CHENNAI: Few of this generation will be aware of the fact that some of the greatest cricketers the game has seen have had a problem playing quality spin bowling, some time or the other in their long careers.
Sunil Gavaskar was never troubled by West Indies quicks, but had problems negotiating the guile of Derek Underwood, considering that the opener has got out the maximum number of times (12) in his Test career to the Englishman.
Similarly, Viv Richards was suspect to leg-spin. Even now, BS Chandrasekhar and Narendra Hirwani will tell you tales about how they foxed the mighty batsman.
Hirwani, bowling coach at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), says spin bowling has its own charm, and has a role to play even in T20s.
True to his words, spinners have made an impact in the nine matches of this year¡¯s Indian Premier League (IPL) held so far, and some of the biggest names in the tournament have failed to negotiate them.
“l am happy that spinners are calling the shots in IPL. I’m pleased that they are relevant even in the slam-bang version of the game,” said Hirwani.
Imran Tahir (Rising Pune Supergiant) and Rashid Khan (Sunrisers Hyderabad) have been impressive. So have Axar Patel (Kings XI Punjab) and Kuldeep Yadav (Kolkata Knight Riders).
Tahir must have been depressed when he had no takers at the IPL auction, despite a terrific T20 record. After Pune picked him as replacement for an injured Mitchell Marsh, the South Africa international is bowling with vengeance to prove a point.
“He is an attacking bowler who is not scared of being hit. He always attacks the stumps with subtle variations and looks for a wicket every ball. In T20s, a spinner must attack like fast bowlers to get the desired results,” observed Hirwani.
Against Mumbai, Tahir accounted for frontline batsmen Parthiv Patel, Jos Buttler and Rohit Sharma. “As I said earlier, he is bowling with a lot of vigour. His strength is confidence. His experience across formats too is coming in handy,” added the former national selector.
NCA batting coach WV Raman, who has performed the same role for Kolkata in the past, believes that the IPL drives players to give their best. “It is a huge platform. So Tahir naturally wants to make an impact. He is an experienced guy and he knows how to go about the job.”
But the biggest surprise has been Rashid. The Afghanistan leg-spinner showed his potential against the Gujarat Lions on Sunday, scalping Brendon McCullum, Suresh Raina and Aaron Finch.
“I have seen Rashid before. He is very good. I like his approach and attitude. He is positive, attacks the stumps, and looks to make things happen rather than wait. That attitude is the reason for his success,” opined Hirwani.
Among Indian spinners, Axar and Kuldeep have been impressive. Once labelled as ‘a roller of the ball’ by Gavaskar, the left-arm tweaker has worked hard to improve his game. He is also flexible, as he can open the attack and bowl during the death overs too.
“Axar knows his limitations (not a great spinner of the ball) and bowls accordingly. He concentrates on line and length, and works on angles to get purchase. Kuldeep is an attacking bowler. When he came to me to work on his game, I told him to be his natural self. My advice is that spinners must use their mind and try to test the footwork of batsmen with subtle variations,” remarked Hirwani.