Spinners in T20, what's your take? Eight of the twelve hat-tricks in the Indian T20 league have been achieved by tweakers, in Tests the corresponding number is 27-11 in favor of paceman, in ODIs an emphatic 31-2 edge to the men who steam in.
Why then are spinners getting so many hattricks in T20 matches? And does that mean that the men who are generally taught the virtues of patience in the longer formats, have suddenly become wicket-taking machines?
The answer may lie in the skewed governing dynamics of the format. T20s and Tests may look like a different version of the same sport to the untrained eye, but the similarities are limited to generic rules and equipment.
To say that the same bowler will get rid of the same batsman in both formats just because he holds the same bat is a bit like saying a hustler playing in smoky pool hall will have similar success all dolled up and playing snooker at the Crucible Theater just because the cue remains the same.
Defence the best form of attack
The format is skewed in favor of the batsman - the bats are stronger, the boundaries are shorter, the necessity for runs more urgent. Herein, however, lies the catch. The fact that the batsman are on the attack and the timing of the tournament — the end of a long domestic season and in steaming conditions where wickets are broken, baked and parched — make it a format favoring spinners.
The wickets work even better for spinners who are more difficult to attack rather than for spinners who are looking to take wickets. Thus feels one of India's legendary quartet of spin maestros, Erapalli Prasanna.
Speaking to HT, the off-spin legend described the phenomenon of spinners getting hat-tricks — including three of eight by part-timers Yuvraj Singh (twice) and Rohit Sharma — in the T20 league as a bit of an anomaly.
"Spin bowling is all about patience. A strike-rate of 80 balls-per-wicket (roughly 13 overs) is considered good for a Test spinner. In T20s, you only get 24 deliveries! What works for spinners here is that batsman are attacking almost every ball, it means that you don't have to outfox the batsman," he said, ending with reference that is often used as an adjective when a top-notch spinner is operating.
"If you drop you aim for the batsman's body not allowing him to free his arms and bowl flatter with a length about a few feet short of what attacking Test match spin bowling, aided by the slow carry due to pitches, there's a far greater chance of getting the batsman out," he said.
Will they stand the Test of time?
He added, "In Tests the batsman isn't looking to attack every ball, in fact, most of the times he is looking to defend. This means it becomes a mental battle as much as one on the field."
While Prasanna expressed his displeasure at the thought of including T20 success in a spinner's assessment for the longer format, another of India's Fab Four refused to even address the question. "I will not speak on the making of Daropadhi…," he said in a curt text message, when asked on the topic.
A look back at the first five seasons of the league would probably confirm their apprehensions. So while the likes of Shadab Jakati, Rahul Sharma and Ajit Chandila have, and in some cases, continue, to impress in the format breaking into Test cricket remains a different ball game.