The mechanics of spin bowling

When a spin bowler resorts to a round the wicket attack in matches, it shows his negativism. This means that he is not prepared to take punishment. He lacks guile, which pertains to flight, turn and the trajectory parabola. He should also get drift or make the ball hang.

Yet another victim for Bishen Singh Bedi, the left-arm spinner in the classical mould.   -  The Hindu Photo Library

Let’s analyse the merits and demerits of Ravichandran Ashwin (India), Yasir Shah (Pakistan) and Rangana Herath (Sri Lanka), who are the foremost spinners in world cricket today.

It is true that our own Ashwin has created a lot of milestones within a short span. From an ordinary trundler to a world beater, the journey has been short and sweet for him. And from sidespin to overspin, his graduation as a bowler has been remarkable. On the sub-continent wickets, Ashwin is a master. His virtues are his absolute control and consistency, supported by brilliant fielders.

When a spin bowler resorts to a round the wicket attack in matches, it shows his negativism. This means that he is not prepared to take punishment. He lacks guile, which pertains to flight, turn and the trajectory parabola. He should also get drift or make the ball hang as Ghulam Ahmed, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivas Venkataraghavan did.

Among the overseas off-spinners of an earlier era, Hugh Tayfield (South Africa) and Lance Gibbs (West Indies) were a class by themselves. Great off-spinners operated over the wicket with a classic drift. They resorted to round the wicket for a change of angle and to make use of the rough patches on the pitch. The present generation of batsmen have minimal footwork, which is exploited by the present-day spinners.

The batsmen can afford to be less than perfect because the bats are so heavy and even a miscued drive goes for a six. Planning the downfall of well-set batsman is also not noticeable these days. The bowlers are more worried about their average.

A closer look at Yasir Shah reveals that he has improved by leaps and bounds from an ordinary medium- slow leg-spinner. This transition has been possible only because of his tireless work and experimentation at various venues.

His leg-breaks are genuinely overspun with a nice parabola, making it difficult for a batsman to decide whether to defend or attack. The greatness of a leg-spinner lies in his ability to field a short-leg/leg-slip and a forward short-leg even on bone dry tracks.

In comparison, Yasir measures up to Subhash Gupte, Shane Warne and Abdul Qadir. His googlies are well concealed and mostly the batsmen are either bowled or leg before. He also forces bat-pad nicks and he has this rare attribute of being able to run through a side on any wicket.

Yasir always attacks and is willing to take punishment. His spin generates bounce and sharp turn as he seeks to dominate a batsman. The other international leg-spinners are not even half as good as Yasir, including Imran Tahir (South Africa).

Herath’s success rate puzzles many as his slightly round-arm action propels mainly incoming balls . He has limited variation and turn, but his virtues are line, length and perseverance. He is prepared to wait for his wickets.

He suffers in comparison to Bishan Bedi and Vinoo Mankad, who had deception and always preyed on the minds of the batsmen. Both also had a deadly arm-ball. But, if you analyse the mode of dismissals of Herath, he gets most of the batsmen leg before or bowled. This shows his class and is a tribute to his subtle variations and accuracy. He also bowls to his field and is the most evolved left-arm spin bowler of modern times.

The author is a reputed leg-spinner of yesteryear