Spin brigade could rule WC 2011

Spinners in Limited over Cricket were unthinkable when the game first started. Spin was considered to be a trade where run scoring against was easy. Hence it was the view of many that spinners may die a natural death in the shorter version of the game, when it gets its due recognition. However contrary to the said theory and belief the spinners have not only survived but also held their place in the game and has proved to be match winners!

The art of spin bowling has changed from the flighty type where spinners tended to rely more on flight and drift to the more unorthodox wrist spin today, which is a factor in the role spin has played in the shorter version. This is especially true when it came to off break bowling. But in general in the past most spinners were willing to throw the ball up and beat the batsmen in flight to get wickets.

But with the advent of the shorter version the spinners have adopted many new methods with the relying on the wrist coming in to play to a greater extent. Today one is sure that every spinner in the game tends to rely on the wrist irrespective of the art he employs. In the case of such art we see the fingers and the wrist working together and also the arm speeds which have improved immensely beating the batsmen in the air and off the pitch. Then there is also the Ajantha Mendis type mystery spinner and of course the completely unorthodox spin in the caliber of Muralitharan, who incidentally is the highest wicket taker in the entire World Cup which tally is included in his five hundred plus ODI wickets, a feat unthinkable when this form was first introduced.

With such a background how stronger a force will spin be in the World Cup of 2011? To begin with, the sub continent where the tournament is worked off is spin friendly and as such each team will look to field at least 2 front line spinners and if possible spin bowling batsmen. Looking around the spin strength of the teams, on paper Sri Lanka and India appear to have the best balanced spin attacks. Whilst the Indians lack a quality left arm spinner, the Lankans have opted not to include a genuine leg spinner!

Imran Tahir in action

The Indian attack with Harbhajan Singh leading it has the support of the leg spinner Chawla and two other off spinners in Ashwin and the quickish Yusuf Pathan. Is it surprising that the Indians have picked three off spinners in their squad of fifteen? Haven’t they disproved the theory of the Sri Lankans to drop the highly talented Suraj Randiv?

A very interesting policy from a nation which has an abundance of spinners! Also don’t forget that Pragyan Ojha the left arm spinner who missed out, had proved his mettle in the few opportunities he was given. It is obvious that the best fifteen has been picked doing away with the combination theory, which appears to be more an excuse than what it is in real. It is also clear that the three off spinners in the Indian line-up are different to each other though in the same trade. Randiv’s inclusion wouldn’t have been any different either.

As for the Lankan line-up Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis has enough class between them to be held in high esteem by opposing batsmen with Rangana Herath the left arm spinner who was initially being used only in the longer version of the game given the all clearance in the shorter version too. From the available evidence the combinations of India and Sri Lanka appear to be the best and the strongest, with the Australian attack looking the thinnest of all. Jason Krezja the off spinner and Steve Smith the leg spinner are hardly terrifying and will not be counted to do anything exceptional whilst England to a large extent will depend on the off spin of Swann and the all round strength of Michael Yardy who is a different type of left arm spinner being quicker through the air and is known to be difficult to score runs off.
One of the most interesting selections in the entire World Cup has been Imran Thahir the 31-year -old leg spinner who is part of the South African squad.

The South African selectors should be commended for not ignoring the art of leg spin as it is a weapon which could be deployed to attack in a most efficient manner. Browsing the rest of the spinners it is apparent that Daniel Vettori the Kiwi Captain and left arm spinner, who is the second highest wicket taker amongst the spinners in ODI cricket and Saqib al Hassan the Bangladesh captain, another left arm spinner, are definitely the best of the lot, though there is enough room and opportunity for spinners from other squads too, to put their hand up. Chris Gayle who looks friendly and harmless has got over one hundred and fifty wickets in ODI cricket whilst Afridi the Pakistan captain and all rounder have won many games with his quick leg breaks. Zimbabwe’s leading spinner will be the left arm orthodox Ray price.

There are few more spinners in the squads that haven’t been mentioned though my feeling is that the trade of spin will be the force that could win teams matches if not the plum. With many knowledgeable individuals at the helm of affairs the spin brigade is bound to be well utilized when the World Cup begins.

Roshan Abeysinghe is a leading cricket promoter and an international cricket commentator

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