Spinner’s subcontinental web
Spin has always been the most essential part of cricket in the subcontinent. Barring Pakistan, who has primarily been famous for pace, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have had a greater number of spinners making a foray into the game.
There was an era when the world of cricket was springing with the art of Anil Kumble, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne. The way they used to slowly spin the ball towards the batsmen, toss it up using the surface beautifully and turn it right towards the front pad to hit the stumps were all part of the art which is hardly seen after that era.
Due to subcontinental conditions, there has never really been a shortage of spinners per se, but there has been a decline in the quality of spinners being churned out.
The art somewhat travelled the world with Daniel Vettori, Sunil Narine, Imran Tahir and others. We produced good spinners like Harbhajan Singh, Saeed Ajmal, Pragyan Ojha and many others but none seemed to be having an everlasting and decisive effect on the games.
A while ago, the cricketing world woke up to some artistic spinning in the subcontinent that made them stand right up and take notice. Ravichandran Ashwin, Yasir Shah, Shakib-al-Hasan and Ragana Herath - with their consistency and effect on the gameplay of their teams, emerged as one of the most important players of their respective sides.
Ravichandran Ashwin: Ashwin is currently sitting atop the Test bowlers rankings. With his groundbreaking performances in the India-New Zealand Test series, Ashwin emerged as India’s go-to man and as he went from strength-to-strength, so did the Indian Test squad. Both Ashwin and the Indian Test team captured the first spot in the ICC Test rankings together and that goes on to show how crucial a part Ashwin played in the rise of his Test team.
The off-spinner first impressed with his display and carrom ball variation for the Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League. Subsequently, he was picked up in the national squad for the home series against West Indies in 2011.
His debut series was a hit as he scalped 22 wickets at 22.90 runs per wicket. Further, in the series against Australia, he picked 9 wickets and then 18 wickets in two Test against New Zealand.
Cricket experts have always said that Test cricket is the real test of a quality bowler. Ashwin, in the longer format of the game, proved his quality, stamina and variative bowling to stamp his excellence as a bowler.
Recently, Ashwin became the fastest to reach 200 Test wickets and single-handedly tore through the New Zealand batting setup. His fitness is such that Virat Kohli could not bring him down and even after bowl ingmany overs at a stretch, he produced his best every time.
Making good use of the dryness, moisture and turn of the pitches, Ashwin proved his smartness as a bowler. With Anil Kumble becoming the Indian head coach, the guidance that Ashwin is getting at the moment, may just be priceless.
It is his quality bowling though, that has been spinning the international cricket since quite sometime.
Yasir Shah: The leg-spinner has been an answer to all Pakistani prayers post the ban of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez. Shah has been ferocious for Pakistan, becoming the second-fastest to pick 100 Test wickets in mere 17 matches.
Shah became the talk of the town after his exceptional performance at the greatest cricket ground in the world, Lord’s against England. His ten-wicket haul was the prime reason for England’s loss. With his phenomenal display, he not just became only the second leg-spinner to claim a ten-wicket haul at Lord’s but also the only Asian bowler to pick 10 wickets at the historic ground.
Yasir Shah, in Pakistan’s Test series against Australia in 2014, picked 12 wickets to help Pakistan whitewash Australia for the first time ever.
Arguably the best leg-spinner of all time Shane Warne spun the ball gently but extremely effectively, Shah doesn’t spin the ball much but what works for him is his patience. Shah understands his strength and that’s a huge plus point for him.
With wrist spinners generally, line and length is a major issue, but Yasir Shah rarely messes up his line and length. He has the patience of bowling with ease and smile and frustrating the batsmen. His ability of finding the weakness and gap in a batsman’s play is what helps him dismiss.
For instance, Bairstow loves scoring on the backfoot, that’s his guilty pleasure and Shah well understanding that, finds the gap between his bat and pads to pick his wicket. Yasir has dismissed Bairstow five times out of six.What makes Yasir unique is his discipline and the way he sees himself.
Shakib-al-Hasan: Shakib is one of the best all-rounders in the world and certainly Bangladesh’s greatest cricketer. In 2015, Shakib became the first and only cricketer in history to be ranked as the number one all-rounder by ICC in all three formats of the game (Test, Twenty20 and One Day Internationals).
Shakib was taken in the team mainly for his batting performance but it was his spinning skills that got him recognised as an effective bowler as well.
In 2008, during Bangladesh’s South Africa tour, Shakib shared the tag of the leading wicket-taker of the series with Makhaya Ntini with 11 wickets at an average of 20.81.
Shakib’s performances might have been the losing cause for the team, but time and again, he has been hailed by experts for uplifting Bangladesh cricket.
Rangana Herath: Post Muralitharan era, it is Herath who is keeping the spin flag flying high in Sri Lanka. The leg-spinner has taken more wickets than any other Test spinner in the last decade.
The recent historic whitewash of Australia in Sri Lanka was largely possible due to Herath’s genius. Herath finished the series as the leading wicket taker, with 28 at 12.75. On the final day of the final Test, he collected 7 for 64 to bowl Sri Lanka to their triumph.
Herath is 38 at the moment, and his time in cricket is almost at crunch but his performance, even at this age, definitely makes him one of the greatest spinners to be seen on the pitch.
The subcontinent has been witnessing a lot of cricket at the moment and is spinning around the visitors. After travelling across the globe in the past years, it’s will be fair to say spin in subcontinent is dominantly back with a bang.