This IPL has been the story of spinners. The format was supposed to put them in an endangered category. They are now being seen as belonging to a privileged club. Captains are turning to them be it the first or the final over of the innings.
What’s the secret?
Wickets have helped. Strips, worn out by the season’s workload, are gripping and providing turn even with the new ball. Openers, who like to use the pace of the ball, are frustrated. With keepers standing up to the wicket, the batsmen’s charge down the track isn’t without risk. The spinners are also so accurate that any across-the-line heave, which doesn’t connect makes a batsman an lbw candidate.
Statistics show Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra at the top of the heap. The two, along with Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Piyush Chawla and Shane Warne have played in every single match for their teams. For Chennai, it’s been a luxury to choose between Muttiah Muralithran and R. Ashwin.
Teams are even playing with three spinners. Most of these spinners are getting the new ball. The traditional pace-spin equation of 2:2 or 3:1 in a side’s composition is being revised. Indeed, it’s the pacers who feel frustrated as their traditional role is being taken over by spinners.
Captains have now woken up to the worth of spinners. Hardly a match passes without a spinner bowling the opening over. Figures tell that it has happened in every second match of this IPL. The four top teams on the points table — Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Deccan Chargers — have overtly relied on spinners. Indeed, one should have seen this coming. A spinner is most effective when a batsman is giving him a charge.
Spinners of yore were known to clap for batsmen who hit them for a six. It was a trap, an invitation for a repeat hit in order to snare them. The Twenty20 format, by its very nature, makes dot balls a blasphemy. The batsmen are programmed to hit out and this suits spinners to the hilt.
As the conditions in the Caribbean for the Twenty20 World Cup aren’t likely to be any different, the good times will keep rolling for the spinners.