Something very interesting, even intriguing, is taking shape in world cricket. It is, without a doubt, the positive impact wrist spinners are having in limited-over games, especially the T20 variety. In this form of the game which is deliberately, brutally and ruthlessly exposing bowlers to the butchery of batsmen, literally taking sadistic pleasure in their misery, the purveyors of the spinning ball are reasserting themselves. Rashid Khan, the Afghan rookie, demonstrated with profitable results in the IPL, that his craft can have a destructive impact on batsmen out to make a killing with sixes and fours.
The sheer deception of his googlies and top spinners defeated the marauding intentions of the batsmen, unable as they were to read the turn of the ball. Why the same bowler looked so ordinary and flat in a Test match, a format of the game where he should be thriving is a puzzle that needs investigation. But there is no question that he is mesmeric in the shorter formats of the game. What lends strength to the argument that leg-spinners could be the oxygen the dying breed of bowlers needs in the shorter formats is the success which India’s own leggies are achieving worldwide.
Kuldeep Yadav, an even rarer breed among wrist spinners because it’s his left-arm that does this trick, and the conventional Yuzvendra Chahal, are the two exponents of this craft who are winning matches for India. The two left the South Africans bemused, confused and clueless and maybe, are set to do the same against England this month. Not many may have appreciated coach Ravi Shastri’s unusual strategy to have wrist spinners bowling in the middle overs. It was an idea fraught with many risks, as the art of bowling legspin is not easy and the bowlers are prone to err in line and length quite often.
The premium in limited- over cricket is on saving runs and not taking wickets. Going against this stated wisdom, the Indian think-tank, much to the surprise and even shock of many, dispensed with their trusted duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Out they went and in came these two. Chahal, the older of the two, was born in Haryana’s Jind district and must have heard about the exploits of the legendary left-arm spinner Rajinder Goel, belonging to the nearby district of Rohtak. Yadav, the more mysterious among the two because he bowls chinaman, is from Uttar Pradesh and like Anil Kumble, shifted from bowling fast to leg spin.
Both have had a stupendous success rate in the short period they have played and India have high hopes that the two would be the ones who would tame the English lion in its own den. Watching these two create panic in the batting ranks with their variety, control and deception, is a refreshing sight in a format where bowlers generally have no place to hide.
They will now be up against an English side whose formidable batting strength and depth have made them the top limited-overs side in the world. They came very close to scoring 500 runs against Australia recently and it is up to India and these two to put the brakes on their batting charge. Whatever the end result, this duel promises an exciting clash that could lighten up the series and hopefully not be limited to a mere counting of sixes, fours and centuries.