Demise of Spin Bowling? Not yet…



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Whosoever said that Twenty20 cricket might see the demise of spin bowling surely needs to seriously revise his statement.

Indeed, T20 cricket is more about big shots, sky-high boundaries, free-flowing runs and new and improvised bats; things that are definitely a nightmare for the spinners.

However, let us remind ourselves that it is the spinners who have been performing better than their pace-bowling counterparts in the third season of the Indian Premier League so far.

IPL 3 has defied the orthodox notions on slow bowling as not only are the spinners grabbing more wickets for their teams than the pacers, but are also being trusted with the new ball by the captains.

With just a handful of matches left for the semi-finals to begin, IPL has seen the spinners sitting at the top of the chart of the leading wicket takers in the tournament. 45 matches down the line, it is Pragyan Ojha from Deccan Chargers, who enjoys the honour of wearing the ‘Purple Cap’ with 16 wickets, with Delhi Daredevil Amit Mishra just one spot behind with 15 wickets. Let us not forget Muttiah Muralitharan (Chennai Super Kings) and Harbhajan Singh (Mumbai Indians), who share the fifth spot with 12 wickets each.

It is not only the number of dismissals; when it comes to giving away runs to the batsmen, the spinners have been the most economical. Yusuf Pathan from Rajasthan Royals gave out just 3 runs of his 2 overs against Deccan Chargers, making his economy rate the best in the IPL 3 so far. Anil Kumble, the skipper of Royal Challengers Bangalore, has made it to the second spot in the list by giving out just 9 runs in his 3.5 overs and also picking up 3 important wickets against Rajasthan.

Meanwhile, when it comes to bowlers who have conceded maximum runs in an innings, it is the pacers who seem to have maximum love for the opponent batsmen. While Albie Morkel (Chennai Super Kings) gave away a massive 56 runs in 4 overs against Rajasthan, Shaun Tait (Rajasthan Royals) was also not far behind, giving away 53 runs to Delhi Daredevils in his four!

A lot can be attributed to this achievement of the spinners in the T20 format.

Primarily, the very pace and movement of spin bowling is very deceptive. In a format like T20, where one is always on the lookout for some big shots and quick runs, it becomes difficult for batsmen to judge a spinner’s tactics, that is, subtle change in pace or variation in the direction, under such tense conditions, which increases a spin-bowler’s chances of grabbing more wickets.

And for a spinner, who is well versed with different forms of spin, like the way Amit Mishra is with ‘googly’ or Muralitharan is with the ‘doosra’, it is always a win-win situation.

In an interview to a news tabloid a few days ago, Mishra said that the golden rule is to bring in the variation when it is least expected. “You know that the batsmen are going to try and hit you. But if you can read the game well and outwit the batsmen then you can be successful. For example, I have worked hard on my googly but I use it sparingly and only when I believe that the batsman is least expecting it.”

There is no doubt that with the passage of time, the spinners are getting more accustomed to the T20 format and are altering their bowling actions accordingly.

But former left-arm spinner Venkatapathy Raju goes on to add another aspect to the success of these slow bowlers. “IPL is being played at the fag end of the domestic season. These wickets have seen a lot of cricket played on them. They will tend to be slow and help spinners,” Raju said in an interview with a tabloid.

Earlier, spinners were given a chance to come into the bowling scenario only after the pacers had set the field for them. But now, looking at rich harvests reaped by the spin-magicians in this format, the captains no longer have qualms with opening the bowling attack with their spinners, even after considering the pressure of powerplay in the first 5 overs.

While Yusuf Pathan opened several innings for Rajasthan Royals, Ramesh Powar did it for Kings XI Punjab, Amit Mishra for Delhi Daredevils, Harbhajan Singh for Mumbai Indians, and Anil Kumble for Royal Challengers Bangalore, and mind you, they have indeed been economical.

And of course, not to forget, there have been times when the spinners snatched victory from the opponent’s jaws. Who can forget Shane Warne’s magical 4-wicket haul against the Deccan Chargers that won them the match by 2 runs.

So never mind what people believe, spin bowling in the ‘snack format’ of the game is surely here to stay!