CAVE HILL, Barbados -- Saqlain Mushtaq said he was honoured to be invited to the Caribbean to train the current generation of West Indies spinners.
The former Pakistan off-spin master accepted an invitation from the West Indies Cricket Board and has been sharing his wisdom and understanding with current and emerging spinners at the Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre, which is based on the campus of the University of the West Indies just a few kilometres outside of the Barbados capital of Bridgetown.
“It is a great honour for me because West Indies has such a great history in the game,” he said.
“Many legends of the game have come from West Indies. There many cricketing knights, including Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richards, and there is also one of my great rivals, Brian Lara, so I am very excited about this opportunity.
“When (West Indies coach) Ottis Gibson called, I was more than happy to come to the Caribbean and share what I know with the young players. This is also a beautiful place to be with warm, friendly people.”
The crop of bowlers benefitting from Saqlain’s knowledge includes fellow off-spinner Shane Shillingford, West Indies teammates, left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul and leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.
Saqlain said he was impressed with the players’ passion for the game, the deep interest in the art of spin bowling and their willingness to learn.
“We are working to improve the spin bowling reserves and I have seen a number of young players and a few that have played already for West Indies,” he said.
“There is a lot potential and there are all very talented and there is a lot of passion about the game – and my role is to make them more technically sound and tactically aware.”
He added: “We have also had discussions about how fit the spinner needs to be, how flexible the spinner needs to be, how they should take care of their body in particular their fingers.
“The players seem like they love to bowl spin. They have been bowling a lot of deliveries and they seem like they want to continue way past our cut-off time which is very, very good.
Saqlain said though West Indies have produced a plethora of quality fast bowlers that have served them exceedingly well in the last 30 years, they have also produced quality spinners.
He hailed legendary fellow off-spinner Lance Gibbs, the first spinner to capture 300 Test wickets, and noted the achievements of pioneers like Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine, whose names have been immortalised with the naming of the southern end of the Three Ws Oval on the UWI Cave Hill campus.
“The history is there, but looking at this group of players, they have the potential, but they have to work more and hard on perfecting their craft,” he said.
“When I came into the Pakistan team, I had a number of role models, and this spin bowling clinic will help them to improve and learn a few new things.”
He said: “The relationship between the coach and the player is like body and soul. The coach is the soul and the player is the body. The coach must know the players from inside to out.
“Once the relationship between the coach and the player is strong, then you can get into the work and things will head in the right direction, but it all takes time.”
Saqlain, aged 36, played 49 Tests and 169 One-day Internationals for Pakistan between 1995 and 2004. He will spend three weeks working with the current crop of senior and emerging spin bowlers in the Caribbean.