Life is dull without spinners

Anil Kumble has responded positively to responsibility and India may come to regard him as its lost leader.-K. R. DEEPAK

Not so long ago spin was supposed to be as relevant as letter writing. As emails and sms have put the pen and paper brigade out of business so 50-over cricket and T20 were supposed to signal the end of flight and guile. But these practitioners are not to be underestimated. Not even 20-over cricket undid them. By Peter Roebuck.

Spin was fooling us all along! Murali has become Test cricket’s leading wicket-taker. Anil Kumble has captained his team with distinction. Another turbaned tweaker has been sending down his lefties for England. Paul Harris has emerged as a spinner in a previously sceptical country. Daniel Vettori has been leading the Kiwis and prospers. Utseya has taken charge in his benighted and betrayed country. Even West Indies is starting to find some genuine spinners. Not bad f or a corps.

Not so long ago spin was supposed to be as relevant as letter writing. As emails and sms have put the pen and paper brigade out of business so 50-over cricket and T20 were supposed to signal the end of flight and guile. But these practitioners are not to be underestimated. Not even 20-over cricket undid them. To the contrary they were so effective that both finalists built their attacks around them.

Murali deserves first mention in this roll of honour. Although antipodean detractors maintain their objections, it has been a towering achievement. It is passing strange that a bowler whose action has been passed umpteen times is routinely condemned whilst others known to chuck their faster ball escaped public censure. At worst Murali sometimes backchucks his doosra. Ask a child to hurl the ball to you and see how many send it that way.

Murali once again played his part in winning a Test match. Although curiously reluctant to place close fieldsmen, Murali eventually held sway. The battles between the Tamil and alert batsmen count amongst the most compelling the game has offered.

Kumble has responded positively to responsibility and India may come to regard him as its lost leader. His team won the first Test and despite losing most of its pace attack almost took the second. One of his wickets was a ripper, a slower leg-break that so befuddled a batsman that he hardly tried to impede its progress. Great sportsmen drain hope from opponents thereby goading them into outlandish conduct.

Monty Panesar did not take many wickets in Kandy but that owed more to the accomplishment of his opponents than any weakness on his part. Spinners improve as they learn the tricks of the trade. Youth is constantly about to put the old ’uns in their place. Then the difficulties of maintaining a high standard emerge. Monty’s best years lie ahead.

Much the same applies to Paul Harris. Over the years South Africans have regarded slow bowlers with suspicion. As a result local teams have been able to steamroll opponents but not outwit them. Harris has fought his way through and now South Africa are fielding a balanced attack. Nearby, Utseya has managed to survive his own youth and avaricious and vile officials to lead his team to occasional victories.

Vettori has been around for quite some time yet somehow remains young. He has had a tough start as captain but will presently reinforce his reputation. We must look forward to seeing him lead that rarest of luxuries, a full strength New Zealand side.

Meanwhile two trim 36-year-olds are the only serious challengers for the vacated Australian spin position. Brad Hogg has energy and devotion and has kept improving. He prospers in 50-over cricket because batsmen cannot pick his wrong ’un. Although he does not spin the ball as much, McGain, a leg-spinner from Victoria, may be a better bowler on a helpful pitch. One of them must play on Boxing Day. Life is dull without spinners.