CHENNAI: You don’t need to look further than the headlines of cricket articles over the past few years to find out which type of spinners have been dominating with the white ball. For all the “wristwatches”, “wrist-ing of control”, “wrist assured” and other palm-related puns sprawled across papers in large fonts, you won’t really find many “finger licking good” equivalents.
For those who need more substantial evidence to make peace with this notion, the current ODI and T20I bowler rankings are as good a proof as they can get. Among the top-10 of the 50-over table, wrist-spinners outnumber their finger-twirling counterparts four to one. That single presence — Mujeeb Ur Rahman — isn’t exactly your typical finger-spinner, if his potent googlies are anything to go by. In the shortest format, the contrast becomes starker. There are two finger-spinners in the top-10, but the rest of the eight slots are stuffed with seven wrist-spinners.
That the likes of Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin have in recent times been vocal about the need to evolve as a finger-spinner to match up to their variation-toting counterparts — and have also translated those words into action — sums up the landscape of spin bowling quite nicely.
All this said, Muttiah Muralitharan feels that his ilk still have a role to play in white-ball cricket. “The only constraint for finger-spinners now is the lack of a doosra (which has been banned by ICC). But variations aren’t only about the way you release the ball from your hand,” remarked the finger-spinner who tops the ODI wicket-taker chart. The former Sri Lanka offie was in the city for promoting Ferit Cricket Bash, an amateur league.
“Controlling length, line and speed through the air are also variations in their own right. With that, even finger-spinners can be as attacking as wrist-spinners. The latter’s ‘mystery’ can be decoded, but with accuracy and discipline, finger-spinners can also dominate in the shorter formats.”
India in the 50-over context, though, have pretty much embraced wrist spin as their way forward; that too in a manner that is commendable for a team that was pretty much the last to jump on to the bandwagon.
In the 46 ODIs since the Champions Trophy final defeat to Pakistan, there has been at least one among either Kuldeep Yadav or Yuzvendra Chahal wearing a blue jersey on the field. Their records in that time-frame have been outstanding. In 37 ODIs, Kuldeep has claimed 77 wickets at an average of 20.11. Chahal’s 34 outings have seen him take 60 wickets an at an average of 24.85.
The cherry on top of this cake is the fact that their success — while taking nothing away from the efforts of the top-three — has been a major catalyst behind India’s dominance in ODIs since then. Virat Kohli & Co have crossed the finishing line first in 34 out of those 46 matches. When both of them are present in the line-up, India have won 18 out of their 25 ODIs in this period. For those not inclined to crunching these many numbers, jogging their memories back over the last two years — when the two ran riot in 2017 against Sri Lanka, then at home against Australia, and then again in the next year in South Africa —
With this informational backdrop, it wasn’t surprising to see Muralitharan deeming “KulCha” as one among India’s USPs for the World Cup, even if he did insert the caveat of how the pitches in England will behave at that time.
“You have got two good wrist spinners in India right now. The selectors are also confident in their abilities based on their impressive performances. Other countries haven’t been able to copy India. But how good they will be will depend on the conditions,” he said.