Mitchell Santner, New Zealand’s left-arm spinner, has had a great World T20 so far, picking eight wickets in three games. He deceived Rohit Sharma and collected three more to produce a match-winning spell at Nagpur in the opening game, giving away just 11 runs. At Dharamsala, against Australia, he claimed David Warner and Steve Smith.
Though the spin-friendly pitches at Nagpur and Dharamsala certainly aided him, Santner’s performance(2/29) at Mohali, against Pakistan, shows he has tricks up his sleeves. His high-arm action gives him an edge over the other left-armers in the competition, enabling him to release the ball late. This freedom lets him vary his pace and length in accordance with the batsman’s position, even when the latter steps out.
For instance, against Pakistan, Santner got Khalid Latif by reducing his pace after he spotted him planting his foot to slog the ball. At Dharamsala, Santner spotted Mitchell Marsh stepping out of the crease early and cut his length short and bowled wide. Marsh barely survived the subsequent stumping chance. In the opener, against India, he did the same to an onrushing Rohit Sharma, deceiving the latter with his flight. The dismissal of Steve Smith too was similar.
“I like the way he approaches the crease and that is one thing that adds to his bowling a lot,” says former India left-arm spinner Bishen Bedi. Santner’s gets side-on delivery stride and action in reminiscent of former New Zealand international Daniel Vettori. “He is a tall fellow and the best thing about him is that he is a big turner of the ball. Not many spinners these days can do that, but Santner certainly has this ability. If I get a chance, I would certainly want to talk to Santner and maybe share couple of things that might help him in his bowling,” Bedi added.
Santner has also managed to keep his armer distinct. Bowlers who go wide, often find to get this right. Hardik Pandya would certainly agree, for he got beat twice, the second an lbw.
Santner, however, has his weaknesses. The 24-year-old is inconsistent on his length and his short balls has been punished by batsmen. Though he claimed Warner and Ahmad Shahzad on short deliveries, more often he has been pulled by batsmen. Since he delivers the ball from a height, it rises steeply on bounce, thus giving the batsman the control to pull shot.
“He is dropping some balls short. This is because his non-bowling arm remains inactive to an extent and could be a lot more pro-active,” says Bedi. “So when he delivers the ball, his right arm should go high enough than where it is. This in turn locks his arm and he fails to complete his follow through. But he appears to be a studious character and his humble attitude will help him learn as a bowler.”