South Africa is slowly but surely discovering the magic of spin. It’s another thing that one of their off-spinners, Johan Botha, came under the International Cricket Council scanner for suspect bowling action. But, during the recently concluded five-match ODI series against Australia, left-arm tweaker Roelof Van Der Merwe played a crucial hand in the home team’s 3-2 series victory.
In fact, there are reports suggesting that the Proteas purposely ordered pitches, which would assist slow bowlers. But that is unlikely to be the case in the Indian Premier League (IPL) as the curators have allowed a fair bit of grass to grow on the wickets to assist pace bowling. And Sri Lanka’s spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan is not amused with this development.
Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with the Chennai Super Kings’ legendary spinner, who currently holds the record for maximum wickets in Tests and one-day internationals.
How much of an advantage do you think will spinners get on South African pitches?
You cannot say anything right now. We’ll have to analyse the next three-four games to get a fair idea. Traditionally, pitches here assist pace bowling.
But recently, South African spinners did well against Aussies in the ODI series?
That shouldn’t be the yardstick to judge pitches made for the IPL. Usually, flat pitches are prepared for T20 matches so that batsmen can blast the bowlers for fours and sixes… spectators nowadays want only that. But before we draw any conclusions, let’s wait for a while.
You have the reputation of turning the ball even on a glass-top. So, would you be unduly perturbed by the nature of the pitches?
(Pause and a smile) You are right. But if the pitch can assist other spinners as well, it will be good for the art. I can tie down the batsmen with my experience.
If the IPL had been staged in India, wouldn’t it have assisted spinners?
You can say whatever you want, but pitches for all T20 matches are the same —- flat and assisting stroke-play. So, whether the IPL is played in India or South Africa, the pitches are more or less going to be the same.
You couldn’t make much of an impact during the last edition of the IPL…
Yes, I didn’t take many wickets, but I managed to tie down the batsmen. I rate my performance as credible. Of the 15 matches I played, I snared 11 wickets and conceded 404 runs. My economy rate was 6.96, which is pretty good by T20 standards.
How beneficial has the shifting of the IPL to South Africa been for those players who never get a chance to play international cricket?
It will be a good experience for them.