India’s spin future secure: Kumble
Mumbai, Sep 24: Whenever the story of Indian cricket is told, some of the most delightful and intriguing chapters will comprise spin bowling. From the days of the all-conquering quartet of Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna and Venkatraghavan to the firm and feisty pair of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, Indian spinners have captured the imagination of cricket connoisseurs around the world.
However, since the last two years or so, the Indian Cricket lovers have bemoaned the imminent death of this cherished tradition. Harbhajan took over the mantle of spearheading India’s spin attack when Kumble put his rugged navy blue Test cap to rest in 2008. Unlike Kumble, Bhajji never had the luxury of a constant partner. Young spinners failed to cement their spots. Bhajji felt the pressure and lost his touch, got injured then got dropped. India’s spin cupboard suddenly seemed bare.
But the recent signs have been positive. R Ashwin, after impressing in the shorter formats for a long time, paired up with Pragyan Ojha to destroy New Zealand in the recent Test series earlier this month. Harbhajan’s first match since his return to India colours after a year – the World Twenty20 2012 group game against England – saw him register the best figures by an Indian bowler in T20 internationals. Piyush Chawla, the most debated pick in India’s WT20 squad, bamboozled the England batsmen with his turning leg-spinners and googlies.
Some might say it’s naive to get back into the relaxed mode after a handful of good performances. But India’s highest wicket-taker in Test Cricket doesn’t understand what the fuss was all about in first place. In a chat with bcci.tv, Anil Kumble assured that India’s spin department is in pink of health. He analysed the current resources and urged the decision-makers to give them enough chances to fail.
Here’s what Kumble said about each of them:
He’s been exceptional. He has picked more than 400 Test wickets, has over 10 years of experience and he’s still young. He lost a little bit of confidence and the only way to regain it is to be part of the team and play more and more matches. He’s done that before and I see no reason why he cannot perform again. I certainly feel that Bhajji is still one of the best spinners that we have in India and it’s just a matter of time before he comes back to bowling at his best.
Having said that, I don’t think he’s done badly at Test level. It’s just that he’s played a lot of matches outside of India. Not always is a spinner an attacking option when you go outside of India. His role changes, especially in the first innings. Yes, he’s had mixed performances in the one-day game. He hasn’t lived up to the high standards he’s set for himself and hence people think that he’s underperforming.
Ashwin is a very intelligent bowler and very calm under pressure. He’s not scared to try out different deliveries in a match. He knows how to set up a batsman, which I think is the key for any bowler. He has the wicket-taking ability. Nobody thought Ashwin will be successful in Tests. Everyone looked at him as a limited-overs specialist. They also looked at me as a one-day bowler. But I proved them wrong and Ashwin is on track to doing so, with his recent Man of the Series performance against the Kiwis.
Ojha is very steady. He needs to work a bit on his arm-ball. He has it in him but he hasn’t picked too many wickets with the arm-ball. So, that’s something he can work on. He’s a young spinner and the more opportunities he gets, the more he’ll learn. Ojha is also a very able partner to Ashwin. They hunt as a pair – one guy keeps one end tied up and the other picks up the wickets. They complement each other really well.
Rahul Sharma, Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra are frontrunners. I believe they should get more opportunities because leg-spinners need more time to settle down. They will be slightly more expensive than the other spinners because it’s not easy to bowl leg-spin consistently in one area.
The good thing is that all three are very different, which gives the team a lot of variety. Mishra is a classical leg-spinner. Piyush relies more on his quickish googlies and top-spinners. Rahul is a bit more steady; a bit more like me. He bowls quicker through the air, bowls line and length and takes his wickets more on bounce and pace. All three are suited for the longest format.
Opportunity yields legends
You’ll never know the real calibre of a spinner if you don’t give him enough opportunities. Right now the spin cupboard is pretty healthy because there are two spinners (Ashwin and Ojha) who are performing on the field. There’s Harbhajan who has the experience of picking 400 Test wickets and who’s a highly fierce competitor and exceptionally skilled. When he comes back to being his best, you’ll have three quality spinners in the side plus the three leg-spinners waiting in the wings.
The dilemma of different formats
I think the basic underlining thing is if you’re an attacking bowler, you should remain one in all formats. If that positive mindset of taking wickets is there, you can easily adapt to different formats.