The Caribbean islands have produced any number of physically intimidating cricketers over the years; from batsmen like Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd and Brendan Nash to the plethora of ridiculously tall fast bowlers who shattered stump and limb all over the world. The noughties gave rise to a new phenomenon, which combined this rich history with their rather more unappreciated tradition of developing fine spin bowlers and managed to vomit out a dreadful mixture of the two.
Shane Shillingford currently calls said role his own but he is not the pioneer. The original, and best, was
Everyone remembers the first time they saw Sulieman Benn play. There are two reasons for this; firstly, it’s impossible to forget the image of this enormous bloke with a head completely out of proportion to the rest of his body bowling a whole load of filth so slowly it barely reaches the batsman. Second, England’s first experience of him was in a match seared onto the minds of everyone unfortunate enough to witness it.
It was, of course, in Kingston, where Benn bowled 44 excruciating overs in the first innings and 14 unbelievable ones in the second to take eight wickets in the match. England were bowled out for 51 and lost by an innings. Remember? Thought so.
Benn had actually made his Test bow a year earlier, beginning as he meant to go on with 40 wicketless overs against Sri Lanka in Guyana, but it was after the seemingly never-ending run of games with England that he really came into his own. Far be it from us to criticise any man for successfully pissing off Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson…actually, scratch that, we really aren’t going to criticise him for it. Bravo, Sulieman. Bravo.
For the crime of making a couple of Australians whine a little more than usual, the West Indies’ brave martyr was banned for two ODI’s, before adding to his thesis of indiscretions by “provoking” Dale Steyn to spit at him the following year. His string of frankly hilarious misdemeanours fails to mask the fact he was pretty rubbish, the sort of spinner even England only manage to make look good once. His Test career stuttered along until the West Indies farcical tour of Sri Lanka two winters ago, where virtually every innings was rained out.
In the one day arena things were slightly different – in that ‘things’ went on a bit longer, other than that they were largely the same – as he managed to hang around long enough to play in the World Cup last year. On a few occasions he actually opened the bowling, with various captains presumably seeing a man of his size and assuming he was a fearsome, aggressive paceman. Either that or Kingfisher Beer have been cheating on us with them too. Unfortunately for Benn, the West Indies stumbled across Davendra Bishoo during the tournament and realised having a spinner who vaguely understood the concept of spin might be beneficial to the team. He hasn’t been seen since.
Given that Sunil Narine, the aforementioned Bishoo and Shillingford and his own personality now all stand between him and a recall, Benn’s adoring masses may well have seen the last of him on the international stage. Few men have such consistent levels of indiscipline, even fewer have managed to be sent off by their own captain (using modern technology to privately abuse your captain in public being more the rage these days, of course) and enjoyed a lengthy career at the highest level. Suliemann Benn is unlikely to buck that particular trend. Still, we’ll always have Jamaica.