Contemporary spinners need to be fearless

Both Venkataramana and Sunil are excited about the young left-arm spinners in Tamil Nadu but, despite the emergence of Murugan Ashwin, believe the State requires more depth in leg and off-spin.

Tamil Nadu's spin twins M.Venkataramana (R) and Sunil Subramanian.   -  M. Vedhan

Adapting to different formats is the biggest challenge facing emerging spinners today. Some find short-term success, many others lose their way. Sportstar caught up with two former Tamil Nadu spinners who formed a potent combination, from the late 80s to much of the 90s, to find answers.

Off-spinner M. Venkataramana and left-armer Sunil Subramaniam are now passing on their knowledge to aspirants at the Tamil Nadu Cricket Academy. Both comprehend the difficulties facing contemporary spinners.

Venkataramana, who played his only Test at Jamaica in 1989, said here on Thursday, “They do not impart enough revolutions on the ball. The moment the batsman goes after them, particularly in Twenty20 cricket, they begin to bowl flat.”

Sunil elaborated on the point. “They see the power of the bat and get intimidated. But by bowling flatter, they are just playing into the batsman’s game-plan. He will be in a position to manipulate the bowling. ”

Venkataramana said, “To be successful in any format, you have to spin the ball and this happens only when a bowler imparts revs on the ball. When you do this, there will be some flight, let’s call it the natural parabola, and you should not be afraid of that. The ball is ‘up and over,’ there will be over-spin and wicket-taking possibilities are more.”

The big question these days is - Why are the leggies more successful than the other spinners in Twenty20 cricket?

Sunil had the answer. “The leg-spinner imparts revs naturally by rotating the wrist to 270 degrees during the course of the arm movement. In fact, there will be revs for a leg-spinner even if he does not flight the ball. For an off-spinner or a left-arm spinner, the maximum wrist rotation is only 180 degrees.”

The 50-year-old Venkataramana, who has 247 victims in 75 first class matches at 29.63, said, “To be good in the shorter format, a spinner has to bowl lengthy spells in matches of longer duration. But these are days when bowlers’ attention spans seem to be shorter. They lack patience. And the captains do not seem to have patience either. Unless you bowl more, like a 20-over spell in a game or for long periods at the nets, you will struggle to have control and accuracy. You will not be able to work on your variations too.”

Even in the longer matches, a spinner has to develop his skills on good wickets to evolve. The 48-year-old Sunil, with 285 wickets in 74 first class games at 23.53, was a capable bowler on tracks favouring batsmen. He said, “It’s only when you bowl on good wickets that you learn the art of altering your pace, using the crease and varying the angles. You learn to think a batsman out.”

Both Venkataramana and Sunil are excited about the young left-arm spinners in Tamil Nadu but, despite the emergence of Murugan Ashwin, believe the State requires more depth in leg and off-spin.

The duo’s mantra for success across formats is simple – be fearless and impart revolutions on the ball.

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