If it's IPL, let it spin!

The spinners have enjoyed their moment of glory in this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), following the footsteps of Shane Warne.

The Karnataka off-spinner, has grown in stature over the course of this season. His batting came to the fore against Mumbai Indians and, with the ball, Gowtham has delivered crucial wickets for Rajasthan.   -  AFP

Shane Warne must be enjoying the way the tweakers have put the batsmen in a spin, in this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

He unleashed the demon of leg-spin trickery as captain of Rajasthan Royals in a successful first season in 2008 — where he scalped 19 wickets in 15 matches. Eleven years later, the slow bowlers, armed with confidence, control and captain’s backing, are still turning the heads and winning matches. And that’s not just in Royals.

The teams like Kings XI Punjab — which has Mujeeb Zadran — Sunrisers Hyderabad (Rashid Khan), Mumbai Indians (Mayank Markande), Kolkata Knight Riders (Sunil Narine) have also excelled in this department.

For Royals, Krishnappa Gowtham left the mighty Chris Gayle stumped in RR’s home game against KXIP, showing presence of mind in bowling a wide down the leg-side to leave the West Indies batsman off-balance.

One of most destructive batsmen in the IPL, Gayle walked back in frustration after falling for a regulation trick in the spinner’s armoury. Ravichandran Ashwin, an experienced spinner, was deceived by flight from the off-spinner and lost leg-stump. RR’s proactive captain in the champion side in 2008, the spin wizard, is now team mentor at the Jaipur franchise. Emerging Indian spin talents like Gowtham, Shreyas Gopal and New Zealander Ish Sodhi are lucky to get one of masters of the spin trade observing them from close.

Friday’s face-off against CSK will allow Warne the opportunity to also watch his one-time protégé Ravindra Jadeja turning his arm over, clad in bright yellow. The left-arm spinner owes his international reputation to the first IPL season in RR’s blue, turned into a strike bowler by his astute captain. Harbhajan Singh, an old adversary of the Aussie from the 2008 season, remains a threat on his day. Slow bowlers are tasked with opening the bowling when field restrictions are in force, delivering in the death overs. Leg-spinners, off-spinners, wrist-spinners and finger-spinners are taking wickets in bursts.

Markande has a four-wicket haul in stipulated four overs. Mujeeb is third in the race for Purple Cap (14 wickets in 10 appearances so far). Stroke-makers freeze at the crease when this Afghanistan leg-spinner flights the ball, carrying forward the tradition mastered by Warne.

By the time Warne quit the IPL in 2011, the Aussie changed teams’ outlook towards slow bowlers in T20. The RR mentor’s tribe, younger and daring, are earning respect for their craft by frustrating ruthless sloggers clearing shorter boundaries at ease.

Warne would have loved to have a go at the batsmen, the way Gowtham pulled off an audacious move against Gayle. For now, he is happy to mentor new faces.

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