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    Ian Bishop - A Promising Career Disrupted by Injuries
Ian Bishop - A Promising Career Disrupted by Injuries
Ian Bishop. Source: Times Now

Ian Bishop - A Promising Career Disrupted by Injuries

The Caribbean pace bowling factory has given rise to numerous exceptional talents over the years, and Ian Bishop, born on October 24, 1967, was among the last of these prolific pace maestros. Alongside the towering Curtly Ambrose, Bishop formed one of the most formidable new-ball partnerships, striking fear into the hearts of batsmen worldwide.

Arunabha Sengupta takes a retrospective look at the career of the famous cricketer, whose potential career was repeatedly and severely disrupted by a series of debilitating injuries. Despite these setbacks, Bishop's potent pace and unwavering determination made him a force to be reckoned with on the international stage.

Young Ian Bishop. Source: ESPNCricinfo
Young Ian Bishop. Source: ESPNCricinfo

Early beginnings in a promising career

The Caribbean pace bowling machine was a formidable force, striking fear into the hearts of the world's greatest batsmen. One such fearsome cricketer was a towering giant who harnessed the raw power of his 6'5" frame to terrorise opposition lineups.

Before his Test debut, this young prodigy showcased his brutality, fracturing the forearm of Krishnamachari Srikkanth with a searing delivery in a 1988-89 ODI in Georgetown. Years later, he was still at the peak of his skills, going on to shatter the jaw of the courageous Robin Smith during the 1995 Manchester Test.

With his imposing stature and blistering pace, he was a frightening statement for batsmen facing his onslaught. Unleashing thunderbolt-like outswingers, this lightning-quick bowler did not merely intimidate – he inflicted real damage. Tragically, yet his own body could not withstand the rigours of his relentless pace, as he succumbed to a series of debilitating breakdowns that marred an otherwise stellar career.

In the 1988-89 season, the cricketer overwhelmed the Indian team, claiming 6 wickets for just 87 runs on the rapid Bridgetown pitch during his second Test match.

That same year, he had progressed to opening the bowling attack alongside Curtly Ambrose, and in the decisive Test at Antigua, he dismissed 8 English batsmen.

Even on the challenging pitches of Faisalabad and Lahore in 1990, he continued to collect wickets in abundance.

By this point, his career had commenced with a flourish, as he had accumulated 53 wickets in just 11 Test matches at an average of 20.58. He had also left his mark in One-Day Internationals, dominating the Pakistani team at Perth with figures of 5 for 27.

Nonetheless, in early 1991, stress fractures in his vertebrae were diagnosed, and this setback marked the first of many disruptions in his fast-paced career.

Undeterred, he underwent rehabilitation and diligently worked to modify his bowling action. He ran in with an open-chested approach and refined the changes until they were seamless. Even with his full-frontal technique, his outswing deliveries remained as effective as ever. When he was not practising, he dedicated himself to prayer, driven by the earnest passion of a champion bowler who craved nothing more than to run up to the crease and unleash his offerings once again.

Return to the Team

Ian did not return to the field until late 1992 when he joined the team's tour to Australia. Upon his return, he immediately resumed his role as a bowler, sharing the new ball with the formidable Ambrose. Meanwhile, the likes of Pat Patterson and Courtney Walsh waited in the outfield, ready to take over once these two towering figures had completed their initial onslaught. With a developed run-up, he managed to dismiss Mark Taylor within the first 20 minutes of his comeback match in Brisbane. As the series reached its decisive moment in Perth, the cricketer once again provided the finishing touches. Ambrose claimed seven wickets in the first innings, and the cricketer took six for 40 in the second, leading the West Indies to a resounding victory by an innings. By the end of the series, he had accumulated an impressive tally of 23 wickets at an average of 20.86.

Next April, the cricketer commenced his innings with a stellar performance, capturing five wickets for only 40 runs at the Queen's Park Oval against Pakistan. This helped the West Indies team rebound from a meagre first innings total of 127 to ultimately prevail by a comfortable margin of 204 runs. Regrettably, during the match at Bridgetown, the player's troublesome back condition resurfaced, forcing him to depart the cricket field and seek attention from the physiotherapist again.

At the time, Bishop had amassed an impressive tally of 83 wickets from 18 Test matches, maintaining an average of 20.45 runs per wicket. It was evident that he had emerged as another revered fast-bowling great hailing from the Caribbean islands. Reflecting on his achievements from the present day, he is perceived as the culmination of that remarkable production line of cricketing talent. Nonetheless, as he embarked on yet another rehabilitation stint, the ultimate trajectory of his career was unknown.

