TN legend V.V. Kumar decodes spin greats of India

A bowler with guile, deception and a bagful of tricks, 84-year-old Vaman Vishwanath Kumar was a formidable leg-spinner of his times.

A disgusted Imtiaz Ahmed looks back at his spread - eagled stumps after being deceived and bowled by a googly from Vaman Kumar during the fifth Test between India and Pakistan in New Delhi in 1961.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


A bowler with guile, deception and a bagful of tricks, Vaman Vishwanath Kumar was a formidable leg-spinner of his times.

In this piece, the incisive Kumar, now 84, but his mind as sharp as ever, rates the four greats of Indian spin bowling.

Bhagwat Chandrasekar: He would always top my list. He was a match-winner who could run through sides on a good wicket once he found his rhythm. You see his right arm was afflicted with polio so he wasn’t always in control of what he bowled, there would be full tosses and long-hogs. But someone like Tiger Pataudi understood his worth. Once, Chandra hit the groove he was unstoppable. Because of polio he had a quick arm action. The other leg-spinners would cock their wrists. Chandra held the ball like a seamer. He was not a big spinner of the ball but inflicted considerable damage because of his pace off the pitch and also the fact that he could get the ball to bounce if he wanted to or skid off the surface. And he had the repertoire, the top-spinner, the googly and flipper. His googly was very difficult to pick because of his quick arm action. 

Bhagwat Chandrasekhar.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES



Erapalli Prasanna: He used to really spin the ball and if you were standing at silly-point, short-leg or silly mid-off, you could hear the bee like sound as the ball sliced through the air. Prasanna top-spun the ball. So the sphere would dip on the batsman earlier than he expected. He could create the perfect parabola, produce the Magnus effect, and forced the batsman to get on to the front foot. Deception was the key. He could understand the nature of the breeze and get the ball to drift away. Prasanna invariably bowled over the wicket, spinning the ball big into the batsmen and backing himself to hit the stump. These days off-spinners bowl round the wicket, which is not the ideal line and takes leg-before out of the equation.

Erapalli Prasanna.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


Bishen Singh Bedi: The stint in the English county helped him evolve. In conditions where it was difficult to spin the ball, he learnt to roll the ball. Bedi had a smooth easy action and he too had parabola and the variations. Plus Bedi has a brute of an arm ball that fetched him plenty of wickets. He too top spun the ball, forcing batsmen to use their feet. If Chandra was running through at the other end, Prasanna and Bedi would play supporting roles.

Bishan Singh Bedi.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


S. Venkatraghavan: He had a wonderful action for an off-spinner.

S. Venkatraghavan.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES


He was tall, had a high-arm action and got natural bounce. Because of his height, he did not get the same parabola as Prasanna and Bedi. On a conducive pitch he could be dangerous. Along the way, he learnt to drift the ball away from the right-hander. He too top-spun his off-spinners which explains the bounce he could achieve.

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