Leg-spin, a fascinating art

A lot of youngsters have imitated Warne's style of walking up to the crease, but the important thing is that his basic alignment, delivery stride, action and follow- through are as good as one gets, writes W. V. Raman.

Leg-spinners have an uncanny knack of leaving an everlasting impression with the way they dismiss batsmen. Shane Warne's ripper to clip the off bail to dismiss Gatting and Sivaramakrishnan's guile to leave Miandad stranded are cases in point.

Of course, there have been scores of superlative performances from great cricketers over the years, but some efforts somehow get etched in people's memories. Some of the spells bowled by Bhagwat Chandrasekhar, Abdul Qadir and Anil Kumble some years ago are still discussed with fervour. Leg-spinners have always been accorded a special status as a result of the intrigue they conjure up. The art of leg-spin is by no means an easy one to master and hence a good practitioner fascinates people in the same manner as a good magician does.

Leg-spinners have proved to be indispensable as a result of their match-winning abilities. Shane Warne is in a class of his own and he has proved to be the greatest exponent of orthodox leg-spin the world has seen. He made his entry into international cricket when the art of leg-spin was on the verge of becoming extinct. Not only has he kept the art intact, but has inspired many youngsters to take it up.

Warne is a conventional leg-spinner unlike Kumble and his ability to rip the ball across the batsmen has put him in a different zone. Youngsters would do well to absorb the good qualities that have made Warne the legend that he is. A lot of youngsters have imitated Warne's style of walking up to the crease, but the important thing is that his basic alignment, delivery stride, action and follow-through are as good as one gets.

The ideal grip is to rest the ball between the ring finger and the middle finger with the index finger and middle fingers providing support. The ring finger and wrist are the key elements to impart a lot of spin, which in turn will make the ball dip and zip off the pitch. The ring finger should complete an anti-clockwise half circle in that it has to start at the position where 6 is on a clock and finish at where 12 is.

It is even better to finish the circle at where 9 is, as this will complete the wrist action. This action is similar to opening the round knob of a door in an anti-clockwise direction with the ring finger placed at the bottom end of the knob.

The run-up has to be gradual and the important thing for a leg-spinner is that he has to land with the left knee flexed and then transfer the weight while using the wrist and fingers to give a good rip. Leg-spinners, normally, are advised to dip their leading shoulder a bit and this is possible only if the left knee is flexed. Unlike the off-spinners, the leg-spinners can be slightly round arm with the back of the hand facing skywards and the ball towards the ground. A slightly round arm will enable a leg-spinner to impart a lot of spin and finish the action with his bowling arm coming right across his body. The conventional leg-spinners are generally capable of spinning the ball a long way like Warne does. Of course, Qadir was another who could make the ball turn a long way and he also had the ability to make the googly deviate across the batsman! Qadir flighted the ball more than Warne at times and especially when he was confident with his form. In comparison, Warne is less proficient with his googly, but his flippers have more than compensated for it.

Both Warne and Qadir have carved a niche for themselves, but Sivaramakrishnan displayed a lot of skill in the short span of time that he played international cricket. He had just about everything that leg-spinners wish for, but, unfortunately, his career did not extend as long as it should have. V. V. Kumar was another leggie who was full of guile. He figured briefly in international cricket and is considered unlucky not to have earned more Indian caps.

It is essential for a young leg-spinner to develop the ability to spin the ball as length can be mastered in due course. There is a great temptation for youngsters to try and develop all the variations, but the problem is that they fail to gain control over the stock ball in their pursuit to become crafty. As it is, leg-spinners need to spend a lot of time in the nets to achieve basic control and as such they cannot afford to get distracted by the temptation to become too crafty too soon. Here again, Warne is a superb example of how important it is to master the stock delivery, which can help you succeed provided you persevere. Two of the most successful leggies, Kumble and Chandrasekar, cannot be categorised as conventional and therefore, I will be writing about them in my next column.