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Sriram Veera in Bangalore
October 12, 2009
Somerset were emphatically undone by Trinidad's Chinaman bowler Dave Mohammed and his fellow spinners 76 years after Walter Robbins' famous exclamation - "Fancy getting out to a bloody Chinaman" - on being bowled out by another Trinidadian, Ellis "Puss" Achong.
Justin Langer, Somerset's captain, wasn't as evocative as Robbins but he did say his team had been sufficiently warned about Mohammed and legspinner Samuel Badree by Omari Banks, the West Indian offspinner in the county's ranks - to no avail.
Perhaps Somerset were distracted by the sight of three spinners in a West Indian side playing a Twenty20 game but Daren Ganga, Trinidad & Tobago's captain, was unambiguous about his team's strengths.
"In West Indies we still talk about our great 70s pace quartet and what not," Ganga said. "We have quite a few good spinners like Mohammed and Badree in our region. Those in power in West Indies cricket are going in the wrong direction by not giving enough opportunities to the spinners. You need a quality spinner or two to win you Test games. And unless you give chances they are not going to develop. The spinners are very underrated back home by the men in power."
In the here and now, it was almost a joy to see three spinners of different variety - an offie, a leggie and a quality Chinaman - do the strangling act on hapless batsmen. Mohammed was the best of the lot, Badree landed most of his leg breaks on the correct line and length and Sherwin Ganga squeezed in his offbreaks to pick up the biggest haul.
Langer was the first victim to spin, pulling Ganga straight to backward square leg. Arul Suppiah charged out only to be beaten in flight and bowled by Mohammed, who also went on to lure Peter Trego to his demise with a loopy delivery. Ganga stepped in to pick up a bagful as the Somerset lower order swatted at him cluelessly. Both Badree and Mohammed should have got more wickets, and would have with a few plausible lbw decisions going their way. Perhaps even the umpires were taken by surprise at the plethora of spinners from the Caribbean region and didn't quite know how to react.
Mohammed's pumped-up celebrations made him the toast of the Bangalore crowd, which must have been a great feeling given that the last time most Indian fans saw him in action was disastrous for him. In 2006, with India pressing for a declaration in the first Test in Antigua, Brian Lara gave the ball to Mohammed. MS Dhoni biffed six sixes in his 51-ball 69 and Mohammed's figures read 3 for 162 from 29.5 overs. He never played another Test in that series.
Today the highlight came when he removed Trego. As soon as he saw the attempted reverse sweep land in point's hands, he did a somersault and thumped his chest like Tarzan as he lay on the ground, waiting to be mobbed by his team-mates. The crowd roared in delight. It wasn't quite self-redemption for Mohammed - that will come when he performs against India - but for now this public appreciation will do just fine.
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?