mankad bowling for India, and left-arm spinner Alfred Valentine bowling for West Indies. All six batsmen scored centuries, against three of the finest spin bowlers the world has ever seen. It was cricket at its best.

To me, the best contests, the most exciting contests, are those between gifted strokeplayers and good spin bowlers - particularly those spin bowlers who, in attempting to mesmerise, spin the ball both ways and really test the skill and mettle of batsmen.

For ages I wondered, if I had the call, which two batsmen I would like to see in action against which two bowlers. A few years ago I made up my mind: I would like to see Garry Sobers and Rohan Kanhai up against Abdul Qadir and Shane Warne.

Sobers and Kanhai were two of the finest and most exciting strokeplayers of all time. Qadir and Warne were among the most versatile spin bowlers. They bowled everything, from legbreak to googly, to top-spin, to flipper. They varied their length, their line, and their pace beautifully. With them bowling against batsmen who loved to improvise, it would be cricket at its best.

Veteran cricket correspondent Tony Becca writes on the game for the Jamaica Gleaner. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine, in 2006