Guest Section – Leg Spin, off spin, mystery spin

Off spinner or mystery spinner?

Right Arm Orthodox’ is what off-spinners are sometimes called as, but today people will be hesitant to use the term.

  Right arm off-spinners have gone from orthodox to unorthodox with many new delivery styles which have made it tough for batsmen.

  Ajantha Mendis, Ravi Ashwin, Sunil Narine are the names that come to mind, and you may find more bowlers in coming months displaying something new and stunning batsmen, even those who play spin very well.

  The question arises, why do spin bowlers need to experiment? The big gap in batting & bowling advantages, especially in limited overs cricket has led to variations. Bowlers are trying to be unpredictable and deceive batsman in different ways and even change their actions.

  Batsmen have responded with their own variations from reverse sweeps to paddle sweeps to even delicate upper cuts and helicopter shots. You may bowl the best delivery in the world and still get hit for a six.

  It is just the spinners who are coming up with mystery deliveries. Pacers actually have a lot to bank upon – speed (and lack of it), swing that helps them a lot in keeping the batsman on his toes guessing. Spinners have options but the difference is the speed at which they bowl.

  With all this mystery, one should not be surprised if one sees tomorrow a bowler addressed as a ‘right-arm mystery spinner’.

  Sunil Narine has done a good job so far, not just containing runs but picking wickets too. He will give the West Indies the edge along with likes of Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo at the forthcoming World T20 in Sri Lanka. However, the problem that hits many cricketers who start on a healthy note is the second-season blues.

  The previous ‘mystery-spinner’ Ajantha Mendis burst on the scene with a six-wicket haul against India in the 2008 Asia Cup final and was called the perfect successor to the great Muttiah Muralitharan. However, few years down the line, he is in a corner with his mystery being neutralised and even injuries creeping in.

  Today, spinners are plenty but they are mostly just of two types – right arm off-spin and slow left arm, both referred to as ‘orthodox’. There are fewer of the ‘unorthodox’ spinners namely the right arm wrist spinners & the left am chinamen. There has not been any chinaman on the international stage since Brad Hogg.

  Whenever Hogg has played in T20 leagues like the Big Bash, BPL & IPL, batsmen have found it tough to pick his wrong’uns. This shows the batsmen’s inexperience against chinaman bowling because you won’t find it anywhere – not even in spin-dominated countries, domestic teams, and in the nets. 

  Also the lack of right arm wrist spinners is a concern, what with only a few like Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra on the scene and those too are inconsistent in the international arena. Meanwhile, the likes of Steve Smith and Cameron White have focused on their and thus you hardly see proper wrist-spinners any more.

  Off-spinners will continue to experiment and will have to fight for their survival. Australia had to keep shuffling between spinners – they looked settled with Nathan Hauritz for a while before shuffling again and are now persisting with Nathan Lyon. India also have rotated between Amit Mishra, Praghyan Ojha, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, not to forget Harbhajan Singh.

  With such competition for spots in the team, one cannot blame them for tinkering with their deliveries. As long as they are picking wickets it is all good, but when they fail to match expectations, the pressure is felt and they need to think out of the box to get back in groove.

  It will be an interesting battle between Narine and the cricketing environment as he seeks to make his mark. Like the batsmen facing him, cricket fans will be looking forward to see which way it turns – whether more ‘mystery spinners’ will crop up or whether it turns back to the days of orthodoxy.

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