Spin bowling has begun to dominate cricket once again as wickets around the world get slower and lower. There was a time a few years ago when teams thought having a spinner was a luxury and opted to have an additional fast bowler instead.
West Indian teams of yore had even done away with a spinner because they had a fearsome quartet of fast bowlers. But the return of the spinner has brought back another key dimension to the game, testing a batsman’s technique and speeding up the over-rate.
Playing spin bowling is an art in itself and not many modern-day batsmen are equipped to play them well. Many players from the Sub-continent are also found wanting in this department as techniques get complicated.
There no better sight than a batsman dancing down the wicket to play a spinner or the latter drawing a batsman forward with flight and guile.
Australia and England are still smarting after Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had them in a tangle during their recent tours to India.
Before that, the South Africans were sent into a tizzy by the same pair. Sadly, many batsmen from the top teams today have absolutely no clue how to tackle spin. When it comes to fast bowling, these batsmen are always in position to defend or play a shot. But with spin, the foot often gets tangled with disastrous results.
Cricket coaches advice that you can either play spin from the crease, stretching fully forward or back or dance down the wicket to defend or attack. But with professionalism firmly rooted in the game, batsmen often adopt the safety first approach and let spinners dominate.
Back in the 1960s-80s, India had a great quartet of spinners – Bishen Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Srinivas Venkataraghavan and B S Chandrasekhar – who put the fear of God into batsmen all over the world.
Yet batsmen like Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharan, Vivian Richards, Greg and Ian Chappell to name a few found a way to play these bowlers on turning surfaces. By cleverly using the crease, they attacked or defended as dictated by the situation. This was an uncomplicated approach which paid dividends. What made their approach better was that they were always in a positive mindset at all times.
Unfortunately, batsmen today try to preserve their wickets first. The last India-South Africa series in India was so painful and slow that it was a relief when it got over. Australia have returned for a one-day and T20 series but they obviously haven’t learnt any lessons. The same story repeats.
They may have formulated many plans but it all came to naught as three new Indian spinners in Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel just made them dance to their tune. They should have taken some advice former batsman Matthew Hayden, who spent a lot of time in Brisbane honing his technique of playing spin before embarking on Australia’s tour to India in 2001. Hayden stayed positive and that helped him to score runs. The current Australian batsmen, or for that matter all other teams too, seem negative in their approach to spin.
As it is often said, Attack is the best form of defence. This is mantra to take on the spinners..