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Sultans of spin

In the period when pace bowlers dominated international cricket, the arrival of the Trinity of Spin — Muttiah Muralitharan , Shane Warne and Anil Kumble — was a glorious aberration in the annals of Test cricket. Ravi Chaturvedi writes.

india Updated: Jul 29, 2010 23:42 IST
Ravi Chaturvedi

In the period when pace bowlers dominated international cricket, the arrival of the Trinity of Spin — Muttiah Muralitharan , Shane Warne and Anil Kumble — was a glorious aberration in the annals of Test cricket.

Let us not forget that the evolution of bowling followed two contrasting directions: one depended on the sheer blistering pace of fast bowling, the other utilised subtler means to fox the batsman. The 'method' of spin bowling requires a spider's patience and a hunter's skill to lure the batsman into a trap. A spinner invites his prey to walk into his parlour. The 'teeth' of the spin bowler is his flight, the aerial geometry.

The dominance of spinners in Indian cricket may baffle many. But there's a natural relationship with the Chanakya-like art of spin bowling and India's talent to think things out to their logical conclusions. Murali's retirement from Test cricket and his staggering record of scalping 800 wickets, the highest by any bowler, has returned spin bowling to the centrestage. From among the legendary off-spinners — England's Jim Laker, South Africa's Hugh Tayfield, West Indies' Lance Gibbs and India's Erapally Prasanna — Murali is arguably the greatest ever to have spun a ball.

Spin bowling made headlines for the first time when West Indies were touring England in 1950. The tourists were armed with the run-making machine of the three Ws and the two spinners, Ramadhin and Valentine, who were really run-restricting robots. But the spin duo caused such a scare among the English batsmen at Lord's that they were deservedly immortalised in a calypso song: 'Yardley tried his best, Goddard won the Test, with those little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine'. The Windies went on to wrest the rubber decisively (3-1) from England for the first time and Ram and Val overnight became heroes. Other historic victories attributed to spinners include Vinoo Mankad's 12 wickets for 108 runs against England at Madras in 1951-52.

The retirement of Warne, Kumble and now Murali has left a big gap. The problem has been compounded by the popularity of the instant cricket, reducing spin bowling to a secondary role. In an age that clamours for speed, one wonders if spin bowling of the likes of Murali's will become redundant.

Ravi Chaturvedi is a cricket commentator, the views expressed by the author are personal.