DateLine: 12th December 2005
Even in an era of every fast bowler being unfit for selection at one time or another, Ian Bishop was especially unlucky with injuries in his career. The first of two serious back injuries struck him down in 1991 at the age of just 23, and he was cursed again in 1993, when he broke down against Pakistan and was ordered to rest for a year. His first spell in Test cricket had seen his wickets come at 20, and in seven Tests between his two prolonged absences he again took wickets at this extraordinary average. However, the second injury seemed to really set him back and sap his pace (which had been as fast as any bowler in the game), and although he was still able to enjoy excellent series in England and Australia after this, his time as an international cricketer was short. By the time he had turned 30 (not an especially old age when itís considered that Walsh and Ambrose played Test cricket to 36 and 38 respectively), poor returns in Pakistan and then at home to England seemed to indicate that he was running on empty. However, his respected status as a player and a man gave him the captaincy of West Indies A on tour to Bangladesh and India in 1998-9, where he again looked a very dangerous bowler. By his final season as a First-class player he was reduced to bowling first or second change, although he led Trinidad & Tobago to the Busta Cup Final in his final First-class match.
Although 161 Test wickets at 24.27 is a record which the vast majority of Test match bowlers can only envy, there will always be the feeling that Bishop was undoubtedly left with less of a career than his talent deserved. The start to his career was phenomenal, and Ambrose and Walsh were both perfect examples of how fast bowlers can be even better at the end of their career than they were at the start. It says a lot about Bishop that he was able to change his action to a more front on style without losing the outswing which is often thought to only be possible from a very side on action. If his bowling was ultimately unfulfilled, then so too was his batting Ė two First-class centuries (one in England, one in the Caribbean) marked his batting as a notch up from the wild swinging of Ambrose or the comedy rabbitness of Walsh, although his Test and First-class averages of 12 and 15 respectively donít properly indicate his ability to back up lusty hitting with resolute defence. It says a lot about both his fitness and professionalism that Bishopís best bowling statistically came on the remorseless grind of the early 1990ís county circuit with Derbyshire, although the non stop cricket of Bishopís early professional years may well have contributed to his serious back problems. A born again Christian (which doubtless helped his recovery from his morale destroying injury setbacks), Bishop has also carved a successful career as a TV commentator since the end of his playing days, and his eloquent analysis has had plenty of chance to be exercised on the poor fortunes of the current West Indian team.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)