Millennium Post

World cup game turners

I do not expect spin to play a major role in the coming World Cup, as a combination of two new balls, fielding restrictions and the pitches will all count against them. But that does not mean spinners will be redundant and they will still have a part, maybe even a crucial one, to play.

History shows spinners can be very effective in Australian and New Zealand, the co-hosts of the 2015 World Cup. When the WC was held here in 1992, Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed grabbed 16 wickets, a mark bettered only by fellow countryman Wasim Akram.

True, Mushy was an outstanding spinner but it highlights the fact there will still be opportunities for the very best slow bowlers to perform key roles and even become match-winners. So, who are those spinners who have the potential to be key men for their teams in this World Cup? I thought it would be fun to select 11 spinners to keep an eye out for during the tournament. The likes of Moeen Ali of England, Ireland’s Paul Stirling, Australia’s Xavier Doherty or Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath may well feature at some point, but looking into my crystal ball, these are spinners who may figure prominently:   

1 Shakib Al Hasan (B’DESH)

Not a big spinner of the ball but a smart bowler and the fact he has been playing in the Big Bash League just before the tournament means he has got recent and relevant first-hand experience of conditions. The downside may be that he will have to be both a stock bowler, keeping it quiet, as well as wicket-taker. So for him to be very effective, other members of the Lankan bowling attack must step up and take wickets too. If they do not then opponents will be content to just play out Shakib’s overs, knowing they can score of the other bowlers.

2 R Ashwin  (INDIA)

Here’s another bowler with recent experience of Australian conditions and although he has not had an especially successful time, that experience will stand him in good stead. Ashwin has clever variations and will also revel in the extra bounce he is likely to find. Ashwin is also an excellent performer in the powerplay overs and when batsmen look to attack him, which could count in his team’s favour.

3 Ravindra Jadeja (INDIA)

A key architect of India’s victory in 2013 ICC Champions Trophy in England, Jadeja is not a big spinner of the ball but, like Ashwin, his experience of batsmen attacking him, thanks to IPL, will be invaluable. He will skid the ball on and, if he can be accurate and consistent, batsmen may well perish trying to take liberties against him.

4 Daniel Vettori (nzL)
He has it all: experience, temperament and knowledge of conditions. He may not be the same bowler he was in his prime, not quite able any more to drive through his action, but his accuracy and subtle variations in pace mean he will be very dangerous. This tournament has been the driving force keeping him going and he will be desperate to go out on a high.

5 Yasir Shah (PAKISTAN)

Has the potential to do what Mushtaq did in 1992. Quality leg-spinners are rare enough in this tournament and he definitely has the talent to succeed. He spins the ball and will relish the extra bounce found in Australian pitches. Moreover, with Saeed Ajmal serving a suspension, Yasir will get the chance to play a more pivotal role in his side’s attack.

6 Shahid Afridi (pakistan)

Knows conditions, has good variation and his ability to skid the ball on means he represents a real threat to batsmen not getting their bats out in front of the pad. He and Yasir Shah both need the Pakistan seam bowlers to be effective as, if they are not and leak runs instead, it will allow batsmen to simply milk them. Has already made it clear this is his last ICC CWC so after captaining the side to the semi-finals last time and losing in the final in 1999 he has one final shot at the title, which is the perfect incentive to produce the goods.

7 S Senanayake  (SRI LANKA)

Conditions will suit his style of bowling given the over-spin he puts on the ball to generate bounce. His ability to keep things tight as well as his athleticism in the field and his handy lower-order batting will probably mean Senanayake will get the nod ahead of left-arm orthodox bowler Rangana Herath as Sri Lanka’s frontline spinner.

8 Imran Tahir (south africa)

Benefits from the high quality of South Africa’s seam attack because when they keep things tight he tends to pick up wickets as batsmen look to attack him. Difficult to rate him in the top rank of spinners but his strike-rate demands attention. As his batting and fielding are modest, he faces a challenge from left-armer Aaron Phangiso for a place in the starting eleven.

9-10 Md Nabi, Samiullah  Shenwari  (Afghanistan)
The focus will be on Afghanistan’s fast bowling stocks but these two will play key roles in tying down sides in the middle overs and can also pick up handy wickets. Captain Nabi (top) is a tall wicket-to-wicket off-spinner who generates decent bounce while Shenwari is a skiddy leg-spinner who averages a wicket every 40 balls in ODIs. Neither can be underestimated.

11 George Dockrel (ireland)
Although he is only 22, the left-armer already has a vast amount of experience, having played in his first ICC World Twenty20 at 18, back in 2010, and the World Cupa year later. His seven wickets with an economy rate of just 4.43 runs per over in that latter tournament was impressive, as was his command of line and length. Among bowlers from Associate countries, only Ryan ten Doeschate has reached 50 ODI wickets in fewer matches and he will be one of Ireland’s go-to men with the ball.

New rules will make ICC World Cup 2015 exciting

Former India captain Rahul Dravid is expecting next month’s World Cup to be an aggressive affair as he feels the revamped ODI rules will push teams into selecting attacking bowlers over part-timers. Speaking to ESPN Cricinfo recently, Dravid said new rules, which mandate five fielders inside the 30-yard circle at all times in an innings, will have a huge impact on how the teams work out their strategies at the showpiece event starting February 14. “With the two new balls, the fast bowlers will get that level of assistance up front. The grounds are bigger too so it won’t be that easy to clear the ropes. I think it will be a challenge for the captains. For example, when you have five fielders in the ring, it’s very hard to play a part-time bowler. You are almost being forced to play five specialist bowlers. That is a real positive. You are going to be forced to attack and look for wickets rather than see part-timers bowl for a large period of play,” Dravid said.
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