Winning Spin

CHANDRA WAS PART of the famous spin quartet which dominated World cricket in the 60s and the 70s.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

A spinner needs a big heart as he has to cop a lot of stick from the batsmen, writes W. V. RAMAN.

There can be no better delight than watching a top-notch spinner mesmerise and tease the batsmen with subtle variations in the air and off the pitch. The spinner does not expend as much energy as a fast bowler but conquers the batsman in a battle of wits by tantalising and luring him with his craft. The followers of the game in the 60s and 70s were fortunate to watch the famous quartet of Prasanna, Bedi, Venkataraghavan and Chandrasekhar dominate World cricket with incredible skills. Each one of them was different in his approach and temperament but nonetheless they made a good combination. The four of them have accounted for nearly 850 wickets between them and more than their achievements they inspired a lot of youngsters to take up spin bowling. The Harbhajans and the Kumbles had someone to emulate and of course they both have proved to be worthy successors. The curiosity of how the quartet would have performed in the new millennium is something that will linger but it is better to rest content with the knowledge that each one of them was special.

The spinners give the impression that there is hardly any effort in what they do, but in reality there is a fair amount of effort that goes into every delivery. While the spinners generally do not have long runs and explosive actions, they use their fingers, wrists, upper body and the hips to generate spin and zip off the pitch. These are the essential elements that make a good spinner but skill only makes up half the recipe for success. A spinner needs a big heart as he has to cop a lot of stick from the batsmen. Warne and Kumble are practitioners of the hardest form of art but their attitude is very similar to that of an aggressive fast bowler.

There is a school of thought that excessive one-day cricket has proved to be the nemesis of spin bowlers but there is room for spinners even in one-day cricket if they possess the skills and a stout heart. With each passing season, the batsmen are becoming more and more positive and therefore it is critical that the spinners toughen up in order to make their presence felt. Cricket continues to be a batsman's game in some ways but the Warnes and the Kumbles have shown that spinners can make an impact in the ODIs also.

It is a common sight to see the youngsters fire the ball in flatter and faster through the air as they get tonked and this is done with the whole hearted blessings of the coach. The mode of bowling faster and quicker triggers a bit of flex in the elbow of some bowlers especially if they are not strong enough physically. The youngsters have to realise a few things if they have to improve in their chosen facet of the game. Firstly, they cannot be quick enough to trouble the batsmen and in fact the extra pace enables the batsmen to stroke the ball away. Secondly, there is a process through which the right technique is developed. Thirdly, the release of the ball holds the key to how it will behave in the air and after pitching.

The finger spinners are the ones who find it easier to fire the ball in quicker through the air. I hasten to add that I am not advocating the spinners should literally toss the ball for the batsmen to have a free hit. Instead I am trying to suggest that unless there is work put in on the ball while releasing it is not going to really trouble the batsmen. I will write in detail about the various aspects of spin bowling in the coming weeks but I am trying to establish that spin bowling is all about subtlety and craft. Hence it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to achieve some level of control and mastery.

There is nothing wrong in being aggressive like a fast bowler in terms of attitude but you cannot resort to following a fast bowler's method with the ball as a spinner.

The ICC allows for a flex of the elbow to the extent of 15 degrees but it is better not to try and utilise the privilege. The youngsters would do well to ensure that they do not flex their elbows as what starts off at a negligible level will snowball and get you to a point of no return. Simply put, concentrate on developing the right way of doing things, as it will keep you clear of trouble in your career. It is not an easy situation to be under suspicion all the time as this can have an adverse impact on the psyche. Muralitharan and Harbhajan have been through this ordeal a few times and they know what it is to be under scrutiny all the time.