When New Zealand faced India in their 2016 ICC World T20 opener on March 15 at Nagpur, the Tasman side’s decision to leave out pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee, in order to play three spinners, raised quite a few eyebrows.
However, by the time the match got over, Kiwi skipper Kane Williamson’s decision had been vindicated by the 47-run defeat they inflicted on India. Even more satisfyingly for Williamson, his three-spinner gamble paid off with left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner scalping four wickets for 11 runs. Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi and off-spinner Nathan McCullum also shared five wickets between them to skittle out India’s famed batting lineup for just 79 runs.
In the aftermath, India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni said, “They bowled well and exploited the conditions, but we lacked adaptability. We could have applied ourselves a bit more.”
While a lot of focus in the aftermath of that defeat fell on the pitch, the match set the tone for the rest of the series, where so far spinners from outside Asia have dominated in games against sub-continental teams, who are traditionally known to be good players of spin.
After the victory over India, the Kiwi spin trio claimed three wickets against Pakistan and five against Bangladesh.
For New Zealand’s trans-Tasman rivals, Australia, leg spinner Adam Zampa was particularly lethal against Bangladesh, claiming three wickets. Against Pakistan, too, he scalped two crucial wickets --- that of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi to quell Pakistan’s hopes of victory.
Similarly, West Indies’ spinner Samuel Badree (3/12 against Sri Lanka) and South Africa’s left-arm orthodox spinner Aaron Phangiso (two consecutive wickets of Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne against Sri Lanka) have turned games on their head.
While the spin-friendly tracks in India have no doubt played a huge role in many of these figures, one only needs to look at the performances of some of the spinners from the sub-continent to understand how commendable these performances have been.
India’s lead spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has claimed just four wickets in the four Super 10 matches. Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath scalped three in four innings while leg spinner Jeffrey Vandersay also claimed three.