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Spin to win: How leg-spinners are ruling the roost in white-ball cricket

Ritik Goel
ANALYST
Feature
147   //    10 Feb 2019, 16:42 IST

Chahal and Kuldeep have been instrumental to India's recent successes in limited-overs formats
Chahal and Kuldeep have been instrumental to India's recent successes in limited-overs formats

The great Shane Warne once said, "Part of spin bowling is to make the batsman think something special is happening when it is not." Cricket has come a long way. There was a time when Warne would pitch the ball in the rough outside leg stump and hit the top of the right hander's off-stump. Those were some sights.

Leg spinners may not do this as frequently in modern day cricket as they used to do a few decades ago but they have found different ways of dominating the batsmen. It was 2006 when the great Ricky Ponting smashed the white Kookaburra to all parts of the ground in the first ever T20I.

The cricket fraternity was then doubtful about the future of leg-spinners in T20 cricket. However, twelve years down the lane, the story is completely different. Out of the top 10 bowlers in ICC T20I rankings, the top six are all wrist-spinners. After all, cricket is a game of uncertainties.

What has changed for the leg-spinners? One thing unique about the leg spinners is that even if you give them a marble floor, they will still manage to find some spin. This is so because they use wrists to spin the ball. However, finger spinners fail to do the same. No matter how good a batsman is, when the ball spins, it will test his ability.

A lot of experts complain that batting standards have fallen tremendously all around the world. Many people argue that T20 cricket needs to be blamed for the same. It has transformed the way batsmen play these days.

The current set of batsmen are naturally attacking. Their natural instinct is to smash the ball rather than letting it go. They have managed to invent shots that no one could even imagine 30 years ago.

That’s where the leg-spinners quietly make their presence felt. They toss the ball up outside the off stump and wait for the batsman’s eyes to light up. Batsmen lick their lips seeing a juicy delivery like that but get deceived in an attempt to smash the ball.

Kuldeep Yadav is a classic example of deceiving the batsman. He is conventional yet very successful. It is unfair to say that batsmen fail regularly to this challenge. There are several good batsmen too and as a leg spinner, one must have the skill to beat them. But wrist-spinners feed on the over-aggression of the batsmen.

In a nutshell, batsmen often try to attack the leg-spinners but end up bringing them in the game in the process. In an attempt to attack, most batsmen fail to read leg-spinners of their hand and try to read them off the pitch.

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But when they face spinners like Rashid Khan who are so quick off the pitch, they have to be on their toes. This is another reason why batsmen are often dominated by leg-spinners these days. However, in Test cricket where the batsmen adopt a much more measured approach, leg-spinners don’t quite make the same impact.

Every bowling side must need to pick up early scalps and hit perfect yorkers at the death. However, if a wrist-spinner can rip through the batting order during the middle-overs, it sets up the game for the team. This is one of the reasons why India are dominating white-ball cricket at the moment.

As off-spinners don’t have the same venom, they are slowly but surely disappearing from the scene. If a team is forced to drop a bowler of Ravichandran Ashwin’s calibre, then it is quite evident how endangered finger spinners are.

Leg spinners, on the other hand, are making it into most teams across the globe. Yes, one has to be seriously good and also possess enough variety to succeed at the highest level. However, it is indeed a new era of white ball cricket where leg-spinners are the kings.

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Ritik Goel
ANALYST
An ardent cricket fan. Wish to call and write cricket more than playing it. Analysis and opinions are subjective.
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