As the Indian Premiere League edition three reaches the business end, the question has become significant again because of the answers given by the batters so far. And the answers have been far from convincing. While seasoned quicks like Malinga, Zaheer Khan and Chaminda Vaas are among the top bowlers of the tournament, the list also has the likes of Amit Mishra and Pragyan Ojha, two individuals who if groomed properly will represent
for many years to come. Add the spin triplet to the list – Kumble, the most miserly campaigner in the tournament, Murali who has been his native foxy self and Shane Warne who proved yet again against the Deccan Chargers why he is still special –and bring in Daniel Vettori who has now rejoined Delhi and Murali Kartik who has bowled beautifully for the KKR and Harbhajan Singh who is arguably the best T20 spinner going around the world, and you will know good spinners will thrive in all conditions and in all formats. India
So what is it that makes dem breed of tossers, as it were, click even on flat-as-bare-plains pitches surrounded by greasy outfields and alluring short boundaries? Part of the answer lies perhaps in the question itself: in extremely batsman-friendly conditions the margin for error for a spinner in particular is minimal and therefore he is likely to bear more punishment from the dominating bats – mongoose or crocodile! The flipside though is it is precisely when a batsman looks to attack the spinner do the percentages of a spinner’s getting a wicket augments. Mishra, Vettori and (in particular) Ojha can owe much of their limited overs’ success to their ability – and perhaps audacity – to toss the ball up and invite the false stroke from batsmen. It only goes to show that the time for age-old virtues is not up yet though they may seem so.
However, to owe all of spinners’ success to batsmen’s error of judgment – although that in itself is a ‘tweaker’s’ greatest success the way I see it – is to underestimate their skill and overestimate the percentage of looseness to be found in modern stroke play. Mind you, while there are sloggers dime a dozen going around, there are still people possessed with fine technique, a great cricketing brain and/or who hit the ball cleanly: David Warner, Murali Vijay (of late), Rohit Sharma, Yousuf Pathan to name a few candidates from the IPL. One needs more than just the fortune of a false stroke from the likes of such batsmen to get their wickets; one needs skill accompanied by subtle changes – in spin, pace and bounce – if not to get them out at least to wear them down which might produce a wicket at the other end. Anil Kumble this season has been a case in point for the Royal Challengers from
So sceptics and batsmen who think themselves as being born to destroy spinners’ careers might have to wait quite a long while before spin comes to, if at all, die a natural death. As of now world spin is in good hands in both the hemispheres. There are good off-spinners and left-arm spinners; a good leg spinner somewhere will bring the balance back to world spin bowling if ever it was lost. In the meanwhile, let us delight in watching more batsmen done in by the dip, flight, pace of the pitch or a couple of inches of awkward bounce. When in doubt then, as they say down under, go for spin. And something will give…