The former West Indies U-19 opening batsman John Campbell is generally rated for his left-handed strokeplay. Indeed, he’s had a breakthrough season with the bat in the Regional 4-Day Competition for Jamaica this year, a maiden First-class fifty in his first match of the season, and a hundred in the next the highlights.
I’m not that interested in that though. His ESPNCricinfo profile talks of him as being “an aggressive left-handed batsman who likens his style of play to Chris Gayle.” That is presumably about his batting, because despite the fact that he is an off-spinner like Gayle, his off-spin is nothing like Gayle’s.
Perhaps one day he could be a genuine all-rounder, or go the Todd Astle route of transitioning from top-order batsman who bowls a bit to spinner who bats in the lower-middle order, because John Campbell’s off-spin is exciting.
His action reminds me of Graeme Swann in his early years before it tightened into the well oiled machine it became. Campbell begins his approach to the crease wide of the return crease and walks his first few steps before almost jumping across the crease to the mid-point from which he delivers.
Add that to the fact he gets close to side on and pivots well on his front foot, and there’s a legitimately good off-spin action going on. That’s not the exciting part though. The exciting part is the flight, turn and bounce he can get. Admirably for a part timer, who could be expected to dry up an end, Campbell puts plenty of flight on the ball, something which comes naturally from his orthodox action.
Add to that the most excitng part: turn and bounce. When he lands the ball on a line and length, Campbell can get the ball to grip off the surface, turn and bounce. When bowling in tandem with Jamaica’s front line spinners, Nikita Miller and Damion Jacobs, he spins the ball much more than either, off the same surfaces.
All this potential has reaped some rewards. So far, in eight innings of bowling, mostly short spells, he has eight wickets, all of which came in two four-fers, one against the Leeward Islands, and the other against Combined Colleges and Campuses. Those figures of 4-15 and 4-17, to run through the middle order of the students and the tail of the Leewards, show the potential of Campbell to become a genuinely threatening off-spinner.
I hope he will work on his spin bowling and try to develop into an all-rounder. There are a lot of off-spinners in the Caribbean, but few have the sort of gifts he do, and most play a patience game with impatient batsmen.
Campbell’s nowhere near the finished article yet though. As a young part-timer (for the moment) his flight and turn come with the downside of one or two bad balls an over, and opening spells with an entire over of dreck before he gets his bearings. Those aren’t big problems though. Continued practice will hone his action and leave less to go wrong. At that point the batsmen of the Caribbean can start to be worried.
Originally published 29-April-2014