Buried under a standout performance by the Karnataka new ball bowlers and a scintillating Ranji Trophy final is a chilling fact. There are just two spinners — Mumbai’s Iqbal Abdullah and UP’s Piyush Chawla — in the list of top 10 wicket-takers in the Elite Division. Take a look beyond the top 10 and signs aren’t much encouraging either.
Does it mean India’s spin bowling stocks are dwindling? Does it mean pitches in India are becoming less helpful for them? Does it mean Indian batsmen are playing spin better than before? Is there any other reason? Or is it that the spinners aren’t being properly groomed because of which many get reported for suspect action every year? HT spoke to a few people in the know of things to try and find an answer.
A national selector, who didn’t want to be named because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media, blamed it on the dearth of options. “We simply don’t have any. The situation is so bad, that if we have to replace any of the three spinners now touring Bangladesh for the series against South Africa, we won’t have any. You may take names, but they are not good enough to make an impact at the highest level.”
The selector’s words were echoed by Paras Mhambrey, who has seen domestic cricket from close as coach of Maharashtra, Bengal and Baroda apart from being a pillar of the Mumbai team in his playing days. “It’s particularly bad when it comes to left-arm spinners and leg-spinners. We (Baroda) had to look for a left-armer when Rajesh Pawar was called for chucking, but didn’t find any. Sunil Joshi is still around, but he’s too old. Even the only genuine off-spinner Ramesh Powar isn’t getting younger.”
Tamil Nadu coach W.V. Raman said it’s a combination of things. “We have seen a few spinners emerging, but how a captain handles a spinner is also very important. Young spinners should play longer games. I don’t think talent is a problem.”
Mumbai coach Praveen Amre offered a slightly different take. Lack of talent, he said, isn’t the problem; grooming them is. “Abdullah was among the wickets this season, Delhi left-armer Vikas Mishra had a match haul of 10 against us, Tamil Nadu teenager R. Aushik Srinivas took seven wickets in an innings against us too. Then, our Harmeet Singh too was impressive.”
Amre said these bowlers are all below 20 and the fact that they have taken wickets against quality sides even at a time when the emphasis on preparing seam-friendly wickets, means there’s hope. “Most teams are preparing pitches to suit fast bowlers so that they can force results. That some young spinners have still done well means the talent is there.”
The former India batsman’s next statement was pivotal and unlikely to please those who run Indian cricket. “There is too much emphasis on T20, which can impede the development of young spinners. They should be exposed to T20 judiciously.”
Whether a legacy in Indian cricket continues to survive, might depend on that.