Sunday, November 29, 2015

Spin

Vasu Reddy from Chicago
vasureddy@aol.com

India’s test cricket team’s success (most of it) is owed to its spin bowling.  For people who remember Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Prasanna, Venkataraghavan; the four spinners who were contemporaries, their on-field exploits are still a matter of legend for cricket lovers.  In-fact they may have started the trend of opening the bowling with spin.  From the beginning of cricketing time in India, spin has been the mainstay of bowling attack.  Although India has not been on a winning track until the recent years, spin has always been the choice and effective bowling weapon for Indian teams.  Long after the spin quartet retired, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh continued the spinning magic, and now we have Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra and Ravindra Jadeja, spinning their magic on the opposition teams, especially when they play under Indian conditions.  The on-going series with South Africa is a testament to Indian spinners dominance, at home.  They keep the spinning tradition alive and well, and they are nowadays winning test matches.

Slow, steady, flight, leg, off, and googlies all with many variations of quick and effective bowling constantly get the batsmen to make mistakes and gets them out.  The latest test series with South Africa continues to display the mastery of Indian spinners in conditions that best suits them, and their craft of bowling.  The Indian conditions favor spinners, be it the home team or the visitors.  The difference with the last few Indian teams has been that they have been performing better than the visitors, and winning in home conditions.

The major difference between the five-day test matches from the 70’s and 80’s and today the shortened duration of matches in spin friendly conditions.  This year the matches are ending in 3 days.  The olden days when test matches mostly ended un in a draw after 5 days, these have become 3 day matches with results almost guaranteed.  As incredible as it sounds the test matches that used to end up in a draw these days are almost guaranteed with a result.

There is not a lot of change with the Indian line-up in test matches.  It is represented by a couple of great batsmen (who score well in most conditions during their careers).  Great batsmen like Gavaskar, Vishwanath, Tendulkar, Dravid represented India in different eras.  The new lot of batsmen in the test team might have someone emerge as the newest batting great (or two).  The mainstay of Indian test side has always been the spinners (special reference to Indian conditions) and the current team is absolutely bestowed with its share of spin masters, and sometimes supported by the pace attack.  The spinners supported by superstar batsman, was the make of Indian team over the years, and the team never really pieced together an effort on a prolonged basis to make it to the top team in the world, until recently when the Indians started to put together both their batting and spinning to the best use, and perform together to get to the top of the world test rankings.  When you put together Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman with Dhoni behind the wickets and Anil Kumble and Harbhajan spinning their way away, the Indian team did put together one of the best test sides that ever played test cricket.

For several years they displayed the mastery as a team and they were the team to beat.  The current test team is without these great cricketers who made Indian side the number 1 team in the world.  The current team continues to have a potent spin attack, and a good fielding unit and potentially a great batting lineup, that can bring back the memories of the past team success.  The spinners have been showing that the visiting test team look like league teams in Indian conditions.  While playing in India all that the Indian batsmen need to do is stay in the crease and be patient, while the spinners make hay of the opposition.  Although the current series is in India’s favor (courtesy the spin attack), the batsmen have not shown that they are able to stay long enough to work with their home conditions.  There have not made an attempt to make it a five-day event, rather have been behaving like the visiting team.  They can apply a bit more technique to stay put at the crease a little (lot) longer, and make the team look like world beaters once again, rather than just let the spin come to rescue.

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