Three is Not a Crowd

With an offie, left-armer & leggie in their ranks, india’s spin attack is varied & has silenced the best in business.

Published: 01st December 2015 03:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st December 2015 03:43 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Amit Mishra didn’t throw a stink eye at either Ravindra Jadeja or Ravichandran Ashwin. He’s not that haughty, or even overbearing, for such banalities, even if he would have felt vexed at his young usurpers of the MS Dhoni-era.

Between his 13th and 14th Tests, between Oval and Galle — that is four years and 33 Tests — Ashwin emphasised his credentials as the titular spinner of the country, though intermittently shaded by Jadeja’s menace in the subcontinent and utility overseas. Mishra, in the mean time, existed lonely in the parallel universe of IPL, to which he adapted surprisingly fast, and soon evolved into something of a colossus. Few-and-far-between ODI cameos were all he was rewarded with, much like a token incentive to a hardworking employee, who though was harshly perceived surplus to the big scheme, bit like those nondescript henchmen in regular gangster flicks.

Thre.JPGLittle then, in those five years of cold solitude and self-realisation, would Mishra have envisaged that he will share screen-space and co-conspire with those very conspirators who unseated him. But cricket, like destiny, has a usually wicked taste to surprise and then grin at the unusual chain of events unfolding before their eyes.

It was a confluence of varying circumstances — his own domestic consistency and retooling, a new-age leader bent on busting his predecessor’s template, a team think thank adamant on ambushing tourists on snake-pit turners, compliant curators and an acknowledged paucity of young spinners coming through the domestic ranks.

Three.JPGIt may not be a standardised template. Once they venture out of the subcontinent—which won’t come earlier than the year after—the three-spinner deception plots will be subject to instant revision. But the prolonged home run would see the trio continue complimenting each other’s strengths and supplementing their weaknesses, a ploy India has used sporadically since England’s tour in 1993 and one they contrived to pursue only in the wake of extreme adversity. Like a war-time measure. They weren’t necessitated, as they had two spinners of extreme pedigree in Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

The soulful beauty of three-spinner strategy is their remarkable contrast in means and methods. Ashwin, mark II combines both worlds, the old and new, Jadeja is a very modern spinner, a pragmatic product of the times, and Mishra is typically old-worldish, forced to weave in the contemporary mandate of fitness and variations, to stay himself relevant in the context.

In collusion, they have blended a symphony too inharmonic for the South African ears (feet, head and arms too). “By the very nature, the three are different. One is an offie, the other a leggie and the third a left-arm spinner. To go with it, they have different trajectories,  bowl at different pace, use different variations and bring different angles into play, which is difficult for batsmen unused to playing spin and on spin-friendly surfaces,” opined former India spinner Maninder Singh.

At least on the apparent, they have given an impression that no ill-will or that strain of uneasy competition exists amongst them. The wicket tally, though, presents a slightly disproportionate picture. Ashwin, with the purple patch he is traipsing, has shouldered most of the bowling (102 overs) and taken the maximum wickets (24). Jadeja is next, used in 82.5 overs, from which he took 16 wickets. Mishra, who missed the second Test in Bengaluru, has understandably bowled the least (43 overs) and taken just seven wickets. “When you are playing three spinners on turners, one is bound to be under-used. But Mishra has chipped in with important wickets whenever he has bowled,” he explained.

In Mohali, he took out AB de Villiers twice. In Nagpur, he evicted top-scorers of both innings (JP Duminy in first, Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis in second). He has returned trimmer and is more adept at mixing the pace of his deliveries. In the first innings in Mohali, the leg-break that spun past De Villiers’ outside edge and hammered the stumps was delivered at brisk pace. “He has been very important for us. He showed that in Sri Lanka as well, bowled really well in his comeback series and has gained a lot of confidence,” skipper Virat Kohli said after the Nagpur Test.

The confidence spilled over when Amla and Du Plessis were offering resolute resistance in the second innings in Nagpur. “When the partnership was on, he actually held the ball and told me that ‘I will get a wicket’ and in about three overs he got Hashim. As a captain, it is a pleasing thing to hear,” Kohli said.

But downgrading him to the third bowler among the three is pitiless, more so after his rich-haul redemption (15 wickets at 15) in Sri Lanka. Mishra, meanwhile, knows to be at peace with situations. Used as he is to even more adversities, he won’t throw a stink eye at his younger peers.


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