Cricket / Second Test: Bloom time for a daisy player: Tony Cozier assesses the career of the talented but inconsistent paceman Winston Benjamin

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The Independent Online
AT THE age of 29, Winston Benjamin's career had almost passed him by when he was given the chance of a second spring by the West Indies selectors and the Hampshire committee. The former reactivated his dormant Test career last year, while the latter have signed him on a three-year contract for the forthcoming English season.

Clearly a cricketer of immense potential, he was first chosen for the West Indies for the Indian tour in 1987 at a time when the great fast bowling dynasty of the 1980s was coming to an end. Slim, athletic and with a classically high, free action, Benjamin had the capacity to swing the ball at deceptive speed. As a batsman he was a dangerous hitter in the lower order.

For three years he was a regular in the Test team and his 26 wickets in 10 Tests, earned at a cheap 21 runs apiece, suggested a lengthy stay. Instead he lost his place and had to wait more than three years before regaining it.

Much of the reason for the delay was evident on the first two days of this Test. On the first, he was listless and seemingly uninterested and his 17 overs posed no threat. Overnight, he was transformed into the best of the West Indian bowlers, keen, aggressive and repeatedly beating the bat with his each-way movement and variation.

His dismissal of Ian Salisbury was a classic piece of bowling - perhaps wasted on a nightwatchman - and he deserved more than the one wicket in his spell of nine overs.

But tomorrow, who knows? He is what Yorkshiremen call a daisy type of cricketer - some days he does, some days he doesn't. It is the type of inconsistency that has suppressed his natural talent throughout his career. His future will be determined by whether he can overcome it.

He is now a vital member of the West Indies team but captains and selectors quickly become disenchanted with players they cannot depend on. So do county committees. After eight chequered years at Leicestershire, he now moves to Hampshire as the replacement for Malcolm Marshall. He might be a wonderful acquisition. But, then again, he might not.

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