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Recently at a development camp in Kolkata, Muttiah Muralitharan was imparting knowledge on off-spin to a group of aspiring bowlers. He gave a simple advice — if you can spin the ball on concrete you can spin it anywhere — before turning the ball almost square. Unfortunately, as Murali found out during the camp, few among the young hopeful could actually turn the ball.
It only reflects the decline in the ability to bowl off-spin while more and more leg-spinners are coming up. The Indian Premier League is a case in point. Barring Sunil Narine, Harbhajan Singh and R Ashwin, almost all the spinners are either leg-break bowlers or left-armers. Narine, possibly the most attacking among them, is the only off-spinner to find a place among IPL’s top ten wicket-takers, with 14 wickets in ten matches.
Otherwise, those enjoying a successful IPL are unheralded Indian leg-spinners. One need not look beyond Pravin Tambe, who has taken 15 wickets at a mean economy rate of 6.86 in 11 games. The 42-year-old is the most successful spinner in IPL 7.
Chennai left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja has climbed to seventh (13 wickets), only the third spinner in the top 10. Haryana’s Yuzvendra Chahal has grown into Royal Challengers Bangalore’s most effective spinner with Murali never getting a chance after the pounding by KKR’s Chris Lynn in the UAE. Sunrisers’ Karn Sharma has also impressed with an economy of 7.65 (seven wickets).
One of the reasons behind their success, feels KXIP coach Sanjay Bangar, is the surprise element. But more importantly, Bangar feels off-spinners have lost out to leg-spinners in turning the ball. “The main reason is the variety they (leg-spinners) possess and because finger spinners don’t get that much turn as the wickets are flat. Wrist spinners generate so much side spin on the ball because of which they are able to get that turn. That is why they are posing more challenges to the batsmen and teams have more leg-spinners in their final XI.”
With the need for checking the runs by bowling flat and quick increasing over the years, the importance of left-arm bowlers too has risen. Ravindra Jadeja and Shakib Al Hasan can spin the ball away from right-handed batsmen while left-arm spinner Akshar Patel – with a staggering economy of 6.65 – has been crucial for KXIP, the table toppers. Only Pragyan Ojha (MI) and Shahbaz Nadeem (DD) are struggling, be it taking wickets or containing runs.