After two years he was able to make his way back onto the team, but he finally secured his spot again for the tour to England in the summer of 1995. By that point, he was nearing his 28th birthday, and a significant portion of his cricketing career was under the radar.

The comeback was nothing short of dramatic. That spring, the West Indies had just suffered their first series defeat in over a decade, falling to Australia. The English tour represented an opportunity to regain their self-assurance. And the remodelled action of this Trinidadian bowler played a pivotal role in achieving just that. He may not have been as express as in his younger days when a more youthful back supported his considerable pace.

Bishop stepped in as the first change bowler and, within the span of a dozen runs, decimated the England batting lineup. Wisden aptly dubbed him a "thinking man's giant."

In the late stages of the first afternoon's play at Headingley, England were cruising along at 142 for 2 when Bishop dismissed Graham Thorpe with an LBW decision. He then produced an exceptional out-swinging delivery that kissed the willow of the battling Michael Atherton, ending up in the gloves of wicketkeeper Junior Murray. England finished the day on 148 for 4. The following morning, Bishop quickly removed Mark Ramprakash, Alec Stewart, and Darren Gough, all within a single run. England limped to a total of 199 all out, and Bishop finished with impressive figures of 5 for 32 in his comeback Test.

The series then followed a back-and-forth pattern. England levelled the series with a victory at Lord's. In the match at Birmingham, the West Indies surged ahead again, with Bishop taking 3 for 18 in the first innings and 4 for 29 in the second, the latter while bowling with the new ball. At Manchester, England managed to square the series, but not before Bishop had injured the jaw of Robin Smith.

The veteran bowler's haul of 27 wickets at an average of 24.07 was a commendable performance, especially considering he was making yet another comeback after an injury that was widely expected to end his career.

Ian had a forgettable campaign at the World Cup in the subcontinent, managing just three wickets in his six appearances. Notwithstanding, there was still some life left in the twilight of his illustrious career. He regularly claimed scalps during the Australian tour, taking 20 wickets as his team lost the series 3-2. By this point, he had resumed his duties as the new ball partner to the formidable Ambrose.

The crowning achievement came at Bridgetown against India, where his four-wicket haul for 22 runs in the second innings was instrumental in skittling the visitors for a paltry 81 as they chased a modest target of 120 for victory. His victims included the prized scalp of Sachin Tendulkar, who was caught in the slips for just four runs.

Zenith of his Career

The renowned fast bowler's career ultimately came to a close. Following the Barbados Test, his statistics stood at an outstanding 147 wickets at an average of 21.96 throughout 33 Test matches, with six instances of claiming five or more wickets in an innings. The final ten Test matches of his career proved to be a disappointing period, as he managed to take only 14 wickets at a much higher average of 48.57.

Bishop decided to retire from the sport after England's tour of the West Indies in 1997-98. By the time he hung up his boots, he had accumulated 161 wickets from 43 test appearances, maintaining a respectable average of 24.27. Regrettably, the strike rate that had hovered around the late 40s for the majority of his career, was pushed up to a less impressive 52.2 due to his rather ordinary final stretch. In the One Day International format, Bishop had managed to claim 118 wickets in 84 matches, at an average of 26.50.

In hindsight, the cricketer's professional journey may have been a partially realised potential, with the remainder of the aspirations and ambitions fading away due to his susceptible back. He did not take part in as many as 30 international matches throughout his career, otherwise, given his exceptional skills and pace, his wicket-taking tally should have been closer to 300.

Nonetheless, for a youngster who spent his formative years avidly listening to Test match commentaries from Australia, meticulously recording each scored run, he did manage to amass a respectable collection of achievements.

Injured Ian Bishop. Source: Times of India
Injured Ian Bishop. Source: Times of India

Ian’s present vocation

The former West Indies cricketer now travels the world as a sports analyst. Like several of his past teammates, he is quite outspoken about the struggling state of his former team.

Bishop also provided commentary for the highlights of the 2007 England Test series and the One Day International series between the West Indies and India on Cricket on Five.

When the West Indies won the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy Final and the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Final he was in the commentator’s seat. Bishop's commentary of the 2016 ICC World Twenty20 Final was particularly mesmerising, as he exclaimed "Carlos Brathwaite! Carlos Brathwaite! Remember the name!" after Brathwaite won the match with 4 consecutive sixes. This has been regarded as an "iconic piece of commentary" and a "classic call".

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