You’d have to turn back the clock to 1999 for the last time a spinner genuinely troubled India. It was Saqlain Mushtaq, who finished with 24 wickets from three Tests at an impressive 20.95.
It’s fitting that Shane Shillingford learnt the doosra while training under Saqlain before embarking on the tour. And it was the ball invented by Saqlain that abruptly ended one of Sachin Tendulkar’s last few Test knocks.
Laying the bait
Shillingford tossed up balls outside off and Tendulkar, unaware of his ability to turn it the other way, kept steering them towards short leg, even managing a few fours in the process. Little did he realise what was coming.
It was 20 minutes past 10 in the morning, Tendulkar had faced 23 balls, giving reason aplenty for ticket-holders to occupy empty seats. He then pushed at one that pitched on the middle and spun away sharply. To the naked eye, he was plumb, though side-on replays revealed the ball struck him a little high. Nonetheless, Tendulkar was a goner.
Saqlain is pleased that Shillingford is taking the doosra legacy forward. “I got Sachin with the doosra many times, so it’s fitting that Shane is doing the same,” Saqlain told HT after watching Tendulkar beaten fair and square by his pupil.
“I woke at 6 in the morning here (in the UK) and turned on the television, and India were four down. I missed Sachin’s wicket but then I saw the replay and felt so proud of Shane. He’s a quick learner and seems to have bowled a perfect doosra,” he added.
“What I like about Shane’s attitude is that when I tried teaching him the doosra, he never stopped asking questions. He wanted to know every loophole, and by the time we were done with the training camp, I was confident that he had mastered it. I am proud of him and it makes me happy that the hard work we put in together is paying off. It’s the biggest wicket of his career,” said Saqlain.
The doosra has been a contentious delivery. Bishan Bedi and Ashley Mallett haven’t refrained from saying that “only chuckers” can execute it. But Saqlain doesn’t want off-spinners to listen to them.
“The ICC rules are important. People will keep talking. I am teaching many Bangladeshi spinners how to bowl the doosra now. And I am not going to discourage anyone. I am glad that Muralitharan, Harbhajan and Ajmal have taken my legacy forward. In a world dominated by batsmen, we need variation.”