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April 3, 2012
Carlton Baugh, the West Indies wicketkeeper, has openly questioned Australia's readiness to battle the spin of Devendra Bishoo after the tourists were made to look ordinary by a modest pair of local slow bowlers in their only warm-up for the Caribbean Test series.
Having struggled to read and play the offbreaks and variations of the IPL-bound Sunil Narine in the limited-overs matches, Australia's batsmen will soon be pitted against Bishoo, winner of the ICC's Emerging Player of the Year award for 2011 after a series of wily performances against India's spin-conversant batsmen at home and away.
Bishoo's four most recent appearances for Guyana in the regional first-class competition have reaped 24 wickets, and his skills are far in advance of those used by Ryan Austin and the part-time wrist-spinner Nkrumah Bonner at the Three Ws Oval. Baugh had little hesitation pointing this out, and also Australia's periodic difficulties against quality slow bowlers down the decades.
"To be honest, over the years Australia doesn't play spin that well," Baugh said. "Not taking away anything from them, they're pretty good players, but tradition follows on from the years that they're not the best players of spin.
"It is pretty interesting because Austin is a natural offspin bowler and Bonner is pretty much a part-time legspin bowler, so it was pretty interesting to see what others can do, especially Devendra Bishoo and other spin bowlers."
Bishoo was hidden from Australia's view during the ODIs and Twenty20s, and Baugh said this sleight of hand "could be [an advantage], and on Bishoo's day you never know what can happen".
Watching from behind the stumps as captain of the WICB President's XI, Baugh saw Michael Clarke make a smooth 30 and Ricky Ponting a brief 13. He reasoned that the visitors' preference for faster surfaces had contributed to a mediocre first innings of 214 for 9 declared.
"Today for them wasn't the best day in terms of how the wicket was playing, they are accustomed to wickets coming on just like in Australia," Baugh said. "This wicket wasn't the best and they struggled a little bit. Hopefully when the Test matches start if we can continue to keep them on that road, eventually we should surprise them.
"Our team is growing in confidence and you can see what we've been putting in and it's paying off, so we're just taking it one step at a time, and hopefully we can be very much competitive, just like the one-day series. They weren't at their best as you can see and they played a few batters short, but at the same time it is the Australian team and I think we bowled pretty well in patches. To restrict them to 214 even though they had declared, we still got nine wickets and that is a plus for us."
Shane Watson, the touring vice-captain, admitted the Australians were "not entirely" happy with how they had gone in their pursuit of a smooth segue to day one of the series.
"We would have liked guys going on to get bigger scores and a bit more consistent batting but the practice matches are here for the guys to adjust to conditions as well as we can and get some time in the middle," Watson said. "It's certainly better than training. It's more to get out of it as much as you can. So far most batters have had enough time in the middle to get their head around their game plans are going to be on these types of wickets."
As for Bishoo, Watson said he was formulating his method to combat the Guyanese legspinner. "I've seen a fair bit of him already because there was a chance he was going to play the one-day series and the Twenty20s," Watson said. "I've already had a fair look at his footage so far and I've seen the way he bowled throughout the World Cup for the West Indies very closely.
"Without playing him I've got an idea of what his skills are and how he's going to bowl, it's moreso until you get out there and see what he's doing and whether the wicket is turning before you know how big a challenge he's going to be. There's no doubt he's got some really good skills. It's going to be a good challenge for our batting group."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala